Marine Corps Martial Arts Program
In my attempts to change the perception of karate from an old impractical form of fighting to a useful system combatives I often look to MCMAP to see how they train and what makes them more respected in the world of fighting. Some of the big things they do differently are more conditioning, more practical application, and fewer belts. The one I want to talk about today however is the difference between rank and years in training.
Belts Represent Knowledge
A trend that I think karate instructors should work to move away from is the practice of promoting students every so many months regardless of how much more they have learned. It is important to recognize how long a student has been studying karate (combatives), but belts are there to recognize how much of the curriculum you know. In my personal system of teaching, by 3rd Dan you should know everything I have to offer. A brown belt will not only not perform kata as well as a 3rd Dan, but they will also know less kata. That is why there is a different colored belt.
How Do We Reward Years in Training
As I mentioned, it is important that you reward students for their years in training. From a marketing stand point, if students are being rewarded for being a student for a year, it is an incentive to work towards being a student for two years. Kind of a like a rewards club. Looking at this from a karate perceptive and ignoring the business aspect, if new students can see who has been in longer regardless of rank, it helps them learn about the people in the class.
I am friends with a lady who started years before me, but I am now higher rank. If you wanted to learn things that we used to teach or hear stories about how class used to be run, she is the one to talk to – not me. It has nothing to do with rank or breadth of knowledge, she has just been around longer than me.
How to Implement This
Tossing out a couple ideas here:
In MCMAP, marines have special stripes for their dress uniform (kinda like a nice gi or a tournament gi) that show how many years they have been in the service. Their knowledge of combatives is tied to their colored belts.
When I played football as a kid, we had circle stickers for our helmet to represent achievements like sacks, fumble recoveries, and interceptions. It was to show how much impact you had on the team even if you were in a less popular position like left end instead of the quarterback. Karate students could have smaller patches for the back of their gi for participation in tournaments (one per tournament), for each year they were a student, for each demo they participated in, etc. I know this sounds kind of like the boy scouts, but I think some schools would enjoy this.
Another option is to have one patch on the shoulder that would have a number to display how many years the student had been learning karate. These patches would have a color scheme matching the school’s colors and a simple large print number in the center.
My final idea involves using colored gis to represent how long a student has been learning karate. All students start with a color of the schools choosing. I will use white for my example (but blue or black or anything is ok). All students are supposed to have white gis. After being a student for a year, you are allowed to wear blue, or white, or a combination of the two. Students can show off the colors they have earned, but don’t have to. Upon reaching two years of training you can wear black, blue, or white and any combination of the three.
Last thing I want to mention is that I think there is a difference between knowing the curriculum and being qualified to teach it. I will save this for a later post though. Do you think that rank and years in training should be linked together? What is your favorite method of highlighting a student’s years in training? Do you have your own method?