Stripes, Stars, & Buttons

skribs

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So, I'm not gonna talk about belts. I'm gonna talk about other things we have. When you test at my school, you've basically already passed, because my Master won't give you a test application unless you know all your stuff. In the case of adults, and the children black belts, you can ask to test. But in the case of the children, he will take about 2-3 weeks before each test and check the classes to see who's ready, and then say "John, Jack, and Joseph, come to my office to get your test application, everyone else needs more practice."

In fact, we don't really have a "fail" option. We have Outstanding, Pass, and Re-Test as the possibilities. If you get Outstanding, you get a chevron you can put on your arm. Some students end up with several chevrons on their arm, which means they've done outstanding more often than not. This is what keeps the kids pushing hard.

We also have a few other programs we do at our dojang. One is the behavior charts the kids fill out monthly, which has things on it like if you took care of your pets, did your chores, did your homework, listened to your parents, didn't fight with your siblings, did good at school, etc. 6 months of good behavior on the chart and you get a medal. One year and you get a blue uniform. Two years and you get a red uniform. I want to say maybe 5% of the students at my school even get their blue uniform, and only half of them (or less) go on to the red uniform, so it's a very prestigious thing to have.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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So, I'm not gonna talk about belts. I'm gonna talk about other things we have. When you test at my school, you've basically already passed, because my Master won't give you a test application unless you know all your stuff. In the case of adults, and the children black belts, you can ask to test. But in the case of the children, he will take about 2-3 weeks before each test and check the classes to see who's ready, and then say "John, Jack, and Joseph, come to my office to get your test application, everyone else needs more practice."

In fact, we don't really have a "fail" option. We have Outstanding, Pass, and Re-Test as the possibilities. If you get Outstanding, you get a chevron you can put on your arm. Some students end up with several chevrons on their arm, which means they've done outstanding more often than not. This is what keeps the kids pushing hard.

We also have a few other programs we do at our dojang. One is the behavior charts the kids fill out monthly, which has things on it like if you took care of your pets, did your chores, did your homework, listened to your parents, didn't fight with your siblings, did good at school, etc. 6 months of good behavior on the chart and you get a medal. One year and you get a blue uniform. Two years and you get a red uniform. I want to say maybe 5% of the students at my school even get their blue uniform, and only half of them (or less) go on to the red uniform, so it's a very prestigious thing to have.
Is that one year in a row of medals, or 12 medals total (for blue?) If its in a row, i can see how most students wouldnt be able to manage that. Either way, i like the idea
 

skribs

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Is that one year in a row of medals, or 12 medals total (for blue?) If its in a row, i can see how most students wouldnt be able to manage that. Either way, i like the idea

6 Months - 1 medal. No more medals after this.
12 Months (6 months after medal) - 1 Blue Uniform
24 Months (12 months after blue) - 1 Red Uniform

I think it's total, not in a row. But most stop if they miss a month.
 

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6 Months - 1 medal. No more medals after this.
12 Months (6 months after medal) - 1 Blue Uniform
24 Months (12 months after blue) - 1 Red Uniform

I think it's total, not in a row. But most stop if they miss a month.
I like it. A positive reward that is earned, rather than given, and has a direct motivating factor for their peers to do the same. And in theory by the time they reach the last reward (after 2 years) it should be ingrained in them, rather than just something they do for the reward.
 

skribs

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I like it. A positive reward that is earned, rather than given, and has a direct motivating factor for their peers to do the same. And in theory by the time they reach the last reward (after 2 years) it should be ingrained in them, rather than just something they do for the reward.

Yeah. There was a brother and sister that hit the 3 year mark. My Master asked what they should get for that, because he'd never had anyone get that far before. I suggested pink uniforms. The sister said yes, the brother said no. When the brother said no, the sister REALLY wanted the pink uniforms to make him wear one. They ended up getting white nunchaku.
 

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I wish the rest of the world would catch up with the world of stand up Martial Arts.

Everybody who takes a drivers test should just pass, why not, there's plenty of traffic lights out there.
And, God knows, we have enough cars.

Everybody who takes the SATs should just score sixteen hundred. I can't see anybody's feelings getting hurt that way.

Testing for a firearm permit? If you can figure out which is the firearm and which are the bullets, you should be all set.

Taking a psyche test for a security position? Heck, he looks normal.

Licensing exams for third and fourth years of medical school? Who cares, they showed up....good enough.

Now, give me that damn black belt. My dad paid good money for it.
 

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Testing for a firearm permit? If you can figure out which is the firearm and which are the bullets, you should be all set.

I didn't think the test was that complex...
 

Mark Lynn

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I teach a program that has two separate martial arts; American karate/TKD for kids (starting at 6 yr old through teens) and Modern Arnis (10 yr old -adults). Both are based on a 10 step system and the belts are given for each rank. White is given in the American Karate program while it is earned in the Arnis program.

Each level is broken down into different skill sets requirements and students demonstrate they have learned the material or that I have shown them the material to earn a stripe on their belt. There is no charge for the stripe. When they are ready to test they test, but first they need to show me (through effort in class) that they are ready. Then the test is really to show the parents what they have learned and they earned the rank in class.

In the American karate program the tests are more defined or laid out so to speak. In the Modern Arnis class the tests are more demonstrative and less defined but the students skill is tested more in class with others and rank is more determined by skill. So to speak.
 

Mark Lynn

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It's not about making things easier for the teachers, it's about providing a good, compelling, age-appropriate education for kids of different age levels. There are rare exceptions of 4-year olds who can train in the same way as 8-year olds and have the same success - but most won't. Most will flounder and quit.

I agree I use stripes as a way to see quickly what a student has learned or been shown, is one student has several stripes that are different from other students then I know I need to go back and spend a little more time on that material to get others caught up.

FWIW, most of our Little Dragons end up sticking with TKD for multiple years and end up moving up into the regular kids class. It's not the extra belts that keep them coming, but it does encourage them and make them feel like they're accomplishing something.

Like wise the stripes are a motivational tool for the students because they want to earn their stripes, it shows them they have accomplished something. Especially the younger kids, I only generally test them for their stripes on the 2nd class of the 1st and 3rd week and they ask about it, "is today stripe day" almost every Thursday.

When we switched to different belt colors (4th brown -1st black)
old 4th brown, 3rd brown, 2nd brown, 1st brown, 1st black
new purple, solid solid brown, brown belt with black stripe, red, then 1st black

It made a difference to the kids-teens, they enjoyed getting a new belt with each rank. When I came up as an adult I had one belt (no stripes even on it) from brown to black. That was several years the same belt and no sign of progression. As an adult I didn't care, it wasn't about that for me, and for several years of teaching I treated the kids the same way. I was wrong and my retention has gotten better partly due to having the kids and parents see progression (through belts and stripes on them) by changing belt color.
 

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In Gjj, belt tests cost nothing, and generally you are given a new stripe after class. Sometimes you have no idea it's coming, and sometimes you wonder if you're being purposely ignored by your instructor. Some people have to be dragged kicking and screaming to their next rank because they dont want the added responsibility that comes with earning a higher rank in Bjj.

Either way, you're not getting a new stripe or belt until your instructor feels you've earned it.
 
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dvcochran

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I wish the rest of the world would catch up with the world of stand up Martial Arts.

Everybody who takes a drivers test should just pass, why not, there's plenty of traffic lights out there.
And, God knows, we have enough cars.

Everybody who takes the SATs should just score sixteen hundred. I can't see anybody's feelings getting hurt that way.

Testing for a firearm permit? If you can figure out which is the firearm and which are the bullets, you should be all set.

Taking a psyche test for a security position? Heck, he looks normal.

Licensing exams for third and fourth years of medical school? Who cares, they showed up....good enough.

Now, give me that damn black belt. My dad paid good money for it.
You hit it dead on! Paint it however you want but a lot of these programs are participation trophy systems. They are making a me too league for the majority of people. Where is the encouragement for creativity and thinking outside the box? Our GM is 74 years old. He has a PhD psychology and 3 other degrees. Is insanely good at reading and understanding what motivates and pushes a persons buttons. I have been on the winning and losing end both. He has never limited or arranged classes by age and has been hugely successful. Everyone sees the personal investment he makes in people of all ages. The impressions left are undeniable.
The Martial Arts are nothing like manufacturing a product. The latter needs stringent guidelines and quality checks to accurately and repetitively create the part. People are not like that. There are just too many variables. What works for one will not work for someone else. At the least, not very well. This is where the essence of a teacher/instructor/master lives. It is not easy and certainly not for everyone who learns a MA. And it doesn't matter whether it is a MA or fighting system, the human variable is always there.
It is annoying when parents with no MA education or people relatively new to A MA have strong opinions that a bunch of tokens on their kids belt or sleeve are good. It has an affect for a very short time, then it is totally invisible. And speaking of invisible, when a kid learns the intangibles of respect, discipline, virtue, etc..., really learns them from invested parents and other role models, that is what last for a lifetime, not something that gets lost or ends up in a box for 30 years. Phew!
 

Buka

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You hit it dead on! Paint it however you want but a lot of these programs are participation trophy systems. They are making a me too league for the majority of people. Where is the encouragement for creativity and thinking outside the box? Our GM is 74 years old. He has a PhD psychology and 3 other degrees. Is insanely good at reading and understanding what motivates and pushes a persons buttons. I have been on the winning and losing end both. He has never limited or arranged classes by age and has been hugely successful. Everyone sees the personal investment he makes in people of all ages. The impressions left are undeniable.
The Martial Arts are nothing like manufacturing a product. The latter needs stringent guidelines and quality checks to accurately and repetitively create the part. People are not like that. There are just too many variables. What works for one will not work for someone else. At the least, not very well. This is where the essence of a teacher/instructor/master lives. It is not easy and certainly not for everyone who learns a MA. And it doesn't matter whether it is a MA or fighting system, the human variable is always there.
It is annoying when parents with no MA education or people relatively new to A MA have strong opinions that a bunch of tokens on their kids belt or sleeve are good. It has an affect for a very short time, then it is totally invisible. And speaking of invisible, when a kid learns the intangibles of respect, discipline, virtue, etc..., really learns them from invested parents and other role models, that is what last for a lifetime, not something that gets lost or ends up in a box for 30 years. Phew!

Your post got me to thinking. I think martial Arts instructors would benefit greatly by taking psychology courses. Not just to help them better serve kids, students parents and junior instructors, but to better understand themselves and how they might be perceive by those they teach.

Certainly couldn't hurt.
 
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dvcochran

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I agree I use stripes as a way to see quickly what a student has learned or been shown, is one student has several stripes that are different from other students then I know I need to go back and spend a little more time on that material to get others caught up.



Like wise the stripes are a motivational tool for the students because they want to earn their stripes, it shows them they have accomplished something. Especially the younger kids, I only generally test them for their stripes on the 2nd class of the 1st and 3rd week and they ask about it, "is today stripe day" almost every Thursday.

When we switched to different belt colors (4th brown -1st black)
old 4th brown, 3rd brown, 2nd brown, 1st brown, 1st black
new purple, solid solid brown, brown belt with black stripe, red, then 1st black

It made a difference to the kids-teens, they enjoyed getting a new belt with each rank. When I came up as an adult I had one belt (no stripes even on it) from brown to black. That was several years the same belt and no sign of progression. As an adult I didn't care, it wasn't about that for me, and for several years of teaching I treated the kids the same way. I was wrong and my retention has gotten better partly due to having the kids and parents see progression (through belts and stripes on them) by changing belt color.
As @Hanzou 's post below mentioned, advancing in the MA's should never be about getting the next stripe or color. It is about learning. Motivating kids through getting another stripe, color, button, etc... especially every few weeks is a big part of what is eroding the quality of MA as a whole. IMHO . It that is all a person has ever seen it is hard for them to understand there is a much better, quality way to learn.
 

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Your post got me to thinking. I think martial Arts instructors would benefit greatly by taking psychology courses. Not just to help them better serve kids, students parents and junior instructors, but to better understand themselves and how they might be perceive by those they teach.

Certainly couldn't hurt.
I think they should take some physical education teaching courses. They dont need to go all the way through and earn a degree, but a few courses would go a long way. I didnt think this way until I started my grad PE program.

A lot of MA instructors are simply teaching they way they were taught. The ones with more experience have added their own ways, but thats a steep learning curve.

There are some excellent MA teachers out there, dont get me wrong. But anyone whos serious about their teaching should invest the time and money into a few classes. Its truly a different way of thinking and approaching teaching. No one would be worse off for it IMO.
 
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dvcochran

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I teach a program that has two separate martial arts; American karate/TKD for kids (starting at 6 yr old through teens) and Modern Arnis (10 yr old -adults). Both are based on a 10 step system and the belts are given for each rank. White is given in the American Karate program while it is earned in the Arnis program.

Each level is broken down into different skill sets requirements and students demonstrate they have learned the material or that I have shown them the material to earn a stripe on their belt. There is no charge for the stripe. When they are ready to test they test, but first they need to show me (through effort in class) that they are ready. Then the test is really to show the parents what they have learned and they earned the rank in class.

In the American karate program the tests are more defined or laid out so to speak. In the Modern Arnis class the tests are more demonstrative and less defined but the students skill is tested more in class with others and rank is more determined by skill. So to speak.
Every test should be determined by skill, not so to speak.
 
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dvcochran

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I was in no way singling you out. There have been many post about belt progression; yours just got me wondering how others were doing theirs.
I wonder if it is not the participation trophy analogy. I am sure schools and instructors worry about the attrition rate but there is a lot of value in learning how to wait. The attention and encouragement can/should still be there. It should not take the proverbial carrot to keep them coming.
You mention the belts/stripes being a way for the kids to see their progress. Would not the more accurate and genuine way for the kids to see their progress be helping them see how they are advancing by knowing more kicks/blocks/punches/forms/sparring technique, etc...? Plus whatever else your school requires between testings? These are the things we are trying to commit to memory that really have value.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Your post got me to thinking. I think martial Arts instructors would benefit greatly by taking psychology courses. Not just to help them better serve kids, students parents and junior instructors, but to better understand themselves and how they might be perceive by those they teach.

Certainly couldn't hurt.

I think they should take some physical education teaching courses. They dont need to go all the way through and earn a degree, but a few courses would go a long way. I didnt think this way until I started my grad PE program.

A lot of MA instructors are simply teaching they way they were taught. The ones with more experience have added their own ways, but thats a steep learning curve.

There are some excellent MA teachers out there, dont get me wrong. But anyone whos serious about their teaching should invest the time and money into a few classes. Its truly a different way of thinking and approaching teaching. No one would be worse off for it IMO.


Hmm i have done both of these things. Maybe thats a sign...
 

Mark Lynn

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Every test should be determined by skill, not so to speak.

True, but in my programs it is a bit different. In the TKD program the student demonstrates a pretty rigid set of techniques; basics, kata, one steps, sparring, self defense etc. etc. It easy to look at the person and see improvement because you are looking at how well the person fits in the mold; are the stances correct, do their kicks look good, are the blocks executed correctly, how ell they spar etc. etc.

But in the FMAs and this applies to my other program really the only solo work is on the forms and rather than have the student fit into a mold, the form is a structure they adhere to but really there is a lot more leeway on application and interpretation. So I'm not as rigid as it must be in this stance, or it must be exactly like I do it. So I don't judge their skill by how well they fit the mold.

For the most part in empty hand, stick, and weapon work they are working with a partner. With kids especially; they will look horrible blocking and striking at each other because the other person might feed soft or they are afraid to hit at them (for safety). So when I feed them I know what they can do, I see their real skill and can feel it in my stick when they block, how fast they counter and when they twist my limbs to apply locks. But all of that doesn't show or translate well (without applying pain in the case of locks) to people sitting on a board during a test.

For instance on one exam I got so frustrated with the kids because they wouldn't hit each other (I mean strike at not hit as in making contact), that I got up in the middle of their test and fed them. Hard and fast and they all rose to the occasion, it was at that point the parents all started to see what their child was capable of doing in class. So this is what I meant by "skill so to speak" in that it is a different way/criteria of judging them.

You mention the belts/stripes being a way for the kids to see their progress. Would not the more accurate and genuine way for the kids to see their progress be helping them see how they are advancing by knowing more kicks/blocks/punches/forms/sparring technique, etc...? Plus whatever else your school requires between testings? These are the things we are trying to commit to memory that really have value.

True but you misunderstand I am using the belts/stripes to help them to see their progress. At school if you take an exam you see quickly how much you know about a subject. By studying you see if you are prepared for the test or if you winged it and generally that is reflected in your grade. So for their kata stripes there are three: 1st stripe means I have shown them the kata, 2nd stripe means they can get through the kata without me having to make corrections such as "no turn this way", "it is a downward block not an upward block" etc. etc. the 3rd stripe means your ready to test on it. Now they have to perform the kata by themselves in front of their peers while I correct it and give them encouragement ("very good you've earned...."), or disappointment ("you still need work on this part of the kata .......").

Another stripe is for one steps, for green belt they need to do 6 prearranged one steps and make up two of their own. Then each belt adds two more (that they make up) and so on. Starting at brown they have to do weapons defense (so that adds more and more one steps) plus the two they need to make up for empty hand, all of which they need to show to earn their blue stripe.

I don't test on time schedule, I look at the students and say "at the end of this month (or it could be some time in the future) I want to have a test (giving them advanced notice). Then over the weeks prior to the test I start pulling the kids out of class (during warm ups) to fine tune their kata, then leading up to the test I tell the class who is testing at the end of class; and this can change if the other students then step up, or if they slack off (which they don't). So they learn to wait, they learn to step up and put forth their best effort or they miss the test and then they really learn to wait because it might be several months before my next test comes about. At Red belt they wait a year before 1st black, and if they aren't ready they wait some more.
 

Mark Lynn

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Would not the more accurate and genuine way for the kids to see their progress be helping them see how they are advancing by knowing more kicks/blocks/punches/forms/sparring technique, etc...? These are the things we are trying to commit to memory that really have value.

I disagree with you here. Speaking from my own experience as a teacher and a martial artist. I can easily over load the students by teaching them more and more techniques and how does that help them if they don't have the skill sets developed to execute them?

In the long run what good is it to teach aerial kicks to kids and teens, it's when they are young that they can do it. It's fun but what value overall in the big scheme of things. If they quit when they are starting high school or college what good (generally) is it? Will they still be able to do it when they are gone from the arts a few years?

I think this is a problem in the martial arts today. My Yellow belt exam (1st test) in my FMA class, was like a high intermediate in my TKD class. It was to much, but I thought it laid a good foundation. My green belt exam one time took 3 hours to get through. It was a mile wide and one inch deep (so to speak). Now I've gone the opposite way, I've shortened the tests and centered the belt level around a particular skill (generally a Defensive Response) and the students do the same skill in double stick, single stick, and empty hand. During this time the student, if they are ready, they learn the same skill set in double stick but now I'll teach them say classical strikes and apply it to our defensive response (DR) (i.e. the primary block) so instead of just the DR and a hit (the basic response) they will do the DR with side to side striking, up and down, thrusting or what ever. The basic DR (block and hit) is what is tested on, and the followups are what I chose, when the student is ready, to show them. I'll teach them several disarms (at yellow) but they are only required to show one (then more at each level) that ties to the overall main skill set. If they are learning passing then they learn the same skill and apply it to all three weapon groups; double stick, single and empty hand. So I'm trying to show my students depth behind the techniques instead of width.
 

WaterGal

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You mention the belts/stripes being a way for the kids to see their progress. Would not the more accurate and genuine way for the kids to see their progress be helping them see how they are advancing by knowing more kicks/blocks/punches/forms/sparring technique, etc...? Plus whatever else your school requires between testings? These are the things we are trying to commit to memory that really have value.

Those things are (or should be) a prerequisite to getting the new stripe or belt, though. They're what the stripe/belt/whatever represents, that the kid knows those things.
 

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