On the subject of syllabuses, do you require a written piece for any grades? If so, at what level and on what subjects?
Our grades have to produce an essay at Shodan.
It is mostly about their experiences in getting to that level but they are free to write it as they see fit.
Written tests at BB levels (and to grade to BB).
General TKD/martial arts knowledge type questions + short essay at the end (which varies depending on the grade) - old knock on from my previous org I guess, but its okay if they know their stuff.
We have “Knowledge Tests” for all gradings. Some of them are written, but others are answering verbal questions and verbal presentations / teaching. The mix of the questioning, written and verbal works well I find.
I think that knowing the “why we do things the way we do” is very important and the knowledge tests help with that. Once into the dan grades, specific subjects are chosen for the person and they will write a couple of thousand words on that subject (in addition to teaching tasks). Below I’ve copied some of the Knowledge Tests up to 1st Dan to give a flavour of the topics.
All the best,
Sample Knowledge Tests:
Candidate will be asked to verbally explain the importance of awareness, Cooper’s Colour Codes (White, Yellow, Orange & Red) and the “Threat Pyramid”
Candidate will be asked to explain the importance of pre-emption in self-protection.
Candidate will be asked to explain what they must do to ensure all sparring is safe and productive.
Candidate will be asked to explain the dangers of ground fighting in self-protection.
Candidate will be asked to state the purpose of the Pinan series and name their creator.
Candidate will be asked basic questions on the origins of karate.
Candidate to explain the Anaerobic and Aerobic energy systems and show and understanding of how they relate to the demands of karate / self-protection.
Candidate will be asked to explain “no first attack in karate” and its impact on self-protection and behaviour of the karateka.
Candidate to explain the three types of combat initiative: Go no sen (countering), Sen (simultaneous attack), Sen-sen no sen (attack on perpetration to attack).
Candidate will be asked to explain the “shuhari” concept.
Candidate will be asked to list the seven “ranges” of unarmed combat.
Candidate will be asked to explain the similarities and differences between “karate jutsu” and “karate do”.
500 word (approximately) written paper on the basic history of our lineage. Candidate will also be verbally asked to define “traditional karate” as it relates to our approach.
500 word (approximately) written paper on the basics of the physiology of the body under the stresses of combat. This should show an understanding of both Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety and their effects upon performance.
750 word (approximately) written paper on the nature and purpose of kata.
Candidate to give a 10 minute talk and demonstration on the application of “low skill methods” (i.e. gouges and bites) in high risk situations. During the talk the candidate should tie in the use of “low skill methods” with “performance under stress” and clearly explain when such methods would be justifiable.
1000 words (approximately) on what being black belt should mean and explain how the candidate will feel about holding that rank.
2000 words (approximately) on the nature, history, performance, application etc of a kata of the candidate’s choosing (with the exception of the Pinan series).
To me, unless a formal Degree or PHD would be provided, then a Written test is not required
Karate to me is about personal understanding, my Idea of Kata, Kumite and Kihon may be totally different to my students' ideas. Am I to "scould" them for thinking "outside the box?". No, a good instructor learns from his students. If they wish to talk and write about Martial arts and what it means to them, I alway let them know about Forums like this one and then its up to them what they wish to write.
I read loads of books on Karate/Martial Arts, I got several of Iain's, Lawrence's etc which I lend to my students if they wish to extend their knowledge but to me if the perform well on the Dojo Mat and can give a good perception, in application, of the kata (senior grades are asked to take the basic application and "extend" on it) then to me, whether someone is the next famous author or is dislexic and/or can't formulate a sentence, is not important.
No one suggested Karate was anything other than personal understanding (what other sort is there?).
Nor did anyone suggest 'scoulding' anyone, or that students were being forced to think inside the box (whatever that means... ). or that having ideas written down somehow means that you can not learn from your students. Surely if you can read their thoughts, impressions and conclusions, you can learn more from them, no?
What is it about a written element that makes you read all that into it BT?
Gavin, I agree you have valid points as does everyone else who has commented on this topic, I think its an excellent topic by the way. Its just that to me I don't think that "Written Papers" are a good media to express what a student "Feels" about his or her karate. I feel that the relationship between Student and Teacher should be a bothway relationship with Students having a relevant amount of input to the karate they are learning. I never refuse to answer a student's question and I always you practical means to demonstrate the answers.
There are basically 3 types of learning and we have to cater for them all (note there are various names or Categories but Lawrence Kane's book on Martial Arts Instruction goes more indepth into them
1, Listening Learners
2, Seeing Learners
3, Touch/Experience Learners
Thinking outside the Box to me is for students who see what is taught but their concept is completely different to that of their Instructor, hence why we have so many styles and offshots of the Classical styles. If one of my students could see a grappling technique from what I taught as a Strike only, then I'm not going to tell them they are wrong, just ask them to explain it and we can work on it with the rest of the class to validate the technique.
With regards to writting Essays of say 500 words to say 2000 words, some people have issues putting pen to paper and would not manage any more than say two paragraphs; does this mean that they fail that grade because they are not academic enough to complete the written requirements even though their Karate is picture perfect?
...There are basically 3 types of learning and we have to cater for them all (note there are various names or Categories but Lawrence Kane's but on Martial Arts Instruction goes more indepth into them...
Martial Arts Instruction began life as my shodan thesis. I'm an advocate of requiring something in writing for each dan level test, but it's more to help the student coalesce his/her thoughts on what's been learned and how it might apply for others, how it could help further the art, or similar... A couple thousand words is more than enough for most folks; they don't need to get carried away like I did
Ah. OK BT. I see where you are coming from.
For us the written portion is not a pass or fail element. It is intended to get them to think about their training in a calm and structured way; to asses what they think worked well for them and what not so; and to attempt to get that down on paper.
The topic for us is pretty open - 'Goju Karate' and it is entirely open as to what they write. Examples have been one soldier writting about how he saw the similarities/differences in his karate training to his military experiences. Another was the experience of training as a (small) female. Anorther was the relevance of trad karate to the Cage. All of which were facinating and all of which, as you say, taught me things.
I see it as more for them than me and tell them that it will be interesting as a 3rd/4th/5th dan to look back and see what they thought as they passed through the barrier from Kyu to Dan grades.
[quote=Black Tiger]With regards to writing Essays of say 500 words to say 2000 words, some people have issues putting pen to paper and would not manage any more than say two paragraphs; does this mean that they fail that grade because they are not academic enough to complete the written requirements even though their Karate is picture perfect?[/quote]
That’s a valid point and the knowledge tests do need to be understood in their correct context.
As someone who was once thought to be dyslexic at school, before it was discovered I was not and was instead simply rubbish at handwriting and spelling, I don’t care about the grammar, spelling and presentation of a student’s ideas. It would be very hypocritical of me to do otherwise! And, as has been pointed out, writing style has no bearing on combative ability.
However, I would expect a student to have a solid understanding of underlying concepts and I would also expect them to be able to provide a structured presentation of their own views on a given subject. That is the purpose of the written tests. The students also have their knowledge tested thorough questions and verbal presentations so the fact that not all are “literary” does not matter.
So no, they should not fail on grammatical issues. However, if the knowledge tests show they don’t understand what they are doing, then I think that should prevent an increase in rank. Likewise, if their ideas are confused and contradictory then, again, that shows that they don’t know what they are doing and that needs addressed.
The written papers are submitted long before the physical tests and if they are not as they should be, guidance is given and they can revise it as many times is as needed until their thinking is clear; both to them and to me. Sometimes the most “academic papers” are the ones that have the most confused thinking. Whereas the grammatically poor ones can often present very tight thinking. It’s the content that people are judged on.
I decided that knowledge tests were vital after a series of incidents involving a number of with higher dan ranks that revealed they had achieved their rank through “replicating” but never understanding what they were doing, or why they did what they did. Physical ability alone is not enough in my view. They need to “understand” not just replicate without understanding; whether picture perfect or not.
I also feel that far from limiting thinking, knowledge tests actively encourage it. There are no “information sheets” with all the “correct answers” in our dojo. The students have to research the topics and come to their own understanding of it.
Recently one student even went so far as to contact a research team working on the differences between male and female adrenal responses and the cutting edge information she gathered proved fascinating to me. The knowledge tests encourage students to look wider than the dojo walls and that’s good for them and good for the group. Through the knowledge tests (particularly the ones past 1st dan) the students also learn to research and that is vital if they are to discover “their karate”.
For those who want to share what they have learnt with the wider world, the practise of writing out their views in a structured way and verbally communicating those views will also be helpful to those students … and those listening to them.
Above all else they have to be able to move well and fight well, but they also need to understand what they are doing to a deep level if they want to reach the higher ranks and I think the knowledge tests really help with that.
Totally agree that people should not be failing karate grades because the don’t know where to put an apostrophe though.
"it was discovered I was not and was instead simply rubbish at handwriting"
*looks at Iain's signature in his signed copy of Bunkai Jutsu and decides not to comment further.... :)
Just to add...for me being on forums, writing down my thoughts and ideas and having them commented upon by others has been incredibly helpful in essentially getting my ideas in order.
There's definately something about putting your thoughts down that somehow makes them have to stand on their own merits. It makes you really *think* and that's the important thing I think.
[quote=PASmith]"it was discovered I was not and was instead simply rubbish at handwriting"
*looks at Iain's signature in his signed copy of Bunkai Jutsu and decides not to comment further.... :)[/quote]
Yep. There’s proof if proof were needed ;-)
[quote=PASmith]Just to add...for me being on forums, writing down my thoughts and ideas and having them commented upon by others has been incredibly helpful in essentially getting my ideas in order.[/quote]
Same here. This forum is massively useful to me is structuring my thinking and always gives me much to ponder over.
I toyed with the idea of asking for written stuff from the students, but decided against it.
Personally I write alot of stuff about karate, I believe it is good for me and my students - sometimes they even read it!
Im not sure it makes sense with how I view and teach karate to make it a requirement for the students, im guessing it certainly didn't happen back in the day?
My heart says make them write something for shodan, so I shall ponder...........................
I agree with you Shoshinkai-san, But I suppose its what would be the topics that need to be discussed in their papers.
I read one organisation who's grading requirements was to write X,000 words and get it published in a Martial Arts publication or Website, Is that the "next step" from single papers? I to shall Ponder
PS. I hopefully look forward to meeting with you and chatting with you at Gary's seminar in December, OSU!!!
[quote=Black Tiger]PS. I hopefully look forward to meeting with you and chatting with you at Gary's seminar in December, OSU!!![/quote]
I think you may think im someone else as im not aware of a December seminar - and whos Gary? LOL
I think you may think im someone else as im not aware of a December seminar - and whos Gary? LOL[/quote]
Lol, it seems like we have a case of mistaken identity!!!
Well, where do I go from there lol.
I knew someone that had the same or similar profile name who practices Knock down karate who I met at Gary's Club in Loughborough. but I suppose its quite common, but not as common as "Sei Do Kan"
speachless for the first time in decades.
About four years ago we started making our students trying for Shodan take a written exam. I attained a written exam from a good friend of mine and when I tested myself I failed ( I made myself do pushups). At that point I thought this was a brilliant idea, it made me go out and read up on what I was actually teaching. If anyone would like a copy of my Shodan Nidan and Sandan Wado Ryu exams I am happy to send them a copy. They can be a good starting point if you are making your own.
Our organisation has long had essays required for yudansha levels. When I first started (early-80s) we had written tests for mudansha as well. The mudansha tests fell by the wayside at some point. What I, for one, have come to notice is that there is now a jump from no-written-test to essay.
We're are now introducing "knowledge reviews". These are handed out to students well before they test for grading, and it is up to them to complete them and review them with the instructor prior to the test. The instructor will review their answers, give them guidance, etc, and then hand them back. The purpose is to provide a structured way for the students to start to build their individual knowledge base, not for it to be a formally marked test.
While it is a requirement they be completed and reviewed, there is no "pass mark". In fact, the pass mark is 100%, as the instructor will review missed questions with them so that they understand the correct answer.
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