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Finlay's picture
Curriculum padding

Ok started this post a few times as I don't want it to sound over critical or like an attack. Do systems pad their curricula? By this I mean add in extra things to keep students or to give an idea of progress? I have seen some huge traditiional systems one in particular with at least 64 forms in them with teachers and students proudly stating that very few student learn them all. Equally I know of modern systems that teach rifle disarms and the likes fairly early in the curriculum. I read a statement from someone referencing FMA (Filipino martial arts) saying that originally they were quite small systems based on a small number of techniques and then lots of skill work. This reminded me of how boxing is. So are systems padded or do they naturally get larger and more complex as they develop and want to incorporate new skills or principles

Wastelander's picture

There is definitely curriculum padding out there, but I find that it tends to only be in schools where the material is not taught/studied in depth. As it is, I am working on putting together a curriculum for a small program to run on my own, and I'm having a hard time keeping the curriculum SMALL enough! Once you start really digging into all karate has to offer, you find that there is so much there that you have no need to pad the curriculum. I do think that, in some cases, curriculum can become bloated with extra material as the instructor learns more, and they want to pass it along, which isn't as bad as artificially padding the curriculum, but is something to keep an eye on.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

I agree there is lot of padding in systems/styles not only in Karate, I recently updated our syllabus throwing lots of stuf and simplifing. Less kata, and techniques based on kata that I left. Lots of partner work and pressure testing :)

After few monts stuedents love new way we do stuff and their progression is faster I think. Real results will be visible in few years when new students go through grades. 

Kind regards


John Van Tatenhove
John Van Tatenhove's picture

The practice of padding curriculum has been practiced in Karate for quite some time. Each kata was in effect its own style at one time, and most of the current styles contain many kata.

It seems to me that curriculum tend to either become more expansive to the point of excess, or become more focused over time based on the culture and goals of the school.

Many styles of Karate and Kungfu have become very expansive, While arts Like Wing Chun, Boxing, Taido, Judo, and Taekwondo have become more focused.  Many schools of BJJ over the last 35 years have become more focus as competition has grown.

To me this is practioners experimenting with the relevance of their art in there culture and time period. An Expanding or more focused curriculum should be judged on the affect to the desired outcome.

Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

I have developed our cirriculum to create what I think is a logical journey to the point where independent future learning should be possible. It covers more than I list below because we include grappling, ground work, sparring, and specific self-defence techniques. However, from a pure technique inclusion this is what we did:

I first settled on the bunkai applications I wanted to include. I did this by trying to find a sensible number that would cover most basic techniques while giving good coverage of different applications for the same body movements. That is, I'm trying to teach enough bunkai so that the student can start to develop their own later by understanding more than one possible application for the common kata movements. I arrived at 48 for the first Dan, with subsequent belts being focused on the student's own bunkai.

The next stage was to include the kata from which the bunkai are extracted and teach the kata before the bunkai. E.g., if the 7th Kyu requires bunkai from Heian Shodan, then the 8th Kyu will include the Heian Shodan kata. This ensures the student knows the form well before trying to understand its application. We ended up with nine kata although you could argue it is really only four given the overlap between the Heians and Kanku Dai (i.e., Kanku Dai, Basai Dai, Tekki Shodan and Jion)

Then I added the basic techniques to the syllabus before they are used in either the kata or bunaki. E.g., continuing the example above, the 7th bunkai from Heian Shodan includes the "S" wrist lock, so this is taught at 9th Kyu along with all the basic techniques in the kata (knife hand block, downward block, upward block, etc.)

That's it. So the only basic techniques we teach on the karate syllabus up to first Dan are in one of those four kata, or their bunkai applications. Before you think that this is really limited, some of the 48 bunkai have multiple variants including applying it from the knees, lying prone, while being choked, etc., so there is quite a lot of other stuff in there but it is (hopefully) all logically linked.

I do teach other stuff to keep things fun and interesting, but that isn't "examined" at a grading.