What to do when an advanced belt has lost it?

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I saw this quite a few times at my last school. You have a student who was at least decent, if not great, by the time they were a green belt. Then, by blue they get lazy and start to coast (instead of improving technique), and by red belt their technique is almost as bad as when they had first started.

I don't know how much of it is just that they've stopped trying, or it's that they want to quit but their parents won't let them (often because they want them to learn the discipline I'm trying to teach). In either case, it's been a challenge to try and motivate kids like this, and an embarrassment that they hold such rank with such a poor attitude and performance.

Have you seen this in the past? What have you done to try and get them to work hard and improve? Demotions? Counseling? Talk to their parents?
 

Gyakuto

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I used to have a great guitar teacher years ago and advanced to a high level with his help. Then I rediscovered Iaido after many years hiatus and lost all interest in descending diminished arpeggios in 4ths etc. My guitar teacher spotted this as I wasnt practising and learning the music theory and at the start of a lesson he simply said, I think this is a good time to part company but should you rediscover your enthusiasm for guitar playing, get in touch and with that, he chose to lose my custom (guitar teachers make very little money) and more crucially, my scintillating company. I was a little hurt but after 4 minutes realised it was the right thing for him to do.

So perhaps have a similar conversation but keep the door open for their return should they get their mojo back.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Plateaus happen. But, if you're plateauing, especially if your skill is decreasing, you shouldn't be improving in rank.

ie: if you're a blue belt, testing for red, even if you know your material, if your skill level is at a white/yellow belt level, you either don't get invited to test or you don't pass the test. You stay at blue until your skill level matches the rank you're going for.

If they (or their parents) complain, explain it to them. Either they stay coasting at blue, which is their choice, you use that as a way to encourage them to start improving again ("All your friends are now brown belt, but you're still blue, so you can't learn the same stuff as them, don't you want to try to catch up?" "Wow you've been practicing techniques 17, 18 and 19 for a really long while now, have you gotten bored yet? Would you want to focus on ranking up, to start learning 20 and 21"), or they/their parents get annoyed and quit/pull them from the program.

Any of those options are better (IMO) then having someone displaying white belt skill representing your school as a higher kyu or potential dan belt.
 

Gwai Lo Dan

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I saw this quite a few times at my last school. ....

Have you seen this in the past? What have you done to try and get them to work hard and improve? Demotions? Counseling? Talk to their parents?
To me, it's likely not a conversation for the "instructor", but the "owner".

I say that for 2 reasons. 1) The KJN may have his/her own feelings on the kid, and 2) More practically, belt testing is an important part of the revenue stream in most schools and as only "an instructor", you can't mess with that.
 
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Plateaus happen. But, if you're plateauing, especially if your skill is decreasing, you shouldn't be improving in rank.

ie: if you're a blue belt, testing for red, even if you know your material, if your skill level is at a white/yellow belt level, you either don't get invited to test or you don't pass the test. You stay at blue until your skill level matches the rank you're going for.

If they (or their parents) complain, explain it to them. Either they stay coasting at blue, which is their choice, you use that as a way to encourage them to start improving again ("All your friends are now brown belt, but you're still blue, so you can't learn the same stuff as them, don't you want to try to catch up?" "Wow you've been practicing techniques 17, 18 and 19 for a really long while now, have you gotten bored yet? Would you want to focus on ranking up, to start learning 20 and 21"), or they/their parents get annoyed and quit/pull them from the program.

Any of those options are better (IMO) then having someone displaying white belt skill representing your school as a higher kyu or potential dan belt.
In my experience, I have not been the ultimate authority on who gets what rank. I would recommend students for testing, but my Master may choose others for testing that I don't think are ready. I would grade the tests, but the ultimate decision of who passed was up to my Master.
To me, it's likely not a conversation for the "instructor", but the "owner".

I say that for 2 reasons. 1) The KJN may have his/her own feelings on the kid, and 2) More practically, belt testing is an important part of the revenue stream in most schools and as only "an instructor", you can't mess with that.
Hopefully in the future I will be the owner, and I can make these decisions.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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In my experience, I have not been the ultimate authority on who gets what rank. I would recommend students for testing, but my Master may choose others for testing that I don't think are ready. I would grade the tests, but the ultimate decision of who passed was up to my Master.

Hopefully in the future I will be the owner, and I can make these decisions.
Then that's the advice I'd give your master. My advice to you would be to advocate for this to the master/owner, but if you can't make those decisions, that really limits your power here. And it reflects badly on his school not yours, so ultimately, it's his issue to fix.
 

auntlisa1103

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Im only a first dan, and Ive been gone from class for months due to health issues. So Im far from an authority on these decisions.

What I CAN say, is that I have seen my GM tell students after pretest that he thinks they are not quite ready yet to test, that he needs to see a little more out of them. One time, I witnessed him allow 3 or 4 brown belt kids who he felt were not ready, to test. They failed. He had sent them on purpose to get through to them, told them as much when they failed, then made them skip one test. Their seriousness, maturity and focus increased exponentially. I once also watched him hold a first gup back from her Temp Cho Dan test for over a year because she wouldnt put in the effort. She couldnt convince enough sponsors to sign for her. I dont have confirmation of this but I think her parents finally called a meeting with him and they all had a come to Jesus conversation with her. The next test, she tested and passed. But Ive never seen him demote. I dont know that that would be productive.
 
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Then that's the advice I'd give your master. My advice to you would be to advocate for this to the master/owner, but if you can't make those decisions, that really limits your power here. And it reflects badly on his school not yours, so ultimately, it's his issue to fix.
The question was 50/50 what can I do as "instructor", and what should I do in the future as "owner".
 
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Im only a first dan, and Ive been gone from class for months due to health issues. So Im far from an authority on these decisions.

What I CAN say, is that I have seen my GM tell students after pretest that he thinks they are not quite ready yet to test, that he needs to see a little more out of them. One time, I witnessed him allow 3 or 4 brown belt kids who he felt were not ready, to test. They failed. He had sent them on purpose to get through to them, told them as much when they failed, then made them skip one test. Their seriousness, maturity and focus increased exponentially. I once also watched him hold a first gup back from her Temp Cho Dan test for over a year because she wouldnt put in the effort. She couldnt convince enough sponsors to sign for her. I dont have confirmation of this but I think her parents finally called a meeting with him and they all had a come to Jesus conversation with her. The next test, she tested and passed. But Ive never seen him demote. I dont know that that would be productive.
My old Master did this once with a group of problem children white belts.

I've only ever seen him demote kids for severe and sustained bouts of disrespect.
 

O'Malley

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Give them a concussion, they might forget the past X years and get their beginner's spirit back.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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The question was 50/50 what can I do as "instructor", and what should I do in the future as "owner".
Ah. Then yeah my advice as instructor is just appeal to owner, the other advice. Or do your best to find motivations for them (verbal encouragement, noticing progress and praise it, stickers) outside of the belts itself.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Never saw actual demotion, and probably wouldn't recommend it. When I was a kid, if one of the higher ranks (think 3-4 years training, which for us was typically a few belts before black) was acting below their belt level, one of our instructors would take our belt and give us another belt (normally) white, that he'd have us wear until we started acting appropriately. Normally would have our belts back by the end of the class. We had a really good relationship with this instructor though, and were all a close-knit group. Don't know that would have worked with a different group, or a different instructor.
 
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Never saw actual demotion, and probably wouldn't recommend it. When I was a kid, if one of the higher ranks (think 3-4 years training, which for us was typically a few belts before black) was acting below their belt level, one of our instructors would take our belt and give us another belt (normally) white, that he'd have us wear until we started acting appropriately. Normally would have our belts back by the end of the class. We had a really good relationship with this instructor though, and were all a close-knit group. Don't know that would have worked with a different group, or a different instructor.
I think of this as a warning more than a full demotion. This did happen a few times.
 

Raistlin

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The worst thing you can do is reward bad behavior. If they are getting progressively worse, you shouldn't be giving them an opportunity to test, and certainly shouldn't be promoting them. It sends the wrong message to them and the other students. It also makes it that much more difficult to bring their skills up to the standard of the belt they are wearing.

Here is my advice: Pull that student aside. If is a child, I would pull them aside with their parents. Tell them that you have noticed a decline in their training and that you want to see them succeed. Give them a very specific road map for success. Write down some of their strengths and give them some things to improve on. Tell them that you want to see them succeed and that you are going to do your part to guide them through this plateau, but they also need to step up and make some changes in order to see some success. Let them know that you are on their team and that you will continue to monitor them and give feedback for improvement. Let them know that they are not in this alone, that you will be working with them to achieve their goals.

As obvious as it seems for us as instructors when we see a student not living up to our expectations, it's not always obvious to them. Sometimes they get discouraged when they don't see progress and they don't understand why. When you show them that you care, that you are on their side and you give them some very specific things to improve in order to progress through your program, it can really help. They don't feel so overwhelmed when they have a specific roadmap to success. Don't focus on what they are doing wrong. Give them tools for success.
 

JowGaWolf

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In either case, it's been a challenge to try and motivate kids like this, and an embarrassment that they hold such rank with such a poor attitude and performance.

Have you seen this in the past? What have you done to try and get them to work hard and improve? Demotions? Counseling? Talk to their parents?
Not everyone will see martial arts through your eyes. People come and go. Life gets in the way.

People stay a part of a school because of the relationship they build with the school instructor and other students. If you aren't building relationships then you aren't going to keep the person in the school for long.

Not everyone values rank. If I took a martial arts system then I would be happy of just being a white belt and never testing to be promoted. But this is only because I only care about martial arts application. I could be a white belt forever and it wouldn't stop me from being a beast. The biggest motivation for me comes from other students who put in the hard work. That keeps me from being lazy and giving in to my lazy days. I have found that most of my students were like this as well. If they see me put in the work, then they will do the same.

Even if I'm not at the top of my game, I still get words of encouragement from those who see me put in the work. When I'm not at the gym, it's noticed.

The solution to your issue of keeping people on the track. You have to inspire them. If you can't inspire them then find someone who can. I personally wouldn't add a demotion. I wouldn't take something that they already learned. I just wouldn't let them progress until they get back up to speed.
 

Yokozuna514

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At some point in time, your martial art motivation should come from you (internally) instead of from the instructor (external). If it always comes from the instructor then he hasnt done his job part of which should be to inspire you to make the martial art as part of your lifestyle. At some point, we need to start looking for our own answers because when you look behind the curtain and see the wizard is only pulling levers, there really isnt any magic.

It becomes what you make of it. Sure you could feel disenchanted by the whole thing or you can look for your own inspiration and continue from there.

So to those advanced belts that are lacking motivation. Perhaps they need to hear a new message and find a new meaning to their practice.
 

JowGaWolf

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At some point in time, your martial art motivation should come from you (internally) instead of from the instructor (external).
We are social animals. It's easier to maintain your own motivation if you around others doing the same. This is why it has been said to hang around people who have the same goals as you. Hanging around people without motivation will eventually kill your own motivation. Humans are social animals and the majority of us tend to do better in a group. There are other benefits to training with others and being motivated by others. It eventually becomes an informal way to measure your own progress. Many traditional schools were so focused on only training as individuals that their training became warped and inefficient. There's nothing to compare when it's only you. So you eventually think you are stronger than what you really are in comparison to others who train as a group. Keep in mind there are exceptions but not many.

If it's not going to come from an instructor then it will come from a student. If it doesn't come from another student then it will come from an outside source. There are always multiple motivators, and never just one motivation. This much I really believe. The best martial artists and fighters have all received some type of sustaining motivation from a coach or teacher.

So to those advanced belts that are lacking motivation. Perhaps they need to hear a new message and find a new meaning to their practice.
This often comes from an outside source because people on the outside can often see things with clarity on things that you or me would be totally blind to. This is why I enjoy feedback about what I do. I don't drown it out. I would be arrogant to think that nothing said in this forum has had a positive impact on my drive. Ironically some of it came from topics where I was determine to show that something was possible. Other times, I've sat here and made the comment to myself "hmm I didn't think of that."

I agree with you. If motivation is lacking then find a new message /or meaning for what you do. If there is none, then it's possible that the person has had enough of that activity and now wished to do something else, something new, or different from what they are giving up. Age will do this to anyone.
 

JowGaWolf

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Sometimes motivation is seeing someone the greatness in another and then encouraging and nurturing that person so that they can reach that greatness.

If a coach or instructor can't see that greatness in you then I would recommend finding a new one. If that coach, teacher, or instructor has no desire, or ways to motivate you to be better than you currently are, then I would find a new coach.

Good students also motivate teachers and coaches. When a coach or teacher starts to wonder why they coach then he or she should be able to look at their students and see that it was worth their time.
 

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I was both an owner and instructor and some classes were taught by a black belt student. This is because we might have two classes in session and this wasn't unusual. The vast majority of my students generally weren't really committed and I wouldn't test anyone who didn't take their training seriously.

Very few students who started with me and even got as high as brown would eventually drop out. I'd guess about 5% of the students made it to 1st dan; and fewer still made it to 2nd. The workouts were very tough fairly often but I'd generally do the same drills I asked them to do, but admittedly that wasn't all the time.

I was often referred to as "Hard Core" though I never thought I fit that description. I tested only those whom I thought were already performing at that level. I tested NOT skill but rather how badly they wanted the promotion. If even a really skilled student was testing and if they said they had had enough and wanted to stop, they were failed. It never really came to that although two BBs did almost fail permanently and the test was repeated the next day. On their second try they stayed so determined that if I had asked them to break a stack of bricks with their forehead, they would have tried it.

I am familiar with some schools that operated on "time in grade" rather than ability and I thought this was so sad. A black belt should know how and be able to at least give good account of themselves in a physical altercation. Sadly I was friends with a young lady (4th dan) and when I taught practical situations she would have been helpless. She knew all the forms, had good striking and kicking power, which is worthless if one doesn't know how to apply them. I taught grabs and not only she but other balck belts simply froze and did nothing. They "knew" the art but didn't know how to use it.
 
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