Perhaps my favorite day approaches...

Ahhh, this Saturday and Sunday. The first weekend of December! Time for my annual black belt test. I have black belt tests during the year whenever I need to (although not usually within 3 months of each other) but every year I always have a black belt test on the first weekend of December. This is a special test because it is open to every student of the school regardless of kyu. And, yes, anybody can pass not just the 1st kyu students. Mind you I have never had anybody under 2nd kyu pass, but still impress me enough and know the kata and I will award the 1st dan.

I think I love the 1st dan test the most because even I don’t know who will pass. All my 1st dan tests are open to all 1st kyu even though I am usually just having it for a particular student who I think it ready. This is very different than when somebody is going from 1st to 2nd or 2nd to 3rd or 3rd to 4th. Those tests are by my invitation only so it is likely that they are more than ready and will pass. But with the 1st dan often I will get people who really surprise me!

Anyway, enough rambling. I just wanted you to know that I am a happy Glitch. :slight_smile:

“Glitch … Anything.” - Bob the Guardian

I have no experience whatever with martial arts but I do know what it is to be happy and proud. Have a great weekend!!

I like the idea, Glitch. Though I prefer the traditional Chinese rankings (student1 student2 . . .), when I was teaching I would also promote people through the “expected” belt rankings if they so desired (primarily for placement in open tournaments, etc.) I always had a problem with the artificial regimentation and segregation of technique and application that such an approach fosters, though. I understand that it can be a useful motivational tool for beginning students, allowing them to focus on short term, easily-identifiable goals. But too often I would run into martail artists of long standing who had never escaped from the rigid structures that such rankings implied. Therefore, I applaud any tradition which encourages students to push their understanding and ability beyond the little box of the next test (even if it only replaces it with a larger box).

I have one question, though. Is 1<super>st</super> Dan considered a teaching rank in your school? If so, how do you deal with the chance that a student might ace the test without ever having gained experience in running a class, explaining bunkai, etc.?

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Glitch, I used to take Tae Kwon Do many moons ago. I was about to test for green belt, but my car would not crank and I could not make the test and I was going back to school (out of town) and would not be able to take it for at least 3 months and I never was able to go back.

Anyway. I am not sure about the terms you use kyu and dan. I do know of katas and forms (what we called them).

I really do have a question for you.

I am working on getting back into shape and I do want to start back into karate (tae kwon do or whatever). I do not, however, really want to learn the katas. Sure they are cool to watch, but I do not have the grace (not sure about the word) to pull it off. I look like a clumsy oaf. Do you allow people to just do the sparring and not learn the katas? Can they advance belts? Is this common?

I really do not care a whole lot about the belts, I just want the exercise and stress reduction that sparring brings.

putting hands together and bowing respectfully

Spiritus Mundi

I couldn’t agree more. In my school, students pick their own kata to learn at each kyu (although I have a suggested order). Similarly, for technique at low levels I get the to run through the basics. At higher levels, I expect them to master an advanced technique or two or three or … anyway, and demonstrate it at a level of mastery applicable for their kyu/dan. Also, in my school, I do not show different technique to different kyu. Everybody sees and tries everything (within some safety constraints) from day 1.

I use the modern ranks kyu/dan ranks because it is expected if they ever want to teach themselves, or as you mention want to go to tournaments. About 10 years ago I experimented with a pure white/black belt system. It was a failure largely because of the administration of remembering who was actually what when it came time for those students of mine who did like to go to tournaments.

Thats a tough question because it really depends.

I have my 2nd kyus, 1st kyus and dan ranks assist in instruction. With regards to kata I will often have lower kyu ranks assist as well (once they demonstrate to me that they can teach it well and understand the kata).

Would I let a 1st dan open a school? Well, I can’t stop him from opening a school, but I would let him use my name on the school. Would I shut him out forever and never let him test with me for higher belts? Probably not, heck, I probably would let him continue to train with me so he could get higher degrees.

Now, since this is an open test it is possible that a 2nd to 10th kyu could pass the test but in practice this just isn’t possible. In fact, although I say it is an open test, the real reason it is open is because it is good training for the people who will have to do it someday. The 2nd kyu who passed was just simply exceptional and deserved it.

Kyu are student ranks. Dan a black belt (instructor) ranks.

What shape would that be? A square? Circle perhaps? My favorite is the dodecahedron. Sorry, couldn’t resist. :wink:

Kata is, IMO, important (but not absolutely critical) to understanding martial arts. Depending on the training you can get by without them, but typically not. There is a lot of information stored in kata. Again, the right instructor can pull that information out and give it to you by another medium but I think kata is a great tool for it. Why? See below.

Thats why you need to do kata. :slight_smile: Kata when done with intensity (and most people just laze their way through it) develops strength, endurance, agility, etc! Do you kata like you fight. Kill the air (don’t lock the joints though, okay?)! Vision is critical to understanding, enjoying and benefiting from kata.

Depends on the school/style. Some schools use a point system. You get certain amounts of points for completeing each part of the test. If you get x/y points then you pass. In such a school clearly kata would be optional. Some schools have a purely kata optional policy (although sparring optional is usually MUCH more common).

In my school, kata is not optional. I do not use a point system. My pass/fail is complete subjective. I don’t keep score, although I do jot things down so I don’t forget what I am seeing.

Consider taking boxing or kickboxing (not kick aerobics). All the sparring with the rest. There are some boxing and kickboxing schools suited towards this.

Also, if such a school doesn’t exist or if it doesn’t interest you, then I would find a school that allows you the option to not test (quite common). Of course, if he teaches different ranks differently you will be always missing out on what higher ranks are learning. I allow students not to test if they choose not to, but since I teach everybody the same from day 1 it isn’t a big deal.

Bottom line: You need to find a school/instructor that suits your needs. Since you know what you are looking for … go get it! Good luck!

Glitch, I first want to thank you for you response. I understand where you are coming from on the learning of katas, but the instructor I took from was much more laid back. He did teach katas and they were required for belts, but mostly we learned “moves” and then sparred with each other. Levels did not really matter with the sparring, just do not beat up your opponent.

I was just curious about your take on it.

As for the joke about the shape, I started at 389 lbs 3 months ago and have lost 50 lbs but am still a ways from my ideal weight. When I get down to a weight that I can spar without dying, I will begin to train again.

I can still do a side kick that is high enough to kick most guys in the face, but I have no endurance and I need more balance. But I am working on it.


You’re very welcome.

WHAT?!?! No beating anybody up? What fun is that? :wink:

I wouldn’t feel badly about your prior training. That is what most instruction is these days. Martial arts has fallen on hard times, and the shape it is in is not too surprising considering its history (lots of secretiveness, and incomplete understanding of students).

The shape joke was a pet peeve of my instructor. He hated people saying “I want to get into shape” to which he would reply … well see above.

Glad to hear about losing 50lbs! That’s impressive.

I have to say though that holding back until you are in better shape is, IMO, a bad reason to avoid sparring. Use sparring as a means to get into better shape.

Glitch, it sounds like you are an instructor after my own heart. Your students are lucky (hey – no bias here ;)). I second you r remarks about forms. I would even add that I have found forms to be a detriment in teaching for short-term physical defense; the time can simply be much more effectively used in drills, conditioning or interactive exercises (including sparring). When I tought biweekly courses to colege students I dispensed with it entirely. Those courses were not designed for long-term students.

However, if a student wants to dig deeply and become a martial artist rather than a trained fighter, form is indispensible. the deper you look into a form the more you will find, and sometimes the discoveries are surprising. One of my fondest memories of my teaching days was running a two-hour class for other instructors under my Sifu’s banner. I tought application and concept out of one of our “simplest” early forms. There was so much material we ran nearly an hour over schedule. After the class, nearly every one of these instructors told me they had learned something new. Oh, and I never got past the twelfth motion.

Sometimes I really miss those days.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

Well, I do not feel bad about my initial instruction. I liked the guy a lot and wish I lived close enough to continue to train with him. He mostly taught to keep himself in shape (I know), sometimes I would just be the two of us in class (no one else would show up) so we dispensed with the drills and such and just stretched and sparred.

As for not training now, at this point, I can walk on the treadmill at a fairly good rate, but things like sparring and karate are too much. After I lose a few more pounds then I will get back into it and continue my training.


p.s. Where are you located? I am fairly sure not in the Atlanta area. Do you know any school in the Atlanta area that you would recommend (this applies to anyone who can answer this question).

Spiritus Mundi

I agree. Truly mastering a small set of kata is the quest of a full lifetime. Some would say even a single kata, but I think they are trying to sound to mystical.

I know I do.

“feel bad” - that came out wrong and badly, definitely had negative connotation there.

I mean more like if you thought (which you didn’t) that your prior training was missing something in terms of intensity (you said he was more laid back, which I took for laziness, but I am thinking now you mean in terms of formality) don’t worry about, because it won’t affect any future training.

Not in Atlanta. I would, for personal reasons, like to keep some bit of anonymity. Suffice to say my views on the martial arts aren’t necessarily popular ones, and I get enough flak from other martial artists in my area.

I found the following site:
Atlanta Martial Arts

Now going through the rather lengthy list (and checking website when available) of places there and keeping in mind I have never been to any of these places, here are some which probably are junk.


Atlanta Black Belt Center - Black belt factory.
Black Belt Tae Kwon Do Academy - Black belt factory.
Burnette Karate Studios - Doesn’t know the difference between karate and TKD.
Choi Kwang Do - Large local branch… no-name brand school. Sounds like a black belt factory.
Eastside Taekwondo - University martial arts typically aren’t so good
Global Karate - Doens’t know the difference betwen karate and TSD.
Guardian Martial Arts - Strange, catchy name.
Karate USA Taekwondo - Large association. Pretty color uniforms. Black belt factory.
Kim Brother’s World Tae Kwon Do - Large local organization, likely black belt factory.
Panther Kwan Taekwondo - Strange, catchy name.
Rockdate Gymnastics Cheerleading & Dance - Obvious.
Stan Christian’s Tae Kwon Do Academy - Probably more about Christianity than martial arts. I know you are religious so maybe you would enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say you would be getting quality martial arts instruction.
T.M.Kim Karate - Doesn’t understand the difference between karate and TSD. Plus, large local organization which means black belt factory.
World Tae Kwon Do Academy - Large local organization.


Atlanta School of Gymnastics - Obvious
Atlanta’s Traditional Okinawan Karate-do Dojo - Strange, catchy name.
Mind-Body-Spirit Karate & Jiujitsu Club - Club, could be VERY tournament oriented? Strange, catchy name.


Aikido School of Self-defense - Self-defense in the name of the school is usually a dead giveaway.
All-American Family Karate - Obvious.
Ch’an Warrior - Warrior in the name is normally a good giveaway.
Dave Young’s World Class Karate & Martial Arts Academy - Black belt factory.
Fugi Combat Karate School - Combat in the name is normally a good giveaway.
Ninjutsu International - Ninjitsu.

Okay, I admit at this point I stopped looking. I think you get the idea by know. Really really really avoid local large organizations! It is the rarest of the rare that these places are any good.

Ones that sound okay or good:

J.N.Lee’s Tae Kwon Do & Martial Arts - Hwa Rang Do… not many people would think to list that so he probably really knows it.

KGD Karate - Goju-Ryu is a very solid style (no I don’t teach goju-ryu) If it is a good instructor this will a good school.

Please remember I have never been to ANY of these places. The ones that look like typical lousy places are based on my own personal bias and personal experience. I could be way off.

Thanks for the advice Glitch.

I will check out some around my area and will get a feel for which ones suit my tastes. My wife said she might be interested too, so that may factor in as well.


Glitch – I meant to ask. What style do you favor (or practice exclusively)?

My guess in an Okinawan form, perhaps Matsumura Shorin-ryu or Okinowan goju. But I base this entirely on my own perceptions of the tendencies of Okinowan and Japanese practitioners I have known, so I could be way off base.

For myself, I started in hapkido, went to an Americanized Okinowan/sport karate when I was in my full-contact phase, and then found my home in a small southern chinese system. But in the last few years I worked more and more often with Okinowan and American kenpo practitioners as I stopped having anything to do with formalized training methods and just played/exchanged with friends.

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

First off, I want to apologize to all readers for listing schools that I thought would be “junk” simply by studying their name. Right or wrong it was in poor taste and in poor taste. There are many types of schools that favor many different people and needs. It is very unfair for me to attack a school simply based on a name.

Jeff, best of luck finding a school! Best thing is to remember what you want and be objective (I don’t think you’ll have any problems). If you and your wife will go you probably want to find a school that offers a family discount (very common).

I no longer consider myself part of any association other than my own. When I test I form a panel of peers (if possible) including students who I trust to be honest (voting/scoring is secret in any event so as to preserve the integrity of the panel). They even failed me once (buggers :)).

However, I primarily consider myself to be a student of Kyokushin karate. I have done a lot of kobudo, kendo and jujutsu. I have done a little TKD and Wing Chun (both less than a year). I have done even less of a few other martial arts, mainly cross-training with friends or students with prior training.

Ultimately, the very large proportion of my training is Kyokushin and kobudo.

Close since Sosai Oyama trained in Goju-Ryu.

How about in poor taste and in poor spirit.

Ah, Kyokushin is a strong style. My Sifu trained under one of Maso Yama’s nephews as a marine in Okinowa, before shifting primarily to teh CHinese styles. We actually incorporated quite a few of his training methods into our regimen.

Again I am struck by many parallels between our experiences, the main difference being that you still teach actively. I dropped membership in all of the political/structural organizations years before I stopped teaching/training. I also found that a panel of peers and cross-fertilization of styles made the most sense (for me, of course – every man walks his own path).