In the diverse modern market of martial arts, this is perhaps one of the greatest puzzles that teachers must address: how do I offer a product that will engage students long after they've earned the black belt? I realize by framing this question this way, I've introduced some superficial success criteria. Not all schools use a classic ranking system, for instance. However, I come from a background that does use a relatively classic belt system, and so referencing it is the easiest way to express the questiion for me. Of course, most schools that have survived for a while seem to retain a handful of students after they've achieved "black belt". For instance, I am one of them from my school. But in order to feel like I am completely engaged in my karate training I've had to reach out to other sources (ie. cross-training and focussing my study on areas of bunkai to which my instructors don't give a lot of attention.) While I continue to train in the same school, numerous other students from that school have earned their black belts and then disappeared. In an American context, where people are often trained to be goal oriented, it might be unsurprising that they set "black bekt" as their goal, achieve it, and leave. To those of you from other countries, do you also observe similar things happening in your schools?
Different schools use different strategies in their attempts to ensure student retention on beyond black belt. Some will use a ranking system that offers a structured way of earning additional ranks (usually in the form of degrees of black belt), others will offer their black belt students isntruction in various weapons, and still others will allot their black belt students additional teaching responsibilities.
For those of you who have encountered issues with students leaving after earning their black belt, what strategies have you used? How do you make your training deep, rich, and fufilling enough that your students stay with you well after earning their rank?
I am particular interested in hearing answers to this question from people who orient their karate primarily around the study of kata and its bunkai. I know that some people, after teaching their kyu ranked students the entire pinan series will teach their black belt students a handful of the kata that Itosu incorporated into the pinan seires. Does anyone save advanced applications of some of the basic kata for their advanced students? Or withhold certain kata based drills until their students are sufficiently advanced?
I've often thought about conducting activities with advanced students in which I give them the freedom to produce their own interpretions of kata.