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Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture
Black Belt - Teacher or not?

Hi all

I’ve read on line an opinion that every black belt should teach.

I posted that on my facebook and got loads of replies with mixed opinions, so I thought it would be interested to read your opinions on subject.

I disagree with that statement; I believe that not everyone is capable or willing to teach.

Also the first dan is not a qualification it is just a progression in development, usually having nothing to do with teaching.  I understand that some organisations have system in place that every black belt has training in coaching.

I give people a choice if they are willing to teach and this is something that they have interest in I get suggest to them courses where they can learn how to teach.

Some believe that being good black belt is equal with being good teacher that is a flowed thinking. Same as good fighter is automatically a good coach.

What is your opinion on it and how your organisation sees black belts?

Kind regards


Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

A shodan should probably at least develop an ability to teach people fundamentals. This is not only to be of use in the Dojo or club, but because teaching someone else said fundamentals will have the effect of them gaining a deeper understanding of the fundamentals themselves. Beyond that, no need to pressure people. Indeed some people just don't want to be in that position, and I guess that's ok.

That said, a lot of what people are and are not comfortable doing is affected by the Dojo culture created by the person who heads things up. If we create an environment where people feel comfortable and are willing to experiment, have a sense of investment in the training and group, most higher ranks teach appropriate to their level without even being asked. Just my experience of course, running a small dojo of adults. Teaching a larger group or teaching kids is a different ballgame.

Kris Wilder is my Karate mentor/teacher, I model a big part of how I teach after his way of doing things, and ask him about teaching issues. I have never had him offically tell me one way or another "blackbelts should teach"..but imagine he'd be in general agreement with what I've said here, or at least not disagree too strongly hehe. I feel like particularly with adults, if you have less of the "sensei sez" authoritarian structure to classes, you naturally get the right people putting themselves forward to teach. So, I guess that answers the organizational part from my perspective.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Les,

I’d fully agree with you. One’s own technical competence has very little bearing on your ability to teach competently. Traditionally, your grade was totally distinct from teaching qualifications.

It can be legitimate to have a given grade as a pre-requisite of a teaching qualification. For example, no one is going to suggest that a 9th kyu could ever coach someone to 1st dan; no matter how good a communicator they are.

We can think of it like our education system: not everyone who has a degree could be a teacher, but you need a degree to do teacher training.

All the best,


Wastelander's picture

Admittedly, I'm probably going to be in the minority on this one.

My Sensei required his students to not only know the full organization curriculum by Shodan, but also had to have a certain number of assistant teaching hours. His expectation was that you should have at least some degree of teaching experience, and black belts were asked to teach at least one class of their choosing per week, if possible, as it was very beneficial to your own understanding of the material, as well as giving people a chance to see if they like it and would be interested in pursuing teaching, specifically. I suppose that, to him, a black belt was essentially a teaching grade, at least to some degree.

Every instructor/school/organization has different criteria for their ranks, and if one decides that the black belt is a teaching rank, that is their perogative--for my own school, I actually considered doing just that. I understand that not everyone who trains in martial arts wants to be an instructor, or would be a good instructor, but not everyone who trains in martial arts needs to reach black belt, either. The martial arts community has made it seem like a black belt is the end goal that everyone should be striving for, but it's not--it's just a piece of cloth that says you've met the criteria to wear it, and if the criteria are that you must be able to effectively teach, then you don't get to wear the piece of cloth.

Tau's picture

I posted on Facebook. I'll endeavour to elaborate here.

Firstly I agree that technical ability and teaching ability are distinct things. I do see that some martial arts link the black belt with a teaching licence or whatever their chosen document name is. With my TKD 1st degree came my teaching licence. In BJJ teaching ability is supposed to be part of every grade although that's not my observation.

I personaly run an instructor course consisting of four levels. I'm very proud of it. I have no formal minimum grade for entry onto it although I tend to consider 1st kyu as the minimum as I expect some competence. 

A thought: If you wanted to be an Olympic-level runner would you rather be trained by Linford Christie or by Linford Christie's trainer?

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Thanks everyone. Very informative