What is the bare minimum that formal TKD testing should include?

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
My understanding is that most TKD schools have an "informal" testing (instructors check if you're ready to test based on your abilities in class), and then the formal testing (sitting in front of a panel of judges while the Master issues commands to be followed). That which isn't covered in the formal testing is often covered by pre-screening during the informal testing period.

I know some schools will have you do a couple forms (most recent and one random from before), a few rounds of sparring, and break a board, and you're done.

My school when I was a kid would have you demonstrate techniques on command, such as going through all of the kicks, and then demonstrate all forms you have learned up to that point. Then a few rounds of sparring, board breaking, and done.

The other school I've been to as an adult had a significant amount of rote technique, including memorized punch and kick combinations and a bunch of self-defense. It was not cumulative, but often you would be doing the curriculum from the last test or two in addition to your latest stuff. There was a little bit of freestyling and there were a few rounds of sparring, but 90%+ of the test was rote material.

I've heard/read that other schools do physical fitness tests (i.e. distance running, number of pushups and situps), or they have written or oral examinations in addition to the technical and practical testing. There may also be forms and such that the students create and demonstrate, or situations the students are put in to demonstrate application of their techniques.

What would you say is the bare minimum that should be included in a formal belt test? Does this answer differ between white belt, intermediate belts, and black belt? (For example, if you think a white belt needs to just do their form and some basic techniques, but a black belt needs to demonstrate self-defense and pass an oral examination).
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
21,732
Reaction score
7,625
Location
Pueblo West, CO
My understanding is that most TKD schools have an "informal" testing (instructors check if you're ready to test based on your abilities in class), and then the formal testing (sitting in front of a panel of judges while the Master issues commands to be followed). That which isn't covered in the formal testing is often covered by pre-screening during the informal testing period.
Sort of. My own Master and I both prefer not to be involved with the formal testing except as observers, when possible. And I have always absolutely refused to have any role in grading any family member. I've seen a gentleman give his son a pass when he couldn't perform the mandatory form for that grade. Or the break.
We will observe, and will will use it as an opportunity to work with senior students on how gradings are performed.

I know some schools will have you do a couple forms (most recent and one random from before), a few rounds of sparring, and break a board, and you're done.

My school when I was a kid would have you demonstrate techniques on command, such as going through all of the kicks, and then demonstrate all forms you have learned up to that point. Then a few rounds of sparring, board breaking, and done.

The other school I've been to as an adult had a significant amount of rote technique, including memorized punch and kick combinations and a bunch of self-defense. It was not cumulative, but often you would be doing the curriculum from the last test or two in addition to your latest stuff. There was a little bit of freestyling and there were a few rounds of sparring, but 90%+ of the test was rote material.
Like so many things, my answer is... it depends. How many students are testing? How many people do I have available to do the gradings? What rank are they testing for?

Testing for 10th geup is very short and simple. Get in front of the class and get through Kicho 1(Basic Form 1) without being prompted. Congratulations. Now you can wear a dobak and a white belt.

9th geup will require them to perform the same form, but to a higher standard. They will also demonstrate stances, kicks, blocks, and punches and answer some questions.

Each rank has one or more mandatory forms, one or more mandatory breaks, free sparring, some questions to be answered and/or an essay. There are some standard questions, which are on the application the student fills out. But whoever is doing the grading can ask any question they like. I once had a tester ask me what the 5 tenets are. But he wanted the answer in Korean.

Everything is cumulative. A candidate may be asked to demonstrate any form or technique from any prior grade. Or they may be asked to do something like "show me 4 ways to counter a wrist grab".

Gradings may be judged by a single person, especially at lower ranks or when there are a lot of people grading. Nobody grades more than one student at a time, and Dan ranks are graded by at least three instructors, usually including our Kwanjangnim. Our KJN also meets every candidate for Dan ranks before their 1st Dan test. 4th Dan gradings (and above) always involve our KJN, and usually other higher-ups in the American MDK TKD Association. My last promotion was judged by our KJN, the Secretary General, and the entire Board.

Everything is cumulative.
I've heard/read that other schools do physical fitness tests (i.e. distance running, number of pushups and situps), or they have written or oral examinations in addition to the technical and practical testing. There may also be forms and such that the students create and demonstrate, or situations the students are put in to demonstrate application of their techniques.
This isn't High School gym class.
What would you say is the bare minimum that should be included in a formal belt test?
Our bare minimum would be the mandatory form(s), break(s), sparring and questions. That's pretty rare though.
Does this answer differ between white belt, intermediate belts, and black belt? (For example, if you think a white belt needs to just do their form and some basic techniques, but a black belt needs to demonstrate self-defense and pass an oral examination).
Every student is tested on what they have been taught. Higher ranks have been taught more... If I ask a Dan candidate to demonstrate Kicho 1 and they can't, they're not getting promoted.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
Sort of. My own Master and I both prefer not to be involved with the formal testing except as observers, when possible. And I have always absolutely refused to have any role in grading any family member. I've seen a gentleman give his son a pass when he couldn't perform the mandatory form for that grade. Or the break.
The family member thing is a separate discussion.

Why do you and your Master prefer not to be involved in formal testing? Who is doing the formal testing? I don't remember your exact rank (I'm thinking 7th Dan). In my experience with my Master, he ran all of the formal tests. Or are you above Masters who run the tests?
Our bare minimum would be the mandatory form(s), break(s), sparring and questions. That's pretty rare though.
Can you give me some examples of questions you might ask?
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
21,732
Reaction score
7,625
Location
Pueblo West, CO
The family member thing is a separate discussion.
Sort of.
Why do you and your Master prefer not to be involved in formal testing?
Because we think of our students as family in many ways, and it's best to avoid even the possibility of favoritism. And it's good training for the senior students to do the judging supervised before they do it solo.
Who is doing the formal testing?
Senior students. Keep in mind that the ability to teach the curriculum is required for promotion to any Dan rank in our system. That means they need to learn to test students.
I don't remember your exact rank (I'm thinking 7th Dan).
Yes.
In my experience with my Master, he ran all of the formal tests.
Different schools, different viewpoints. It's not a right/wrong thing. It's just what works for us.
Or are you above Masters who run the tests?
I'm not above anybody. But I do have higher rank than my students, as is (I think) usually the case.
Can you give me some examples of questions you might ask?
Sure. I can cut & paste from the applications. The forms include room to write answers, but I will edit that out.

These are the 9th geup questions. The basic requirements are wearing the dobak properly, including tying the belt, Kicho Il Jang, Kicho Ee Jang, basic stances and strikes, and breaking at least one board with a step behind side kick.
  1. Where do you bow first when you enter the training hall?
    1. Black Belts
    2. Friends
    3. Flags
    4. Senior Belts
  2. What type of Martial Art are you learning now?
    1. Tae Kwon Do
    2. Kung-Fu
    3. Karate
    4. Judo
  3. In what country did Tae Kwon Do originate?
    1. Korea
    2. China
    3. Japan
    4. Philippines
  4. What is the proper way to answer parents, teachers and Masters?
    1. Yeah
    2. Yes
    3. Uh-Huh
    4. Yes Sir/Yes Mam
  5. What do you do to show respect to your parents?
  1. Do you spend extra time on school work at home, other than homework, in order to improve your grades?
  1. What is the Tae Kwon Do Code (Motto)?
  1. What is your long term goal in Tae Kwon Do?
  1. Draw a line connecting the words on the left to the matching words on the right.


Master Dojang
Studio Sabumnim
Uniform Dobak
Flag Kook ki

These are 4th geup. The basic requirements are the 6 Kicho forms and Palgwae 1-5, sparring (graded on offense, defense, and combinations), self defense combos, and breaking at least one board with an axe kick.
  1. Do you have enough patience to become a Black Belt?
  1. What have you learned from your Master thus far? (Techniques, customs, philosophy, etc.)
  1. Have you used Tae Kwon Do to help your family?
  1. How do you explain Tae Kwon Do to others?

These are 1st geup. The basic requirements are the 6 Kicho forms, the 8 Palgwae forms, sparring, self defense, and a 2-station break using a roundhouse and a spinning hook kick. As a 2-station break, there is no break (see what I did there?) in the movement between breaks. The questions are essays.

  1. Explain in detail both your short and long term goals as a Black Belt.
2. How can being a Black Belt contribute to the development of our society?


For promotion to Chodanbo (literally "half a black belt", with the connotation being "black belt candidate"), the basic requirements are the 6 Kicho forms, the 8 Palgwae forms, Koryo, sparring, self defense, breaking with a full turning back kick and a 3-station break, with the combination being chosen by the student. The questions from this point are essays, and the subject is decided individually. Generally it's something we think that particular student would benefit from contemplating.

The breaking requirement is always "at least one board", but by this point very few students are breaking single boards. Most choose to do a power break (for 1st Dan, I did 5 16"x8"x2" pavers) and a speed break (I did a 16"x4"x2" paver standing on edge on top of a wavemaster), and then some multi-station break (I do not remember what I did - it's been a minute...).

I've said before, but I will say again. We consider "tests" to be a formality. More a chance to show off for your family and friends than anything else. And a chance to be a little more formal than is our norm, sort of like school activities that have a dressy awards ceremony. If we didn't already know you had the material down, you would not be there. You cannot fail. If you get nervous and forget how to do a form (which is exceedingly rare) or can't do the break (which happens occasionally, mostly with younger or smaller students), you just have to try again, and your promotion is "pending" until you succeed. After all, you're not graded on anything you haven't done multiple times in class.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
Because we think of our students as family in many ways, and it's best to avoid even the possibility of favoritism. And it's good training for the senior students to do the judging supervised before they do it solo.
Wouldn't the instructors who are proctoring the exam also feel this way?
Different schools, different viewpoints. It's not a right/wrong thing. It's just what works for us.
My Master was very controlling. It did cause a lot of tension between us at times. Because not only was he controlling, but he did not communicate his specific expectations to his staff very well. But it does make sense that he would want to control the tests. He did let me proctor a couple of them (under his direct supervision).
I'm not above anybody. But I do have higher rank than my students, as is (I think) usually the case.
I meant it either as higher rank or higher level of authority (i.e. head instructor or school owner) when compared with them.
Sure. I can cut & paste from the applications. The forms include room to write answers, but I will edit that out.
It seems like your questions are more about etiquette and personal story. I think it was @andyjeffries once sent me a similar questionnaire (although his was for 4th Dan I think) in which it was very technical questions. Technical questions which unfortunately were not specified in the teachings by my Master.

My Master's written exam for 4th Dan (which I wasn't able to take before I moved) was very technical, but going back to what I said before - not communicated very well.

For example, "How many movements are in Taegeuk #4." Well...that depends. How are you counting them? For example, the last 4 combinations could be:

1- Inside Block
2 - Punch
3 - Reverse Punch
4 - Inside Block
5 - Punch
6 - Reverse Punch + Kiyhap

Or it could be:

1A - Inside Block
1B - Punch
1C - Reverse Punch
2A - Inside Block
2B - Punch
2C - Reverse Punch

I've seen diagrams with different sets of counts. I've seen diagrams with inconsistent counts, where some combinations are broken up into separate numbers, and some are subdivided into letters under the same number.

So is Taegeuk #4 a total of 16 movements (each combination), 29 movements (every individual technique), or somewhere in-between (which all of the diagrams were somewhere in between)? There were several questions like that on his test. It's even worse for his in-house forms, as I couldn't even fall back on a diagram.

It's one reason I would be hesitant to include a written examination. I wouldn't want students to feel like there's one right answer to a question that could be interpreted in many different ways.

More a chance to show off for your family and friends than anything else.
This is a good point, and probably now the biggest reason I would include more than the bare minimum (including some ideas where I would have students be creative in their preparation instead of just parroting a rote curriculum).
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
21,732
Reaction score
7,625
Location
Pueblo West, CO
Wouldn't the instructors who are proctoring the exam also feel this way?
Not necessarily. They're either from a different school, or (more often) senior students, not instructors. And while it's how we feel, that's us. It's another thing that's not right or wrong, it's just us. If another instructor feels differently, that's fine.

Unless they're going to give a pass to their son, who can't perform the material. Then there will be judging...
My Master was very controlling. It did cause a lot of tension between us at times. Because not only was he controlling, but he did not communicate his specific expectations to his staff very well. But it does make sense that he would want to control the tests. He did let me proctor a couple of them (under his direct supervision).
Personally, I don't think control freaks who can't/don't communicate make very good teachers.
I meant it either as higher rank or higher level of authority (i.e. head instructor or school owner) when compared with them.
In that case, yes.
It seems like your questions are more about etiquette and personal story.
Sure. Because we're talking about relatively low ranks. That's the sort of thing they need to learn, and the personal story helps us evaluate our training and individualize it as needed. Dan ranks end up with more technical things. I was asked to develop some guides for the Palgwae forms. I ended up writing my first book. I delayed my promotion till it was finished and then gave hardback copies to the judges. Every student from that point got a copy.
I think it was @andyjeffries once sent me a similar questionnaire (although his was for 4th Dan I think) in which it was very technical questions. Technical questions which unfortunately were not specified in the teachings by my Master.
Sounds like that's on your Master then.
My Master's written exam for 4th Dan (which I wasn't able to take before I moved) was very technical, but going back to what I said before - not communicated very well.
See my above comments on communication.
For example, "How many movements are in Taegeuk #4." Well...that depends. How are you counting them? For example, the last 4 combinations could be:

1- Inside Block
2 - Punch
3 - Reverse Punch
4 - Inside Block
5 - Punch
6 - Reverse Punch + Kiyhap

Or it could be:

1A - Inside Block
1B - Punch
1C - Reverse Punch
2A - Inside Block
2B - Punch
2C - Reverse Punch
I think most will agree that a Kiyap is not a move.
As for counts, I can offer a relatively easy way to count forms. It's the method I used in my books.
TKD forms are, typically, done with a very brief pause between moves.
You step and punch. That's 1.
You kick from the back leg and step down, so its now the front leg. That's 2.
You throw the same kick, but as you step down/forward, you throw a punch. That's 3A & 3B. Because there's no pause. There really can't be in anything remotely resembling natural movement.

When we teach students a new form, we teach them one step (or count) at a time. And their early practice will be done by counts as we correct gross errors and get things roughly correct. Then, as the forms are practiced without counts, we can fine tune things. And there is no question how many movements there are.
I've seen diagrams with different sets of counts. I've seen diagrams with inconsistent counts, where some combinations are broken up into separate numbers, and some are subdivided into letters under the same number.
As far as the Taegeuks go, however, there is an official source. If you give the Official Kukkiwon Answer, you cannot reasonably be told it's incorrect. The answer for Taegeuk Sa Jang (4), just FYI, is 20. As far as the Palgwae forms go, you didn't learn the "real" Palgwae forms, but a version your Master came up with. That's fine, but the only place you can get a count would be from him. If he doesn't teach the count, then he can't reasonably ask you that question.
It's one reason I would be hesitant to include a written examination. I wouldn't want students to feel like there's one right answer to a question that could be interpreted in many different ways.
Don't overthink things. It's not complicated. If you want a particular answer, then teach that answer. I can ask any student how many moves there are in, say, Plagwae Yook Jang (6) and if they know the form, they will know it's 19 movements. Because that's how they've been taught.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
I think most will agree that a Kiyap is not a move.
Hence why in both versions I included it as part of the punch. I always write where the kiyhaps are, though (in my notes). Usually in bold text!
As for counts, I can offer a relatively easy way to count forms. It's the method I used in my books.
TKD forms are, typically, done with a very brief pause between moves.
You step and punch. That's 1.
You kick from the back leg and step down, so its now the front leg. That's 2.
You throw the same kick, but as you step down/forward, you throw a punch. That's 3A & 3B. Because there's no pause. There really can't be in anything remotely resembling natural movement.

When we teach students a new form, we teach them one step (or count) at a time. And their early practice will be done by counts as we correct gross errors and get things roughly correct. Then, as the forms are practiced without counts, we can fine tune things. And there is no question how many movements there are.
(grouping these two thoughts together)
As far as the Taegeuks go, however, there is an official source. If you give the Official Kukkiwon Answer, you cannot reasonably be told it's incorrect. The answer for Taegeuk Sa Jang (4), just FYI, is 20. As far as the Palgwae forms go, you didn't learn the "real" Palgwae forms, but a version your Master came up with. That's fine, but the only place you can get a count would be from him. If he doesn't teach the count, then he can't reasonably ask you that question.
I agree that the 3A and 3B version is the way I would count forms. (Although in speaking, I would just say "3" and then it be all of the techniques in 3).

But that doesn't seem to be the way that Taegeuk 4 is counted.
TAEGEUK_SA_JANG-e1459987195528.jpg

I don't personally see why 15 & 16 are not 15A and 15B, and then 17 & 18 are not 16A and 16B, especially considering that you then have a similar combo with 19A, 19B, and 19C (followed by 20A, 20B, and 20C). This image isn't from the Kukkiwon site, but it is the most common counting for this form that I have seen, and it fits the 20 steps you discuss. Also, they note the kiyhap too!

I would also personally count 10A and 10B as 9B and 9C, although I can see an argument for why it's not. This is what would bring it down to 16.

As to my Master and how he counts things, it's something inconsistent. It's very good at the lower levels when you have Kibon Il Jang (what some schools call Kicho Il Bu or something like that) that's 20 steps, it's very easy. For the kids at that level, he would almost always count the steps every time the form is performed.

But when we start getting into more complicated combinations in the later forms, he typically alternates between counting the beats in some combinations and then just describing the others. Other times the form is just performed without any prompts. Any time he wants to see the form step-by-step, we would usually just say "next".

As an example, our Palgwe 4 started with a superficially similar combination to the real Palgwe 4. But instead of a double block it's a C punch, and then we have a rear elbow strike to set up the uppercut. So he would count it 1-2-3-4...1-2-3-4 (for the other side), and then he would describe the next section, "Double knifehand, palm (we added that), kick, spearhand, bring hand down, turning..."

Don't overthink things. It's not complicated. If you want a particular answer, then teach that answer. I can ask any student how many moves there are in, say, Plagwae Yook Jang (6) and if they know the form, they will know it's 19 movements. Because that's how they've been taught.
The other option is if I don't teach a specific answer, then don't put a question in that has a specific answer.

One of the things I want to get away from is the idea that the entire curriculum needs to be rote memorized. The way I'm doing this is that outside of forms, I really don't want a single thing to be rote memorized. Testing at my school was 90% rote material. For example, the black belt test had:
  • Punching #1-8 (8 punch combinations rote memorized)
  • Kicking #1-8 (8 kicking combinations rote memorized)
  • Palgwe #6-8 (although he's in the process of switching so the requirement would be Palgwe #8 and Taegeuk #8)
  • Jump Kick #1-6
  • Freestyle Technique*
  • Red Belt Punch Defense #1-5
  • Red Belt Kick Defense #1-5
  • Body Grab Defense #1-5
  • Falling Technique #1-3 (basically sweeps)
  • Knife Defense #1-5
  • (For adults) 2-Man Punch Defense #1-3
  • Sparring*, including 3-on-1 sparring
  • Board breaking*, including 4-direction breaking (it didn't have to be one flowing motion, but you were supposed to smoothly transition from one break to the next) and then a 2- or 3-board break (depending on your size)
*These items are not rote memorized.

At the test, he would literally say "Punch #1" and have you repeat it several times forward and back, and then "Punch #2." Well, that's if he was being nice. Normally he'd do the punch and kick combinations out of order. But the rest of it was all rote. I have problems with how deep we were able to go with the techniques. I and a couple of others were able to dig deeper on our own. But the majority of students were spending all their time working on memory, they didn't have time left to improve.

Same thing at the upper level. The difference between 3rd Dan and 4th Dan didn't really seem to be any technical ability. It was that we had 20 more combinations, 4 more forms, and 30 more self-defense techniques piled onto the curriculum. It was actually to the point that even he couldn't keep it straight. Just about every time he showed us something at 3rd Dan, there were changes. (I know because I took meticulous notes and he sent us videos and written descriptions, and nothing matched).

Maybe I'll swing too far in the other direction, but I don't want anything rote that isn't a form.
 

Earl Weiss

Senior Master
Joined
Jan 27, 2009
Messages
3,291
Reaction score
666
For several decades we have used "Gup Requirement Sheets" First sheet is included with the student handbook each new student receives. When they pass they get the sheet for the next rank. These sheets include the National Org. core requirements plus my school requirements. They serve as a list for: A. Making sure student is ready to test B. Letting the student know up front what they will be responsible for. C, Letting students know a few weeks before a test to review the Sheet and ask for help on anything listed. That same sheet is used for the test along with anything on any prior sheet.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
For several decades we have used "Gup Requirement Sheets" First sheet is included with the student handbook each new student receives. When they pass they get the sheet for the next rank. These sheets include the National Org. core requirements plus my school requirements. They serve as a list for: A. Making sure student is ready to test B. Letting the student know up front what they will be responsible for. C, Letting students know a few weeks before a test to review the Sheet and ask for help on anything listed. That same sheet is used for the test along with anything on any prior sheet.
My Dad had a coworker that had a similar approach. However, they had a D: the instructor must check off each item on the list to show they've been pre-screened and are ready.
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
21,732
Reaction score
7,625
Location
Pueblo West, CO
Hence why in both versions I included it as part of the punch. I always write where the kiyhaps are, though (in my notes). Usually in bold text!
I misinterpreted that portion of your post. Sorry. Text instructions should certainly include the kiyaps.
I agree that the 3A and 3B version is the way I would count forms. (Although in speaking, I would just say "3" and then it be all of the techniques in 3).
Well yeah, that is the only reasonable way to do it. They're written as 3A & 3B because they're all part of the same larger movement. When you're doing forms by count, you stop and wait after each one. I do not think many beginner students (for whom counts are most useful) will be able to throw that kick and then stop with their foot in the air until you call 3B. Trying to verbalize them separately would be like considering the chambers as separate counts.
But that doesn't seem to be the way that Taegeuk 4 is counted.
I don't personally see why 15 & 16 are not 15A and 15B, and then 17 & 18 are not 16A and 16B, especially considering that you then have a similar combo with 19A, 19B, and 19C (followed by 20A, 20B, and 20C). This image isn't from the Kukkiwon site, but it is the most common counting for this form that I have seen, and it fits the 20 steps you discuss. Also, they note the kiyhap too!
People can count however they like. But as far as the Taegeuks go, the correct counts are the KKW counts.
As to my Master and how he counts things, it's something inconsistent.
Inconsistency (as opposed to modifying to meet a particular students needs) is a Bad Thing (tm).
It's very good at the lower levels when you have Kibon Il Jang (what some schools call Kicho Il Bu or something like that)
Kicho Il Jang and Kibon Il Bu mean the same thing.
that's 20 steps, it's very easy. For the kids at that level, he would almost always count the steps every time the form is performed.
I think forms are a useful teaching tool. Doing forms by count is a useful tool for learning the form. I do not think the counting is generally useful after they know the form. The only time I count known forms is so I can fine tune a position.
But when we start getting into more complicated combinations in the later forms, he typically alternates between counting the beats in some combinations and then just describing the others. Other times the form is just performed without any prompts. Any time he wants to see the form step-by-step, we would usually just say "next".
I'll do that too. Because if we're doing forms by count, I'm going to be moving through the class adjusting things. And I lose count. I want to blame it on chemo brain, but it happens to everybody. So "Next" or kiyap works. But the goal is always unprompted. And no testing is ever done with counts.
As an example, our Palgwe 4 started with a superficially similar combination to the real Palgwe 4. But instead of a double block it's a C punch, and then we have a rear elbow strike to set up the uppercut. So he would count it 1-2-3-4...1-2-3-4 (for the other side),
You could count it that way, and since the (non) Palgwae forms don't have any other authoritative source, you'd be correct.
In the real Plagwae it's counted (on paper) 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B... because that's how the creators wanted it done. The idea is that 1A and 1B are done without the classic brief pause.

I'm trying to picture what you're describing. The real Palgwae starts:
From a basic ready stance, you slide the left foot to the right into a close stance and execute a right small hinge block - which is the same thing as a supported rear elbow strike.
01A.JPG

Then move the left foot out into a right back stance and do a diamond middle block - which is the same thing as a C punch.
01B.JPG

Here's where I lose you. The next move is a pulling uppercut. You shift into a left front stance, grab them with your left hand and pull them towards you into your uppercut. How is a rear elbow strike going to set that up? The opponent is in front of you, and you already have your hand in position to grab them.
02A.JPG

You then pull the left foot back and turn into a close stance again, and deliver a knife hand to the neck (or throat, depending on circumstances...).
02B.JPG

This is counted 1, 2 and consists of moves 1A, 1B, 2A, & 2B.
and then he would describe the next section, "Double knifehand, palm (we added that),
You left out (at least in this description) raising the left knee (to jam a kick) and then stepping down into a right back stance while doing the double knifehand. What is the "palm" supposed to be doing at that point?
kick, spearhand, bring hand down, turning..."
The "bring hand down" is, I presume, the palm heel pressing block. That really needs to be BEFORE the vertical spearhand. Because otherwise you're trying to block through your elbow.
06B.JPG
The "turn" is actually a release. The target grabbed your wrist when you did the spearhand. That's why you pull back, turn, and twist your arm.
07A.JPG
The other option is if I don't teach a specific answer, then don't put a question in that has a specific answer.
That's what I've been saying. Don't ask questions with specific answers unless you taught that answer.
One of the things I want to get away from is the idea that the entire curriculum needs to be rote memorized. The way I'm doing this is that outside of forms, I really don't want a single thing to be rote memorized. Testing at my school was 90% rote material. For example, the black belt test had:
Like forms, "Red Belt Punch Defense #3" is a good teaching tool. We tend to teach that way, but in testing I am more likely to say "show me X counters to Y" and let them take it from there. I don't really care if they do them in a particular order, that's just not relevant. With advanced students, I will also say "In form X, Y is used to do Z. Show me N more applications".
At the test, he would literally say "Punch #1" and have you repeat it several times forward and back, and then "Punch #2." Well, that's if he was being nice.
And if he was not being nice? Why would he not be nice? Why would you train with someone who isn't nice?
Normally he'd do the punch and kick combinations out of order. But the rest of it was all rote. I have problems with how deep we were able to go with the techniques. I and a couple of others were able to dig deeper on our own. But the majority of students were spending all their time working on memory, they didn't have time left to improve.
From what you post (in this and other threads) it seems like there wasn't much time spent on applications. I think that is unfortunate.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
I think forms are a useful teaching tool. Doing forms by count is a useful tool for learning the form. I do not think the counting is generally useful after they know the form. The only time I count known forms is so I can fine tune a position.
I think the 4-6 year-old class was the biggest reason why he did this. I don't think the 7-12 year-olds needed it as much, but some of them it helped as well.
I'm trying to picture what you're describing. The real Palgwae starts:
I've offered to find a time to show you the forms!

Step 0: Bring hands into the hinge chamber to get ready.
Step 1A: C-Punch
Step 1B: Rear elbow strike with the right hand (left hand stays in the same spot)
Step 1C: Uppercut with the right hand, left hand in supporting position at the shoulder (also switch to front stance)
Step 1D: Bring the left foot in and chop with the left hand
The "bring hand down" is, I presume, the palm heel pressing block. That really needs to be BEFORE the vertical spearhand. Because otherwise you're trying to block through your elbow.
06B.JPG
The "turn" is actually a release. The target grabbed your wrist when you did the spearhand. That's why you pull back, turn, and twist your arm.
07A.JPG
By "bring hand down" I'm referring to the turn.

Ours could be thought of (continuing the numbering from above):

Step 3A: Double Knife-Hand Block
Step 3B: Palm Block with the left hand
Step 4A: Front Kick (the palm block stays there to support the upcoming spearhand)
Step 4B: Spearhand
Step 5A: Turn and release
Like forms, "Red Belt Punch Defense #3" is a good teaching tool. We tend to teach that way, but in testing I am more likely to say "show me X counters to Y" and let them take it from there. I don't really care if they do them in a particular order, that's just not relevant. With advanced students, I will also say "In form X, Y is used to do Z. Show me N more applications".
Maybe your approach to the numbers is different from my Master's. But here is an example from his Hapkido class about how I'd approach it differently and get to virtually the same result.

His Hapkido curriculum has 27 different hand grab defenses in the white belt curriculum, which need to be memorized before the test. My approach would be for white belts to learn 5 techniques. There's an additional 7 for yellow (all from behind) and 4 for purple (all from a seated position).

Instead of learning #1-#27, they would learn two shoulder locks, an elbow lock, and two wrist locks from a cross grab position. Then, at yellow belt, they would be expected to learn the same five locks from the other three main grabs (straight grab, 2-on-1, and double grab). My purple belt could then add in grabs from behind and grabs from a seated position, catching me up to his purple belt level.

I would miss about 6 of the white belt techniques that are doing something different than the 5 locks I would be teaching. But I could get 85% of the techniques he covers, all while never using a number. "Show me a V-Lock from a cross grab" is easier to remember than "Show me #14".

Humans work better with words than with numbers, it's why DNS was invented for the internet. So we could go "www.martialtalk.com" instead of typing in "45.33.28.77" to connect to this site.

What I do plan to use is "this is technique #1-#3 for today" instead of a rote #1-#3 for the belt. This also makes it easier for instructors with different backgrounds to bring in their own training to the teaching, and for me to update what I want to teach as I learn more. One of the problems we had at our school is only one instructor was able to retain all of the curriculum (aside from the Master and his wife).

I was that one instructor. Which I feel made me uniquely qualified to complain about it, because I wasn't just complaining about something I found too hard to do. I found it attainable, but nobody else did. I don't know how much of that is based on his teaching style or if it is unrealistic to expect most people to be able to retain that amount of information. Maybe that question could start a different thread...
And if he was not being nice? Why would he not be nice? Why would you train with someone who isn't nice?
That was just a way of saying that he might amp up the difficulty, but sometimes he made it easier on us.
From what you post (in this and other threads) it seems like there wasn't much time spent on applications. I think that is unfortunate.
No. I feel like he never really switched from Intermediate to Advanced with his teaching. His advanced stuff was just more technically difficult and more complexly choreographed, but he didn't get much into that. Even then, I feel his teaching was really strong up through 1st Dan. He knew what he wanted to teach and he taught it every week for over a decade, so he was very firmly grounded in it.

After that, he got a little bit inconsistent. For example, one of our 2nd Dan self-defense techniques would switch back and forth between the finishing move being a punch to the face or a limb destruction. We would find out because every 3 months or so we would get sternly corrected, as if it's our fault he changed his mind and we didn't know.
 

Dirty Dog

MT Senior Moderator
Staff member
Lifetime Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Messages
21,732
Reaction score
7,625
Location
Pueblo West, CO
I think the 4-6 year-old class was the biggest reason why he did this. I don't think the 7-12 year-olds needed it as much, but some of them it helped as well.
It's useful regardless of age. For forms they're just learning.
I've offered to find a time to show you the forms!
We live a million miles away. Pictures or videos are the options.
Step 0: Bring hands into the hinge chamber to get ready.
Step 1A: C-Punch
Step 1B: Rear elbow strike with the right hand (left hand stays in the same spot)
Right. But, again, there's nothing there to strike. Your putative opponent is in front of you. This movement makes no sense.
Step 3A: Double Knife-Hand Block
Step 3B: Palm Block with the left hand
Step 4A: Front Kick (the palm block stays there to support the upcoming spearhand)
What's the logic behind reversing the order of the kick and palm heel block?
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
Right. But, again, there's nothing there to strike. Your putative opponent is in front of you. This movement makes no sense.
Unless there's also someone behind you. A lot of the higher-level techniques are described as blocking two attacks (like scissor blocks, or most of the blocks in Keumgang), so it makes sense from a forms perspective there is someone there. That's also the person you will face after you turn for the second combination.
We live a million miles away. Pictures or videos are the options.
Video chat is an option too. I guess I could do videos.
What's the logic behind reversing the order of the kick and palm heel block?
I don't know why it was changed. It could be something my Master changed, or the way he learned it. I wonder if some of the differences stem from folks misreading still pictures of techniques.

It does add a stance shift in Step 3 that otherwise wouldn't be there (back stance for the double block, front stance for the palm block). I personally like it that way.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
More a chance to show off for your family and friends than anything else.
I wanted to quote this again. You may have said it before, but it's new to me. And it has really changed my focus on how I want to do testing. Not just deciding between doing the bare minimum and including more of what they learned, but also how I want to include those things to give them the opportunity to show off.

I'm still waffling if I want to overtly state this, or if I want to take my Master's approach and purposefully make testing more formal and a little bit more stressful to help the students push through a stressful situation. But it's definitely on my mind in coming up with the testing plan.

Thank you.
 

MadMartigan

Blue Belt
Joined
Apr 28, 2021
Messages
223
Reaction score
252
What would you say is the bare minimum that should be included in a formal belt test? Does this answer differ between white belt, intermediate belts, and black belt? (For example, if you think a white belt needs to just do their form and some basic techniques, but a black belt needs to demonstrate self-defense and pass an oral examination).
I'm a bit late to this thread but wanted to jump in. As I mentioned in another thread, I have lots of opinions on things like self-defense demonstrations on tests.

For me, the ideas behind having tests are to teach the student how to overcome nerves and perform under stress, and to demonstrate technical proficiency and application. A nice side benefit is that it gives the family the opportunity to see how far they've come.

With that in mind, the only things I see use for in tests are activities that demonstrate the above priorities.

- Fundamentals (line/floor work, or other sequences designed to perform techniques).

- Patterns (hyung, tul, kata, etc) to demonstrate movement, balance, memory, and just overall attention to detail. This is my first priority for the sole reason being that patterns proficiency is not dependent on natural gifts... only the attention each student pays to perfecting their techniques. Unlike some high flying spinning kick, regardless of age or athleticism, if your kata sucks, it's because you didn't try to improve it.

- Application (Sparring, and to a lesser extent breaking). IMO, pre-arranged self-defense performances are not application.

What I see as (at best) wasted time is using skill development drills as grading tools. While there's an element of this in anything you evaluate, too many schools get lost in memorizing drills for drills sake. Show your understanding and skill with fundamentals and patterns, then demonstrate that you can apply those skills dynamically.

I feel similarly about written components. If the writen test is focused on understanding concepts that would be ok. If it's just a make work project to show they can memorise a paragraph about a patterns namesake and how many moves it is, that has little use to me, especially at the color belt levels. If that is something included for instructor level ranks, then can see merit there.
 
OP
skribs

skribs

Grandmaster
Joined
Nov 14, 2013
Messages
6,601
Reaction score
2,014
For me, the ideas behind having tests are to teach the student how to overcome nerves and perform under stress, and to demonstrate technical proficiency and application. A nice side benefit is that it gives the family the opportunity to see how far they've come.
This was part of my Master's strategy. Not just in what was on the test, but in how he conducted the test. Even though I want to go with @Dirty Dog 's advice on what to put into the test (make it an opportunity for them to show off), it does mean
With that in mind, the only things I see use for in tests are activities that demonstrate the above priorities.

- Fundamentals (line/floor work, or other sequences designed to perform techniques).

- Patterns (hyung, tul, kata, etc) to demonstrate movement, balance, memory, and just overall attention to detail. This is my first priority for the sole reason being that patterns proficiency is not dependent on natural gifts... only the attention each student pays to perfecting their techniques. Unlike some high flying spinning kick, regardless of age or athleticism, if your kata sucks, it's because you didn't try to improve it.

- Application (Sparring, and to a lesser extent breaking). IMO, pre-arranged self-defense performances are not application.
My plans (which have changed since I started this thread, as a result of this thread) is to include fundamentals, forms, sparring, breaking, and also to give students the opportunity to show off more and more creativity as they get higher up.

One example would be instead of pre-arranging "5 green belt self-defense" for them to perform during testing, to instead have each student come up with their own. This isn't something I'd do at the beginner belts. The first couple of times they are expected to do this, the expectation may simply be "pick one we did in class to make your own".

This isn't how we did things at my old school, but it is how we did on our demonstration team. And it would mean more to the student's family if they see their student showing something that is unique to them, instead of just how well they do the same "Green Belt #3" compared to everyone else.
What I see as (at best) wasted time is using skill development drills as grading tools. While there's an element of this in anything you evaluate, too many schools get lost in memorizing drills for drills sake. Show your understanding and skill with fundamentals and patterns, then demonstrate that you can apply those skills dynamically.
This is one of the ways I am editing things out of what I would test, because these are things we can pre-screen during the informal testing period. Pure application is also in that manner. An example of something I was considering including was "situational self-defense" (similar in concept to positional rolling in BJJ), where students would be put in a self-defense demonstration and come up with the right technique to use. That's something we can check during class, and don't need as part of a formal test.
I feel similarly about written components. If the writen test is focused on understanding concepts that would be ok. If it's just a make work project to show they can memorise a paragraph about a patterns namesake and how many moves it is, that has little use to me, especially at the color belt levels. If that is something included for instructor level ranks, then can see merit there.
I kind of feel like it was a make-work project at my old school. I agree with you. We also had essays, which were introspective. Examples of essays were "What Taekwondo means to me" and "How to improve technique". These were for dan ranks, which were prepared beforehand and read at the end of testing. I don't know if I would do these or not.

But I don't want to make work just to make work. I think some of what my Master did (including the verbosity of the curriculum) was kind of the same as people who won't give you a black belt until you've been training for 8 years (in a system where many schools are 1-2 years). The idea is "I don't want people to think my school is a McDojo." Instead of time gates, my Master put in so much into the curriculum so he could show off how much his students know.

There's a local school here. My Dad (3rd Dan) moved here before me, and scouted out the schools for me. If I do go back to TKD (currently doing BJJ), then I've picked out where I want to go. That Master thinks a lot of younger Masters over-test their students. My Master is a little bit younger than him, but he was a lot younger when he created the curriculum, which hasn't really changed since.
 

Latest Discussions

Top