Stupid question: how do black belts learn when to promote people?

Tony Dismukes

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I've never heard these terms before, can you elaborate on that?
It's just a way of describing how people categorize things - as variations within large groups or as distinct entities. It can apply to different fields of study.

Within BJJ, suppose I show you a dozen ways to get a triangle choke on someone.

An extreme splitter might call those 12 different techniques.

A moderate splitter might call them 3 different techniques (triangle from guard, mounted triangle. back triangle) with variations based on the entry.

A moderate lumper might call it one technique with 12 variations based on the final position and the entry.

An extreme lumper might call triangle chokes with the legs just variations of one basic technique, along with kata gatame, the darce, the anaconda, and the arm-in guillotine.

It's mostly semantics, but it can have effects on how you conceptualize things.
 
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It's just a way of describing how people categorize things - as variations within large groups or as distinct entities. It can apply to different fields of study.

Within BJJ, suppose I show you a dozen ways to get a triangle choke on someone.

An extreme splitter might call those 12 different techniques.

A moderate splitter might call them 3 different techniques (triangle from guard, mounted triangle. back triangle) with variations based on the entry.

A moderate lumper might call it one technique with 12 variations based on the final position and the entry.

An extreme lumper might call triangle chokes with the legs just variations of one basic technique, along with kata gatame, the darce, the anaconda, and the arm-in guillotine.

It's mostly semantics, but it can have effects on how you conceptualize things.
I'm glad I asked, because I thought it had to do with strength vs. flexibility in execution.
 

Dirty Dog

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Not really. It's a teaching method. But a curriculum implies there's structure and overt standards.
No, it doesn't. Apparently the problem is that you don't understand the word. Here's the dictionary definition of curriculum:
the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college
Note the utter and complete lack of anything related to structure or standards, overt, covert, or otherwise.
 
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No, it doesn't. Apparently the problem is that you don't understand the word. Here's the dictionary definition of curriculum:

Note the utter and complete lack of anything related to structure or standards, overt, covert, or otherwise.
How about including the full result from Google?

the subjects comprising a course of study in a school or college.
"course components of the school curriculum"

Or the second result:

curriculum.png


Pretty much every functional definition I found included reference to structure and standards.
 

dunc

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In my experience grading in BJJ is largely a function of mat time. Been coming regularly for 6 months, get a new stripe kinda thing

One comment my teacher made which resonated was "Oh I thought they were X belt already. That's how I knew they needed promoting". Which chimes with what @Tony Dismukes said about knowing it when you see it

To my mind the key problems with a curriculum in BJJ are:
a) It is a personal art. Everyone develops a game that is pretty personal to them and plays to their natural strengths. There are several techniques, positions etc that I consciously exclude from my skill set and others that I focus on. This is based on my body type, age, athletic ability etc etc. It would be inefficient for me to be made to follow a specific curriculum beyond say blue belt
b) There is a massive difference between the execution of a technique at different belt levels. So it's kinda misleading to have say arm bar from guard as a requirement for blue belt. Because, if that's going to be part of your game, then you're just getting started on your arm bar from guard development at blue belt.
c) Most classes are mixed ability. Even the largest academies are not going to be able to be able to run that many classes tailored to specific belt levels. So in practice people have to learn whatever is being shown and fill in the gaps with own study, coaching from training partners etc
 

Hyoho

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I want to be clear up front. I am not complaining about promotion times, or making any reference to someone getting promoted early or late. I'm just curious how black belts figure out the criteria for who should be promoted and when.

When I get a stripe, I don't know what the difference is between the day I got it, and the days before. I don't know what it is that my professor finally said, "Skribs is ready." Same for the other students. I am not aware of the decision-making process. I see that they are improving, and at some point in that improvement, they get a stripe. I've even had a friend complain to me, "I don't know what to work on to get my next stripe." It's generally considered taboo to ask about your own promotion status. It's even more out of line to ask about someone else.

Compare this with my experience in Taekwondo. It's very easy to learn who is ready for the next belt. You have a list of curriculum items that will be on the test. If the student can demonstrate those items, they're ready to test. I have tons of experience as an instructor, using this method to recommend to my Master who is ready to test, and then participating as a judge during the test. As a student, I was aware of this going on. I had my printout of what was going to be on the test, and I could check each item off as I memorized it.

How is it that black belts in BJJ go from the student that does not know when or why promotions are given out, to knowing when someone is ready?
Experience! If you are not an experienced judge your student quality will probably drop below national standard. But in general we have "grading panels" to ensure things are correct. Also you really should not be letting people try for grades they cannot achieve. Why would you want to deliberately disappoint them when they fail?

Also its another reason why associations have a time period between grades. Two year between shodan and nidan is "two years training". Not just a little training and turn up for grading.
 
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Tony Dismukes

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Experience! If you are not an experienced judge your student quality will probably drop below national standard. But in general we have "grading panels" to ensure things are correct. Also you really should not be letting people try for grades they cannot achieve. Why would you want to deliberately disappoint them when they fail?

Also its another reason why associations have a time period between grades. Two year between shodan and nidan is "two years training". Not just a little training and turn up for grading.
I think you may have missed that skribs posted this in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu subforum and was asking specifically about BJJ promotions. We do things a bit differently from arts like kendo. For one thing, we dont have grading panels and in most schools we dont have rank exams.
 

Hyoho

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I think you may have missed that skribs posted this in the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu subforum and was asking specifically about BJJ promotions. We do things a bit differently from arts like kendo. For one thing, we dont have grading panels and in most schools we dont have rank exams.
Well usually it's association that award belts. I would not pin it down to Kendo but most Japanese arts do it.
 

Tony Dismukes

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Well usually it's association that award belts. I would not pin it down to Kendo but most Japanese arts do it.
Yep. It's just one of the ways that BJJ culture differs from most Japanese arts. I just mentioned Kendo because I know that's one style in which you are an experienced instructor.
 

drop bear

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We do anywhere from 2-3 techniques in any one class. We'll focus on one position for anywhere from a week to a month, and then move on to another position. For example, we might do closed guard for a month. We'll spend a week doing 2-3 pressure passes per class. They might be related, they might not. The next week, sweeps. Then speed passes, then submissions. Then we may spend a week doing lasso guard. Then two weeks on half guard. Then a week on side control. Then two weeks back in closed guard, followed by two weeks on an open guard. I missed a week and completely skipped over butterfly guard.

My professor says he's going to teach me 40% of what I'm going to learn about BJJ. The drills that we do in the first half of class make up the curriculum. The other 60% comes from:
  • Figuring things out during rolls
  • Upper belts giving us advice on what we're trying to do or how to counter what they're doing during rolls
  • Outside research, such as videos, discussions, or cross-training (with the rule that -especially with videos or flashy techniques- you run it by the professor first)
There are things we were taught during the first month or two I was there, which anyone who started after has not learned. For example, I don't think we've touched half guard since my 2nd week, outside of a week or two on deep half guard.

An equivalent to Taekwondo would be if we picked a different kick every week. Or, some weeks maybe we do a punch or a grappling technique. So we might spend a week on back kicks. That's all we do. Monday we do a back kick, and then a spinning back kick. Tuesday, we do the same, but in street clothes. Wednesday and Thursday, we do some footwork tricks to set up the spinning back kick. Then Friday and Saturday, we do roundhouse kicks to set up the back kick. That's the first half of class. No punches. No grappling. Just back kicks and sometimes roundhouse kicks.

The second half of each class is sparring. If you have a completely new person, the only kick they know is a back kick. When an upper belt hits them with any other technique, that upper belt might teach them how to throw a roundhouse or a punch.

And then you never do back kicks again for 8 months, and anyone who started in the last 6 months or so has never done one. Unless it came up in sparring from an upper belt.

There are underlying concepts that bind every technique together. But that's not a curriculum.

I'm sure Tony or Drop Bear can correct me, corroborate me, or otherwise provide an alternative perspective on this.
Have you considered suplimenting with online training. As many of those these days have curriculums or at least progressive systems.

Eg.
 
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Yokozuna514

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Interesting question with a deceptively complex answer that says as much about the person promoting as it does about the person being promoted.

As most people have different biases perhaps the best way to look at it is to compare it to post secondary education. There are a lot of options available to go but they are not all equally accessible. Some places have a better reputation than others. The more exclusive the program the more prestigious the diploma. Even within the program there is a minimum standard to pass as well as the distinction for completing the program at the top of the class.

My point is, it is up to the instructor/school/organization to set a standard that meets the requirements that they are trying to achieve as a body of their own.

To get back to your original question, I would tend to think they apply their knowledge and experience guided by any guidelines provided by their governing body. In the absence of which, I echo the words of Dropbear, They guess.
 
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I found this video today, of a black belt walking through his thought process on this subject.
 

isshinryuronin

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But the community tends to apply pressure towards some broad norms.
I would call the BJJ community more homogenous than most other systems due to its comparatively recent popularization. The karate community was, until the early 1970's, in a similar stage. The majority of instructors were just 1 or 2 generations away from the Okinawan/Japanese masters (or were transplanted masters themselves) and commonly adhered to high standards. Most all blackbelts could be expected to have crisp, sharp, capable technique well executed with impressive speed and form. Nowadays, IMO, "most all" would be an exaggeration.

Japan and especially Okinawa being so small, most of the masters knew each other so their tight knit community was able to apply pressure re: norms and standards. Over time various communities evolved, exploding in the West, some still maintaining high quality, others not. Commercialization played a big part but was not the only cause. I doubt that BJJ will ever achieve the popularity of karate and so may be able to retain more homogeneity in their standards. Even so, over time, some of this will surely be lost. I suspect this is already in motion to some degree.
"Can they perform the material for belt X at the skill level a person of belt x should display?"
The key word here is "should." That is influenced by the community the instructor is identifies with.
 
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drop bear

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I found this video today, of a black belt walking through his thought process on this subject.
The biggest issue is that you never understand the basics.

That is what seminars are for. Is so you can find out you were doing something simple that was wrong all this time.
 

HighKick

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I want to be clear up front. I am not complaining about promotion times, or making any reference to someone getting promoted early or late. I'm just curious how black belts figure out the criteria for who should be promoted and when.

When I get a stripe, I don't know what the difference is between the day I got it, and the days before. I don't know what it is that my professor finally said, "Skribs is ready." Same for the other students. I am not aware of the decision-making process. I see that they are improving, and at some point in that improvement, they get a stripe. I've even had a friend complain to me, "I don't know what to work on to get my next stripe." It's generally considered taboo to ask about your own promotion status. It's even more out of line to ask about someone else.

Compare this with my experience in Taekwondo. It's very easy to learn who is ready for the next belt. You have a list of curriculum items that will be on the test. If the student can demonstrate those items, they're ready to test. I have tons of experience as an instructor, using this method to recommend to my Master who is ready to test, and then participating as a judge during the test. As a student, I was aware of this going on. I had my printout of what was going to be on the test, and I could check each item off as I memorized it.

How is it that black belts in BJJ go from the student that does not know when or why promotions are given out, to knowing when someone is ready?
In large, I feel you, @Dirty Dog, and tony @dismukes are all spot on.
In the TKD realm, most often there is a tangible curriculum to understand and follow. However, when a person tests, even if they know all the required material, they still have to prove a level of proficiency. This is the divide I think everyone is trying to explain. And yes, this is the absolute area of subjectivity. And this crosses over into all styles.
In your TKD testing experience, if a person could show all the required movements of for a certain rank but did them poorly, were they promoted? If so, this is a school problem, not a style problem.
This gets tough for the instructors and people in charge of judging promotions. Determining if a person is doing the best they can based on age (young or old), physical/mental limitations, etc... is always on an individual basis. You just cannot lump everyone into the same pile and expect them all to perform exactly the same or even relatively the same. To me, this is where pressure testing is imperative. It shows both the person testing and the person judging they can perform an effective technique. Or not. This is consistent regardless of the sparring/competing environment (standing or rolling). And you have to consider the rank/time in training. I do not expect the same degree of proficiency increase from a white belt as I do a blue belt.
 
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The biggest issue is that you never understand the basics.

That is what seminars are for. Is so you can find out you were doing something simple that was wrong all this time.
I find plenty I do wrong in regular class.
 

arnisador

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When I have a confident feeling that you can demonstrate and teach the material required for [color] belt reasonably well, I figure its the to promote you to [color] belt (and get you focused on the [color+1] belt material).
 

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