Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Day at a Time

Tonight one of the young adults, actually an 18 year old girl in our class, got her red belt. Looking at how she did at the end, working through forms, I think she's earned it. She works hard, and she's been on a race. I think the changes in our class, the limits on promotion, are partially due to her and a few others. She's only been coming about a year and a half, but the promotion based on attendance has worked to her advantage. She's been coming 4-5 times a week, so she's caught me and passed me by. We were even last fall, but between work and travel, she's moved 2 stripes, or really 2 months worth of classes ahead of me.

Tia and I talked about it a few weeks ago when the change was made. Our instructor said that he didn't want people racing and would limit people to one stripe or belt a month. You still had to come at least 8 times to advance, but whether you came 8 or 24, you'd get one move forward. I'm not sure that's a lot better than the other method.

All my martial arts career I've had to work hard, and instructors kind of arbitrarily chose people to advance. Typically there would be a few people advancing at the same time, or testing at the same time. We had to go in front of people, and we had to be pretty good in forms, self-defense, etc. Lower belts were mostly form tests, but as we moved along, you had to add in self-defense, breaking boards, some sparring, and you had to work.

I've felt that the requirements to pass are too loose at this school. No one really knows what they have to do and there isn't a list of "do these 12 things to pass" for each belt. And the requirements haven't gotten harder as people have moved on. When I was at other places, each test got longer so that when you got to belt 5 or 6 or 8/9, the tests were longer. By the time you were red or brown, the test had to be scheduled on a Saturday when there was no class because it took too long.

It's definitely a balance. If it's too hard, people don't stick with it, especially kids. But if it's too easy, then kids don't really earn it. I think that striping after every 8-10 classes is OK, but testing isn't 8 classes later and it needs to be more structured. I'm sure, with his first school and trying to build a business, our instructor is struggling with this and perhaps it will change as he gets a few black belts to help run things. We'll see.

I'll be glad to see a few adult black belts. Having some variety in teaching, and having those instructors being able to correct people (they can't really do that now), will be good and make for more interesting classes.

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