On Knowing When You are Ready for the Next Belt Level
There are team activities and there are individual activities. In a team sport like football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, the team wins or loses as a whole and not everyone has to have scored a point or blocked a shot. In team sports, there are individual activities like catching a pass, making the block, making the play to get an out, and missing a shot. Some of these events are all skill but most involve some luck.
In martial arts, knowing a form means that you, personally, know what to do and do it. Another student can’t do a roundhouse kick for you. It’s also not a matter of luck. In doing a technique or form, you don’t guess which way to turn or whether the move is supposed to be a down block or middle block. When you are learning a new technique, there is a lot of thought involved to perform the technique. With practice, it becomes automatic. When you know it, you know what to do nearly without thinking.
Knowing a kick means the student knows how to move the leg to strike with the foot, how the foot should be positioned, what part of the foot is striking, and how to bring the foot back after the kick. Kicks take lots of practice.
Knowing the form is different at each belt level from yellow to black:
· For yellow belt, we expect a student to know which way to turn, which foot is in front, and which arm to block or punch with. That’s about all we expect. We’re not looking too closely at the stances or the precision of the blocks or punches. The student should know where the opponents are located in the forms.
· Form yellow belt to green belt, we are looking for better stances and focus on what the target is for the blocks and punches. Middle punches and high punches are at different targets. They must be executed differently. For blocks, the student should know how the opponent is attacking.
· From green belt to blue belt, we’re looking for strong, wide, and deep stances with clear down blocks and straight punches with power. Arms should begin to move slightly after legs but everything stops together. The student should cover to protect themselves during turns.
· From blue to brown, we’re looking for the addition of the eyes: the head should turn first to see the opponent and then react with the blocks and strikes.
· A black belt is expected to do each form so well that observers can imagine the opponent’s attacks.
Knowing forms and techniques is demonstrated not only during formal testing, but also routinely as part of the normal class. We do not test students for advancement until the instructor is sure they are ready. We don’t want anyone to “fail” a test. During formal testing, students are expected to be nervous and make some mistakes. Mistakes are easy to overlook when the student has routinely demonstrated knowing the forms and techniques during normal classes. The test is a time to show off what the student knows. There is no rush to advance. What you know is more important than the color of the belt you are wearing.
Students may know more forms or techniques than are required for the next belt, but to be ready to be advanced they have to know the minimum requirements in all areas. Knowing an additional form does not make up for not knowing enough one-steps, "grab-arts", or kicks.
Initially available: 31 December 2004
Last updated: 4 June 2008