Part of taekwondo problem?

Discussion in 'Tae Kwon Do' started by S&CMAN, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. S&CMAN

    S&CMAN Valued Member

    By my subject heading I don't mean that taekwondo is bad just that there is sometimes a bad perception of what taekwondo is, especially WTF.

    I came across a school recently that has a 4th dan instructor that has, according to the information on the website, only been practicing taekwondo since 2000!!!

    From my reading about other martial arts, that level should take at least 25 years, yet it seems to be pretty common in tkd. Is that due to a higher number of McDojo's and/or the willingess to hand out dan grades to 8 year olds?

    I want to start tkd but with that kind of mentality out there, how can I really be sure the school I want to go to is legit? The head instructor also seems a bit young to hold a 4th dan but he trains regulary at GM Chong Soo Lee's school in Montreal so I am bit more inclined to view his dan as on the level. Is that a fair assumption to make?
  2. Caleb Demarais

    Caleb Demarais Valued Member

    Twelve years to 4th Dan? I don't see a problem. 3-4 years from white belt to 1st Dan. 2 more to 2nd (5-6), 3 to 3rd (8-9) and 4 to 4th (12-12 years total). If they are good and graded every time when due.
  3. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Caleb nailed the "required time in grade" pretty well. If the guy studies hard and is ready when his time in grade makes him eligible, that's a fairly 'normal' progression

    Try a few free classes and/or sit in on some classes (not just TKD) and pick the one that best suits you. You might wish to ask the instructor about his/her background and see how they train and if they compete and such
  4. Razgriz

    Razgriz Valued Member

    Yea , thats reasonable.

    Whenever I move to a new area I look at the persons association then see some of the higher ups , and see if my old instructor or someone knows some of them. In the UK this is quite easy.

    Can't speak for else were.
  5. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    Is it reasonable though? It's commonly accepted, but is it reasonable? This is the essence of the OP. 4th Dan implies a greatly skilled and knowledgeable practitioner with a deep understanding of martial arts. When you consider that a lot of schools in other styles demand 6-10 years for 1st Dan, 12 years for 4th Dan does seem too little (an as someone in my 20th year of martial arts, I certainly don't feel I was anywhere close to any form of mastery after 12 years. Indeed at that point I was just finding out who I really was as a martial artist.
  6. Razgriz

    Razgriz Valued Member

    4th dan is not considered master in TKD..Certainly not in ITF, I will assume not in WTF either.

    1-3rd is Assistant Instructor
    4th would be Instructor/International Instructor providing relevant qual's/

    I often find people writing that they feel 3 years is to fast for 1st degree.
    But if someone puts the effort in, and learns all that is required, whats the problem?
  7. andyjeffries

    andyjeffries Valued Member

    Actually Kukkiwon standard is the number of years for the grade you are, not the grade you're going for.

    So 4 years to 1st Dan, 1 more to 2nd, 2 more to 3rd, 3 more to 4th = 10 years total training to 4th Dan.

    In Korea, it's common to get 1st Dan in 1 year, so it's even more likely if he started in Korea for him to be 4th Dan in 12 years.
  8. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    The problem is that basically you're saying "we're going to have a ranking system that's different to everyone else's, but it's going to look exactly the same".
    Also, there are hordes of 1st-3rd dans who are teaching their own schools.
  9. andyjeffries

    andyjeffries Valued Member

    4th Dan was always considered master in most WTF circles. The reason is at 4th Dan you can apply to have the right to recommend people for Kukkiwon promotion (i.e. you can promote people to 3rd Dan).

    Recently this seems to have switched and a lot of people consider 5th Dan master, but I would still refer to any 4th Dan as master personally as would most people I know.
  10. andyjeffries

    andyjeffries Valued Member

    A 4th Dan signifies someone who is really qualified to pass on the art and judge others for promotion. If one hasn't reached this point after 12 years, I'd wonder if they had been spinning their wheels for 12 years. Rank progression is about improvement and training, progression. If you aren't improving you shouldn't be testing, if you want to test "on schedule" then be working from rank to rank on what you need to be doing better for the next rank.

    This is a commonly brought up point, for example particularly by BJJ practioners. However, remember that 1st Dan or black belt in a lot of styles can promote others.


    Years training BJJ TKD Benefit
    3-5 Blue/Purple 1st Dan Can open club and teach
    10 Black 4th Dan Can promote others

    The years to each benefit is about the same, it's just that we have higher ranks for those benefits. At the end of the day, does it matter if they are different - the skills involved are completely different...
  11. Ben Gash CLF

    Ben Gash CLF Valued Member

    See post 8
  12. chrispillertkd

    chrispillertkd Valued Member

    You're not considered a Master until VII dan in the ITF. You're a Grand Master at IX dan.

    The Kukkiwon/WTF considers you a Master at first dan. You're a grandmaster at fifth dan.


  13. jazzysingh

    jazzysingh Valued Member

    what he said lol
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Huh? Where'd you get this from? In all the places I've been, this isn't true. 1st dan is considered 'proficient' in the basics. 2nd and 3rd dan are usually the beginning of instructor ranks and 4th dan is usually recognized as full 'instructor'. Generally, it's not until 4th dan that you are able to promote people.

    Generally 5th dan from the Kukkiwon is looked at as "Master" (and the newer dan certificates have a different color seal for 1st through 4th dan than for 5th and up).
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    What arts are you looking at?

    For the most part, I have found that most Korean Martial Arts tend to follow this system in a rough sense. In Korea, you can earn a 1st dan in a year (keep in mind that the training is generally every day except Sunday and often twice a day - 6 days a week for about 3 hours a day is pretty good). Once you get 1st dan, it is a number of years equal to your current dan rank to wait to test for the next.

    The Taekwondo schools I am familiar with in the US and Canada tend to require about 3-5 years for 1st dan and then the number of years equal to your dan grade (or sometimes +1) time in grade for the next rank.

    What other color belt/black belt systems are you talking about? BJJ seems to be the one that has a really different time scale, but the others I have encountered seem similar to TKD. Can you clarify what you mean specifically? Does yours even use a belt system?

    I'm not sure how much this still goes on. When I started over 15 years ago, there were not a lot of schools around and it wasn't uncommon to see 1st-3rd dans running schools (under the loose eye of a more senior instructor). Nowadays, since the boom in TKD in the 80s and 90s, I think there are a lot more schools being run by more senior ranks (Our school has a 6th dan, 2 x 5th dans, 2x4th dans and so on).

    On one hand, some people may even favor a younger, more junior ranked instructor, especially if the instructor is more active (and successful) in competition.
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  16. chrispillertkd

    chrispillertkd Valued Member

    Eh, there was a discussion about what honorifics are used according to the KKW several months ago on Martialtalk.

    I would only point out that the change in KKW certs at fifth dan would be in harmony with becoming a Grand Master at that rank.


  17. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Meaning no offense, but the information you have is incorrect.

    I am not familiar with the thread on Martialtalk, but I can assure that there is no standardized system of honorifics in Taekwondo (in Korean or other language) according to the Kukkiwon.

    That said, traditionally, you might here terms like Jo Kyo (1st level teacher) or similar used for 1st dans, essentially meaning assistant instructor. You have to be at least 4th dan to issue guep rank.

    (Kukkiwon - "The instructor who holds 4th Dan or higher Dan has a right to test the Gup promotion and issue the Gup certificates by his name for his students. By-laws for Gup promotion test will be made up separately." Article 20 from

    So, in Korea, Taekwondo school owners have to be at least 4th dan (to promote students in color belts) and they take them to regional places to test for dan rank. A school owner is called a "Kwan Jang" (literally chief of the kwan - buidling or organization). Some groups use a variety of add-ons for Kwan Jang to make it sound more important, but there is no standardized system.

    Some people use the English terms "Master" and "Grandmaster" but you will not find these used in Korean nor on the Kukkiwon site (except for articles on foreign instructors). They don't use these terms in Korea. Outside of Korea, especially in English speaking countries like the US, various schools use those English terms, for most (WTF) schools a 5th dan (sometimes a 4th dan) may be called "Master".

    If you have evidence to the contrary, please share it - I would be interested in reading it. I am pulling my information from the Kukkiwon site ( and personal experience. I've been involved in WTF/Kukkiwon for quite some time and spent 4 years studying it in Korea.
  18. chrispillertkd

    chrispillertkd Valued Member

    I'm not offended at all. I'm also not a KKW Taekwon-Doin so it doesn't matter to me what they are called.

    That being said, you can read some posts about it on MT at the following links (mods, I don't know the rule for posting links to other forums and I was going to PM Thomas but didn't see an option to do so please feel free to delete this post if necessary):


  19. andyjeffries

    andyjeffries Valued Member

    This is kinda true. The kukkiwon considers 1st-5th as Yudanja which they translated as Master early on and 6-9th Dan as Kodanja which they translated as Grandmaster.

    However, I don't know of anyone whose first language isn't Korean that really considers a 1st Dan to be Master.

    I personally think this is a translation issue...

    Also, the new WTF poomsae doboks differentiate in this way:

    1-3 Dan = Master
    4-6 Dan = Instructor Master
    7-9 Dan = Grandmaster

    This is kinda the same breaks everywhere else uses, except that the rest of the world considers 1-3 as assistant instructor, 4-6 as master instructor and 7-9 as grandmaster.


  20. andyjeffries

    andyjeffries Valued Member

    Really? Can you describe the difference?

    I've had two 5th Dan certificates (one more recently when they changed the design from the version that didn't have Taekwondo anywhere on it) from the Kukkiwon and recently a 1st and 2nd Dan certificate and they all seemed to have the same shiny silver seal.

    If you have a picture of both seals so we can see the difference I'd appreciate it (maybe they've changed the 5th Dan certificate again...)

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