the grading…

Karate Grading

Karate Grading

the current grading system is geared toward developing and producing students that conform to the lowest common denominator.

This is as I see it, its up to the instructor to say ok your ready now go for it… All well and good however this puts the expectation on the student that they are ready and how can they fail if the instructor has said they know it all and are ready to go… so there is to me an expectation that when they are there (at the grading) they will pass, because if they are fail, and some should be asked to re-grade, then it looks bad on them the instructor and the system, less likely to happen, and the bigger the event the less (very less likely) that a student will fail and more likely that the average will be lower than what you would expect.

 so how can this be improved?

by changing the expectation at a grading day… not so much the rest.

i see that when a student gets to a grading day they feel they have passed already. this needs to change

they need to feel that the expectation is that if they excel and only if they perform to the highest standard will they pass and move to the next level.

some points to share: the students

  • need to feel that if their performance is anything but excellent they will need to grade again.
  • have a clear mark of excellence, a visual and written understanding of the requirement, that if they are less than that they will not move forward.
  • a clear understanding that if they grade it’s not an automatic passage to the next rank.

see a pattern

the ultimate ideas is to produce student that exceeds our expectations not make the average. These things are the unwritten expectations, and what we hope to instil in the student, however its not being executed this way. The reality is, the gradings are basically a performance of the average, not a drive to excellence that we really want.

What could a grading day look like?

for example.. you could have a grade day for students every 3 / 4 months and its up to them (the student) to

  • show you they are ready
  • get the necessary techniques done learned and understood before then
  • be there on the day otherwise they miss out.

here’s a rough idea

  • have an notification from the instructor that they can attempt a grading at the next opportunity
  • set the grading days at and let the students that they can grade only on these days (its a limited field so make them want to achieve it)
  • have an open curriculum (by that I mean if a yellow belt is keen and learns the requirements then why not let that person attempt purple)
  • change the grading day to a format that builds on each level

so the day would start everyone together and after every requirement is met for white to brown then the grading is done.

the format would be separated in to 5 components

  1. strength/flexibility (not specifically push ups and sit-up as they are not a good indicator)
  2. fundamentals (hands, leg, stances etc)
  3. predefined sequences (kata, routines)
  4. application (bunkai, yuksu)
  5. practice (sparing, scenarios)

in between each component a break would occur, for drinks toilet break, recover

the student cannot move to the next component unless they have passed the previous comment for their level.

 example.

if the strength requirement for a yellow is 3×1 minute plank 2×25 full movement wide arm pushups 3×20 knee to floor lunges and 3 stretching elements from the list of acceptable exercises in 10 minutes

then they cannot move to the fundamentals component

the grader would need to watch each element and make a comment on the movement

e.g. for the plank

elbows in line with shoulder

feet together

core engaged

back straight

time achieved

if each is not ticked for each set, the the requirements are not met and they need return for the next grading in 3 or 4 months

Harsh

maybe but this would set the expectation that its not a given that you would pass a grading and you need to know and do to make the grade.

rank – oh my now i’m pushing it

The ranking system in martial arts is both a blessing and a hinderance. I’ll need to explain why of course.

I’ll start by saying that for lower ranks and specifically juniors the ranking system is important and significant in the ongoing understanding if where they are on the progress to being a black belt. I think at black belt things need to change and other factors need to be taken in to account.

For juniors, there are numerous studies that show the effectiveness of the reward feedback system that provides a positive flow for the juniors to strive and achieve the levels needed to progress. The methods of how you provide the positive feedback will affect how they progress and at what rate, however it would seem that when the junior has the reward system they strive to improve to achieve the next level.

Should a rank be a awarded on a time or skills based system, or do they operate hand in hand? You would think that skills progress over time, if the student is given enough time to work at these skills. So time plus effort should equal skill… So if time and effort equals a new skill, and I believe lower ranks need a continual feedback loop to progress with a complete and positive approach, then more levels would equally build esteem and confidence…. but then too much of  will make the next level less rewarding because of the continual reward for the limited effort, so there needs to be a balance. So for lower levels (below black belt), I like the 10 levels to black and then multiple stages between each level.

Beginner and intermediate levels would have more and accelerated step between levels.

At intermediate to black the steps lessen and the time between extends, so it could possible look like the following

| Levels…
|_>    Steps

  1. White
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    6. 6
    7. 7
    8. 8
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    6. 6
    7. 7
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    6. 6
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    1. 1
    2. 2
    1. 1
  2. Black

Ok so whats the thinking here. I feel that for a beginner it important to continually feed them both small chunks of information and reward them for achieving a goal no matter how small.. The steps as a beginner as all big compared to learning the same information after a year or 2 of training. The time frame between the level are approx. the same its the number of rewards between them that would help build confidence and their incremental skills that they will use from there on.

Looking at the list above you may get the impression that the longer they train the quicker they obtain the next level. Not so all the levels are based on a similar length of training hours, for my thinking and the common thought is about 10000 hours to achieve black. Not based on lesson or classes but the amount of hours you spend with an instructor / teacher. That would be about 100 hours per level. As the amount of time you train increases the number of visible rewards ie. stripes on your belt decreases while other methods of student achievement would replace the visible strips.

This also indicates to me that the final step is more about honing your skills in more than learning new ones, and ideally the focus of the student at that time is more intent on the big goal of their Black Belt as apposed to the now learned skill needed to achieve it.

The levels about Black I feel should follow a similar methodology. Though the idea / concept of strips is replaced with another reward system.

For levels above Black I see the following

  1. Instructor
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
  2. Teacher
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
  3. Master
    1. 1

So my thoughts here are similar to the lower levels… After achieving your black there is a large number of dropouts because a lot of people have obtained the thing they most wanted. To help alleviate this dropout rate I think its important that there are a level of rewards and new skills to be learned for the student to start the next part of their journey. Each level is approx. 1000 – 2000 hours of training / research time with a teacher.

So at level 1 you would learn the skills to better your understanding of training systems and how to impart the knowledge to others. At teacher level you are learning to train the trainers and your understanding is at a deeper level and should be prepared to openly discuss your methods and learn better ways of doing learning and teaching the skills needed to run schools. The Master level is where you would focus your training into a specific area, where you would research and develop the finer points of your chosen area. Part of this would be to publish your study to help benefit others.

Part of the overall precess is the continual feedback loop, at all levels and steps regardless of the amount of training you have done. Feedback in any for will help you better understand what your trying to achieve, and it does not always need to be what you want to hear but provided its honest open and backed by experience or a valid explanation then it will help enhance your process to the end goal.

Of course this could be completely out of whack…. and quite possible the reason I don’t run schools… But hey i’m always thinking on how it works…

more thoughts to follow…