When to switch from promoting for progress to promoting for merit?

wab25

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This might be just me.... but I think we put way too much emphasis rank and belt color, and not enough on learning and studying the art. It seems that we are always wanting to know how long it will take to get the next rank, the next color. We are so focused on whats next, that I think we forget to appreciate where we are and what we have now.

I see so many people that want to learn their kata... and as soon as they have one memorized, they want another. They think that they have learned the kata, because they have the movements memorized. They think that studying the kata, means memorizing the movements and maybe even memorizing a few applications.

I understand that this is a very controversial opinion... but I think that once you have a kata memorized to the point that you can do it, with out thinking "what is the next movement," that you are now at the place where you can begin your study of the kata. You cannot study the kata, if you are thinking "what comes next." I have found that there is enough in any one kata, as basic as it may be, to study and explore for years.

As a martial artist, I enjoy the physical challenges of getting the techniques right and increasing my physical abilities. I also enjoy the mental aspect of really studying what is in the kata and how to apply those ideas outside that particular kata. I enjoy the actual practice... all the blood, sweat and tears that go with it... and the aches the next morning. I don't care what color belt I have.... I carry a white belt in my bag to wear anytime I can. I enjoy studying the arts I have been taught so far, and feel that I have a long way to go, just with these.

I guess many places can't afford a student like me.... they need me to pay the grading fees every couple of months, along with buying the new belt, the new t-shirt and the new patch each time I get a new color, and how much faster can I pay all those fees if I would only sign up and pay for the rank advancement prep course or black belt club.... I am the kind of student, that can literally spend years on the "white belt" curriculum of any art, and still enjoy working on that part.... as I still feel that there is so much more to be learned and improved. I have done so with many arts.... 2+ years white belt in Danzan Ryu, 3+ years white belt in Shotokan Karate, this was all years of regular classes and study, not gaps.... and these were years watching other students join and fly right past me in rank, many of them not even realizing that they missed the best parts and all the understanding... they do out rank me for sure though, so there is that.
 
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is there anything inherently wrong with this? We have this exact thing happen all the time. New student signed up with us who has about 3 years experience kick boxing, he caught on super quick and learned faster than most why should he stay at a white belt? He learned all white belt to 7th gup material up to standard in about 2 months so he was promoted in 2 months. Eventually progress slowed down as things got more advanced and promotion happened at about the same rate as most at that given rank. On the flip side we have one kid, currently 12, that has a super hard time focusing and the #1 thing that students need to demonstrate to get past white belt is good focus, he's been a white belt for 4 months. It's not that he is worse or learns slower it's that he started off further back on the path and has a lot farther to go than someone who has already gotten a good grasp on focus. Everyone has their own starting point that doesn't mean you should move the goal post.
In this case, you are providing different requirements to each person to promote. You want the 12-year-old kid to demonstrate focus. It seems as if that's the paramount thing. If he meets the bar for focus, then he will be promoted. I assume you want him to at least memorize the curriculum for his belt (if any), and you want him to show improvement in his technique from when he started, but that you are not holding his technique and understanding to the level of the kickboxer. That if he increases his focus level, he is rewarded by a new belt.

However, at some point, just because someone is progressing in the way you want them to, doesn't make them qualified to be in charge of a school.
 
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I see so many people that want to learn their kata... and as soon as they have one memorized, they want another. They think that they have learned the kata, because they have the movements memorized. They think that studying the kata, means memorizing the movements
Here's my take on this. Especially in Taekwondo, the poomsae build on each other. I don't think there's any technique or stance in Taegeuk 1 that is not also in Taegeuk 2. In fact, there's very little that's "new" in Taegeuk 2, except the pattern is completely different. So a student who is working on memorizing Taegeuk 2 can work on improving Taegeuk 1, which will also help with the majority of the techniques in Taegeuk 2.

There's maybe one technique from Taegeuk 1 and 2 that is missing in Taegeuk 3. The hardest part of Taegeuk 3 is differentiating it from Taegeuk 2, because the pattern is very similar. There is a big difficulty jump from Taegeuk 3 to Taegeuk 4, but Taegeuk 4 doesn't have any new stances that you weren't already doing. So any work improving your stances from Taegeuk 3 will help you in Taegeuk 4. I think it starts jumping more for Taegeuk 5 and up, but you still have a lot of crossover.

The same applies to many of the techniques, especially the kicks. While someone could learn a front kick or roundhouse kick in either order, there's a general progression of learning roundhouse kick -> turning roundhouse kick + jumping roundhouse kick -> tornado kick. Some of the details about the turning roundhouse kick and jumping roundhouse kick can help you better understand the basic version. Same for the tornado and the previous two. However, you do need a good enough kick from the previous tier in order to go up. Someone with no skill at all in the basic roundhouse and who is struggling with which foot to kick with on a turning kick, or the timing of a jump, has absolutely no chance to do a tornado kick. But someone who can do the roundhouse kick well enough can learn the next version of it, which may help them grow in the basic version. This is also my reasoning for why learning 540 kicks can be helpful, even if they are not directly useful themselves.
 
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This might be just me.... but I think we put way too much emphasis rank and belt color, and not enough on learning and studying the art. It seems that we are always wanting to know how long it will take to get the next rank, the next color. We are so focused on whats next, that I think we forget to appreciate where we are and what we have now.
One thing my Master explained to me when I first started teaching is that white belts are not just white belts in technique, but also in mindset. It was a slightly different context. In this case, it was that I was being too strict on the white belts, and kids were leaving class crying, never to return. (That issue got fixed).

This is a little bit different situation, but I think the same thing applies. Especially if we're talking about kids, belts are a good incentive to keep coming to class. This is why even arts like BJJ where it takes a much longer time to get the next belt color, they have a lot of stripes to give. In fact, I think they get stripes faster than a lot of TKD schools give belts.

Then you run into a problem at the other end. I want to open my own school. I cannot do that in my organization until I am a 4th Dan. So I want my 4th Dan. After that, I want to be able to raise students to the point where they can open their own school (and pass it forward). I can't promote someone to 4th Dan unless I am 5th Dan. So I want to be 5th Dan before I would need to promote someone to 4th Dan, because then I can best help my students achieve the same dreams I had. Well, in furthering that, if one of my dreams is to promote students to 4th Dan, and I want my students to be able to meet the same dreams as my, then I want to be able to promote my students to 5th Dan so they could also promote to 4th Dan. You probably see where I'm going with this.
 

wab25

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Here's my take on this. Especially in Taekwondo, the poomsae build on each other. I don't think there's any technique or stance in Taegeuk 1 that is not also in Taegeuk 2.
My take on this is that there is no technique in Taegeuk 1, that I could not study and learn from and improve for years. And yes, it should improve my Taegeuk 2 and all the rest... there is a reason Taegeuk 1 is first...

This is the first Kata in Danzan Ryu. This is all of the kata, all of the steps:
I have been studying, learning, exploring this technique for over 25 years and still find new things, new angles, new applications and more importantly, new ideas and principles. I could easily spend that much time on Taegeuk 1. Not only would I enjoy it, but there would be a lot that I would learn.
 

Steve

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However, at some point, just because someone is progressing in the way you want them to, doesn't make them qualified to be in charge of a school.
What does qualify someone to be in charge of a school?
 

wab25

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Then you run into a problem at the other end. I want to open my own school. I cannot do that in my organization until I am a 4th Dan. So I want my 4th Dan. After that, I want to be able to raise students to the point where they can open their own school (and pass it forward). I can't promote someone to 4th Dan unless I am 5th Dan. So I want to be 5th Dan before I would need to promote someone to 4th Dan, because then I can best help my students achieve the same dreams I had. Well, in furthering that, if one of my dreams is to promote students to 4th Dan, and I want my students to be able to meet the same dreams as my, then I want to be able to promote my students to 5th Dan so they could also promote to 4th Dan. You probably see where I'm going with this.
I do see where you are going with that. Thats the difference between us. My goal is to train and study martial arts. As long as I can train, I am happy.... I will find things to study in my training. I can do this as any rank, and I am happy to do so, so long as I can keep learning and training.

You don't want students like me. I will camp out on Taegeuk 1 for years, learning it, studying it, taking it apart and playing with the pieces and putting it back together again.... just like I did with Shotokan's first kata, Taikyoku Shodan. Lots of learning and growth and training for me... not much in testing fees for the instructor though...
 

Tony Dismukes

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This is why even arts like BJJ where it takes a much longer time to get the next belt color, they have a lot of stripes to give. In fact, I think they get stripes faster than a lot of TKD schools give belts.
This can vary quite a bit. If I had to make a very broad overgeneralization, I'd say that 6 months between stripes might be typical in BJJ.

However it's not very systematic in most schools. There are instructors who have tests and/or time requirements for stripes but they are in the minority. Most of us use stripes in a more haphazard way, just to give feedback that we've seen some noticeable progress even though the student isn't ready for their next belt. This can be pretty inconsistent - I've seen people not get any stripes for years, then get 3 at once.
 

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However, at some point, just because someone is progressing in the way you want them to, doesn't make them qualified to be in charge of a school.
Is being qualified to run a school part of the requirements for X rank? If so, then if they aren't capable of running a school, you don't award them the rank. Because they don't meet the requirements. Simple.
 
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You don't want students like me. I will camp out on Taegeuk 1 for years, learning it, studying it, taking it apart and playing with the pieces and putting it back together again.... just like I did with Shotokan's first kata, Taikyoku Shodan. Lots of learning and growth and training for me... not much in testing fees for the instructor though...
Actually, it would probably stunt your growth. If you're a yellow belt (which is where you would learn Taegeuk 1 in a lot of schools), then I will give you feedback appropriate to a yellow belt. If you're the best person in class, I would expect you to test into the next class, and I will be focusing my attention on the students who are struggling and need the extra help.

As to the bolded part, if you're going to attack my character because I dare have tests in a martial art that has tests, I don't think I can continue this conversation much further.
Is being qualified to run a school part of the requirements for X rank? If so, then if they aren't capable of running a school, you don't award them the rank. Because they don't meet the requirements. Simple.
When is anything ever simple?

This is the question. Do you start pushing these kinds of requirements at the point of which someone can run a school? Or do you do it a degree (or more) below, where they would be expected to be examples and have some authority?
 

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When is anything ever simple?
When you want it to be. There is an awful lot of unnecessary complexity in the world.
This is the question. Do you start pushing these kinds of requirements at the point of which someone can run a school? Or do you do it a degree (or more) below, where they would be expected to be examples and have some authority?
You are apparently one who wants this to be complicated, so it will be. For me, and for our branch of the Moo Duk Kwan, it's simple. The standards for a rank are the standards for that rank. Period. End of sentence. Our standard for earning a white belt is 'be able to perform Kicho 1 without prompting'. If that takes them 1 class, fine. If it takes them 6 months, also fine. Simple. And it stays simple for all the other ranks.
 

wab25

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Actually, it would probably stunt your growth. If you're a yellow belt (which is where you would learn Taegeuk 1 in a lot of schools), then I will give you feedback appropriate to a yellow belt. If you're the best person in class, I would expect you to test into the next class, and I will be focusing my attention on the students who are struggling and need the extra help.
I do not believe that the only way you can grow is when your instructor corrects you. Its not about being the best person in class. Its about me training, and finding things to work on and improve. Martial Arts is a personal journey, and each martial artist is responsible for driving their journey. Sometimes that means seeking out instruction and guidance and sometimes that means working on things yourself. I have learned many things by paying attention to what the instructor told the new white belt and even by going back and doing the same drills and exercises as that new white belt.

As to the bolded part, if you're going to attack my character because I dare have tests in a martial art that has tests, I don't think I can continue this conversation much further.
As to the bolded part, there was no attack on your character. I was referencing the fact that much of American Martial Arts are primarily businesses. If they want to make a lot of money, they are primarily day care or after school care for kids. Contracts and high testing fees, super frequent testing are many times ways to increase revenue. Not all schools are like this, but enough were and are, that it is quite normal and there are many martial artists here, that have never seen the other side.... the side that is entirely about the art and not at all about the money. But those guys teach and train in their garage and or back yard and are hard to find. The rest of us all fall in between the two extremes. Its a balance every school must make.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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This is why you should not grab your opponent's arm with your tiger mouth facing toward your opponent. When your opponent breaks your grip, his hand will be inside and on top of your arm.


This grip is better.

correct_wrist_grip.png
 

wab25

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This is why you should not grab your opponent's arm with your tiger mouth facing toward your opponent. When your opponent breaks your grip, his hand will be inside and on top of your arm.


This grip is better.
This is incorrect. The movements to escape the first grip are different than the movements to escape the second grip. However, both grips can be escaped from, and both can be escaped from, with your hand inside and on top of the other guys hand. But, the point of the kata was not to show the ultra-inescapable-grip, the point of the kata was to introduce the basics of movement, upon which the art would be built. While the escape from each grip will have many parts in common, they will also have parts that are different. The first grip was chosen, as it allows the practice and refinement of the movement patterns that our art uses. That an escape happens is secondary at best.

The grip that we use in the attack is traditional and has a specific reason. Most people don't know the reason and don't fully understand the attack (as seen in the video I showed.... I just picked it as it was the first one to show our first kata in youtube... and it is representative of the practice you will see) That grip should be the same grip you would use to grip a katana. Your weight should be behind the grip. The attack is primarily to prevent the right hand from getting to the katana on the left hip, and secondarily to push the hand behind, taking his balance back and him to the ground, making the sword draw harder.

The grip you showed as "better" is actually worse for preventing the sword draw, especially as shown in your picture. There is no way she could stop him from drawing, from that position. (the same actually goes for my video.... but that is an issue with the attacker not understanding the attack, not an issue with the attack) All wrist escapes are silly, when done from "here grab my wrist like this and then let me do what I want" drills.

A lot of arts suffer from this... this is why I feel that it is the martial artists responsibility to drive their training. Find someone who understands that attack and does it well to train your escape with. Don't grab and hold on "because you are supposed to." When an attacker grabs you, it is for a reason. For training, decide what the reason for the grab is.... that is what comes next and work your drill to where the attacker is grabbing the wrist to set up the following attack and then the escape will have to be more technically correct. You can even change it up. Grab to prevent the sword draw, grab to prevent the gun draw, grab to pull into the van, grab to pull in to punch, grab to set up take down... be creative.

Then you can go back to your kata, and take what you had to do to make the technique work in your various drills, and put those pieces into your kata.

At the end of the day, that grip was chosen to provide a framework, so that you can practice and learn specific ideas and principles. If you change the attack, you change the framework and thus change the ideas and principles found within. Don't confuse kata with fighting. The art is taking what you learn and refine in kata and applying it to fighting.
 

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This is why you should not grab your opponent's arm with your tiger mouth facing toward your opponent. When your opponent breaks your grip, his hand will be inside and on top of your arm.


This grip is better.

View attachment 28443
No it's not. I can break that grip and have my arm inside and on top of your arm.
If that is bad, as you say in your first statement, it is equally bad here.
 

J. Pickard

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In this case, you are providing different requirements to each person to promote. You want the 12-year-old kid to demonstrate focus. It seems as if that's the paramount thing. If he meets the bar for focus, then he will be promoted. I assume you want him to at least memorize the curriculum for his belt (if any), and you want him to show improvement in his technique from when he started, but that you are not holding his technique and understanding to the level of the kickboxer. That if he increases his focus level, he is rewarded by a new belt.

However, at some point, just because someone is progressing in the way you want them to, doesn't make them qualified to be in charge of a school.
I am definitely holding his technique to the same level as the kickboxer if they are the same rank. If he wanted to be 3rd gup, the same as the kickboxer currently is, then he definitely needs to be on par because that is our expectation for rank. My point was that the younger student has great technique, he's a good fighter, but he can't focus. basically he meets about 90% of rank requirements but for us it's all or nothing. I don't think I explained it well. Basically we have a definitive set of expectations for each rank that MUST be met 100% no exceptions. Some students are super talented and can meet those expectations really quickly so are promoted quickly, others not so much and so are promoted slower, but no matter what we never change that expectation. If a student has made good progress but it still shy of our expectations we have other ways of rewarding them besides advancing their rank. All progress is good progress but not all progress is equal. If a student meets requirements in full for their next rank in a month, good for them they should be rewarded and promoted because they met the requirements. If another hasn't met the same requirements and it has been 4 months longer than other students, that's okay too. They probably just need a little more help and in that case would get the opportunity to schedule a series of 1 on 1's (no extra charge, so no this isn't a money grab thing) to help them figure out why progress is going slowly and fix it.

I agree that it takes a LOT more to be in charge of a school.
 

drop bear

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In this case, you are providing different requirements to each person to promote. You want the 12-year-old kid to demonstrate focus. It seems as if that's the paramount thing. If he meets the bar for focus, then he will be promoted. I assume you want him to at least memorize the curriculum for his belt (if any), and you want him to show improvement in his technique from when he started, but that you are not holding his technique and understanding to the level of the kickboxer. That if he increases his focus level, he is rewarded by a new belt.

However, at some point, just because someone is progressing in the way you want them to, doesn't make them qualified to be in charge of a school.

That raises an interesting point though. Are these merits individual? So if a martial artist cannot control his anger or something. Does that become his requirement to grade?
 

Dirty Dog

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That raises an interesting point though. Are these merits individual? So if a martial artist cannot control his anger or something. Does that become his requirement to grade?
That specific issue should be a requirement for every student at every rank.
 

prophet224

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Ok, so... different 'brand' of TKD here (Chang Moo Kwan) so we use Tan-Gun, To-San, etc. Also jumped to bagua and Israeli Combatives.

That said, a quick anecdote (and no, I am also not attacking your character, just showing where a slippery slope can go):

When I first started training, it was in Tiger Claw kung fu. I drove 40 minutes to get there and there was a sign on the way (for a TKD school) that said "get your black belt in one year!"

This was said proudly and as an enticement. If you promote 'for progress' as you mentioned, you will draw people who want to be promoted for that reason, regardless of their level of ability, even if the purpose is to maintain interest at early ranks.

Another related note:
Don't build on sinking sand. It is more likely that a person moving forward too soon and without a firm foundation will improperly execute and understand the more advanced technique than that learning an advanced technique will help them perfect the simpler one. Build a first floor with sand and pour concrete for the second floor. It all collapses.

Instead, ensure that the foundations are firm and solid. Then build on a foundation you, and the student, can trust.

How to maintain interest?
The easy way is those mini tests with rank markers on the belt. I don't remember what that's called.
A better way, in my opinion, is to work on that white belt/yellow belt mentality as soon as possible. Show them a few examples of how there are hidden movements in the forms (kata) if you open your mind and think flexibly. For example, our first form, Chon-ji, is all front stance, blocks, and basic punches. However there's a trip in there almost right away, if you look closely. :)

Start showing students EARLY how small differences in hip or foot position matter, how they can find other movements or techniques in their forms, and they will start hunting. They will also stay interested.

Ok, last thing, for real! :)
There are going to be people who can't perform certain movements. There is a video out there from quite a few years ago of a quadriplegic performing a form. Now if you know what to look for, he is amazing, but many people bashed it with comments like "he's not able to perform the moves", "this is a travesty", etc. That boggles my mind. Yes, the movement standards need to be adapted for this person, but you really can see the movement and power, he just doesn't have arms and legs. To deny that person the struggle and training is missing the point I think.

Or Miles Taylor, the kid with cerebral palsy who does strongman (and who lifted at the gym I was at before moving). He is an amazing inspiration, and yes, his deadlift isn't what it would be if he didn't have CP, but he is working his butt off.

Crossfit recently worked hard to put together 'adaptive' competitions for athletes with mental, extremity, and other issues so that they can also compete. Let me tell you, a person with one arm, in a wheelchair, performing a snatch doesn't look like it does in the Olympics, but it is dang impressive.

So yes, let's get our minds around 'adaptive' martial arts, but lets not blend that with our normal standards. If you can do a thing, and do it with a certain high level of proficiency, let's make people work until they get there. If they can't, really can't, then let's adapt.
 
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