Requirement for Blackbelt = Teaching Ability?

Discussion in 'Hapkido' started by MaxG, Sep 8, 2005.


Should teaching capability be necessary for Black Belt?

  1. Yes

    23 vote(s)
  2. No

    33 vote(s)
  1. shadow warrior

    shadow warrior Valued Member

    Different perspective.

    I have read the entire thread just this morning at the request of a couple of my students.

    The first thing that strikes me is the same old same old splits between people of varied Hapkido backrounds. I started Hapkido in 1977 and most of the 2nd generation instructors in North America at that time held original 7th degrees from the old Korean Hapkido Association (reguardless of which Kwan). The dates on these were from the mid to later 1960's. They were capable of technique and KI demonstrations not generally displayed today by many recent 3rd or 4th or 5th generation 4th - 7th degree Hapkido Masters!
    Of course, by the late 1960's early 1970's most of the ambitious 2nd generation Masters had left Korea for greener pastures, making movies, opened their own schools and starting their own organizations.

    Their own histories and training backrounds were as diverse as the locations of their martial arts beginnings. Claims by many Hapkido people that their way is the ONLY true Hapkido path while having studied with one single Hapkido Master are flying in the face of Hapkido history. Each and every one of that group had their own strengths and weaknesses. Technique, applications, philosophies, business smarts and yes, teaching abilities. Great technique and fighting ability are not related to whether or not a particular master is a great teacher. A few who were not known as great fighters turned out to be great teachers.

    For this reason I do not think that teaching ability should be a requirement for black belt. Instructor is a different story. In this day and age testing your fighting ability to the extreme is not ususally an option within the same context as decades ago in Korea. School and individual challanges are rare today. Every guy is a tough guy until he is on the ground..then he tells you his father is a lawyer.

    There is no way that we can compare the martial arts (Hapkido) environment in Korea in the early 1960's to what can be found anywhere in the world today. That was a passing moment in time when many great Korean martial arts people came together clashed, fought, cooperated and embarked on their own particular futures. They selected their own paths.

    Yes, there are root concepts, techniques and philosophies which make up the core of what we can call Hapkido. However, what has been diluted in many Hapkido lines today is the actual testing of these integrated aspects in actual application. Their are far too many people (instructors as well), who put all their eggs in one basket. This is not to say one should spend all your time shopping. The my piece of paper means more than your piece of paper because my master is this or that is a dead end! This is particularly true when day to day, year to year Hapkido exposure was to limited a single master within a formal dojang or seminar environment.

    Teaching is only a tool to determine if a student has teaching ability. Given that they have the knowledge to explain and demonstrate root concepts. In many cases it is a student with good basic knowledge who can relate to a less experienced student. Example: A physically gifted student has been developing their punching for ten years using physical, mental and internal concepts, but they show no talent for teaching. Their instruction amounts to comments like..well just punch like I do! Why can't you just move like me. A second, less talented student has been on the same path for two years and can explain every nuance of the root concept (because it was so difficult for them to develop), but can not display the first student's superior punching dynamics. In this case the second student can assist in teaching in a way that a much more experienced physically talented student can not.

    No 2nd generation Hapkido master was ever capable of demostrating ALL Hapkido techniques with EQUAL dynamic abilities. Both individually and as a group. Each one had their specialties.This is particularly true of the skill sets of fighting and teaching abilities. Given the business oriented, politically tainted, lineage diversified environment prevelent today, it is totally unrealistic to believe that ANY third, fourth or newer generation Hapkido practitioner would accomplish this extraordinary goal.

    If we are to pass on the root concepts, (not just twigs and branches) of Hapkido to future generations, we must find and nurture those rare individuals who display a talent for teaching as soon as they can be identified. Assuming they have developed some Hapkido skills to teach.


    Keith Stewart
    Head Instructor
    East West Hapkido
  2. JimH

    JimH Valued Member

    Very Nice post.
  3. Topher

    Topher allo!

    You seem to think that you only get skill with the belt :rolleyes: If one of your students said "i dont want to grade anymore" would he/she still progress?

    Maybe we can get a BJJer here to confirm the details of rank training times.

    But if a 1st dan stopped grading but kept training for a further 10-15 years, could he then not grade to his appropiate level at that point if he decided to grade again, or would he have to grade to 2nd/3rd/4th dan with the usual time between gradings, meaning he would technically be training almost double the usual time.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2005
  4. American HKD

    American HKD New Member


    There's 2 different questions here.

    1. If someone learned to apprx. 1st dan and kept training for ten more years he should be as good as 4th dan but only with the 1st dan stuff he won't be any good at 2,3,4th dan stuff.

    2. If someone never graded but was taught up to 4th dan and kept training he should be as good without ever graded formally in this case.

    My problem is only with the example one, all he ever is would be a really good 1st dan.

    Example two is not good either because it's like a doctor with no diploma or license to practice. I believe in getting credit where credit is due.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2005
  5. Topher

    Topher allo!

    1. And what would the reason be for someone not learning 2nd dan and above material if they desided not to grade anymore once reaching 1st dan? That they didn't have a piece of cloth around their waist? How shallow! :rolleyes: The guage should be on skill, not rank. Yes, someone with rank should be skilled, but it dosn't mean someone without rank isn't just as skilled.

    Why would they be no good at the 2-4th dan stuff?

    2. It doesn’t mean the doctor wasn't skilled enough to perform, or the driver skilled enough to drive. Anyway, these analogies are meaningless because you can't legally be a doctor or driver without the proper papers etc.

    Many many people choose to train without worrying about cloth. No wonder why some people are so ****ed of with the belt systems seeing the problems they cause.

    Bottom line:
    Someone who does have a black belt and above isn't automatically capable of being a teacher because of the rank they hold.

    Someone who doesn’t have a black belt isn't automatically not capable of being a teacher because they don’t have rank.
  6. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Lots of analogies going on and lots of good input too (I like Master Stewart's post and agree with most of it as well). Nice to see people from other systems/styles chiming in.

    Keeping in mind that individual schools, instructors' philosophies, and style may differ, I like these two quotes from above:

    100% true and it comes down to a case by case basis... based on individual system, school and instructor. My personal philosphy is that if we want our black belts to do any aspects of teaching (from assisting, warmups, small group supervision, to full class teaching), we as instructors must teach them to be able to do it, and I think two ways are the most common:
    (1)Teach everyone the basics and have all black belts at the school capable to a certain degree of those tasks. The downside to this is that maybe everyone doesn't want to.
    (2)Select certain people who show teaching aptitude and take them on as interns. Downside is that you may miss a diamond in the rough

    Certainly very true and we see it everywhere. Again it comes down to individual system, school and instructor. Although, I'd still like to see/know an instructor's background for his teaching skills.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2005
  7. American HKD

    American HKD New Member


    I don't know of and HKD Master who will continue to teach anyone through the ranks without some type of grading be it formal or informal.

    Secondly you can't learn higher belt material by osmosis just because your a first dan!

    I asked this questions before no one can come up with a answer they just complain about the belt system.

    What's your solution?
  8. zac_duncan

    zac_duncan New Member

    Mr. Stewart's post is one of the best posts regarding anything hapkido I've ever read.

    Thank you.
  9. shadow warrior

    shadow warrior Valued Member

    Depends on the system.

    Some Master's black belts are other people's orange belts. Some Master's black belts are other people's 4th degree's.

    I had many 2nd generation Hapkido Master's tell me that anything above 4th degree was in addition to the complete Hapkido system as they learned it in the early days..There were promotions for such things as developing a new set of techniques or adding significant improvements to those were already existed. Contributions to the art were also recognized through rank promotion. This situation probably contributed to the divergence of Hapkido in general.

    In some cases it was more important to gain rank status to determine where you sat in relation to other Master's at official functions. In more candid moments some would admit that politics played a SIGNIFICANT role in collecting support for particular promotions. It had nothing to do with aditional skills!

    That was then, this is now.

    The state of Hapkido today is so fragmanted and self serving (not unlike many other martial arts), that it is almost impossible to determine what techniques and skill sets should be required for any given black belt level.

    I know one thing for example: There are not too many 7th degree Hapkido Masters today who are expert traditional archers from horseback. (A requirement for that degree under the KHF).

    Until there is a change (LOL) in the political, business (what's mine is mine), and general attitudes of most Korean Master's in reguard to developing a SINGLE standard for each Black belt skill set, ranking is totally Master (organizational), dependent. Financial arrangements for paper are common knowledge.

    For example: Should open field free fighting (single, multiple opponents, armed?), third party protection, live blade knife, sword defences, be mandatory requirements for black belt, 1st..2nd..3rd ect?

    Are we talking hobby students or professional? In other words; how much risk is a person required to take in order to claim a certain rank? The higher the risk for promotion, the higher the credibility? If they take no risks (severe injury or death) during testing, do they deserve Master status?? Old school??

    There are many newer generation Hapkido Master's making grand claims of high rank who have never used their skills in a professional manor or risked death during the process of higher belt promotions. Does this really matter today??

    In conclusion; everything is standard dependent. Requirements for black belt teaching skill at most commercial standard levels is not a requirement for promotion. They don't know anything.(Including all those 18 month instant BBs from Korea).


    Keith Stewart
    Head Instructor
    East West Hapkido
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Wow! That's a great post... with a lot of little chunks for later digestion and discussion.
    I'll be back after I think about some of this... :)
  11. American HKD

    American HKD New Member


    I have to agree with many things Keith Stewart said.

    As a long time KHF student and an licensed KHF Kwan I can tell you standards vary greatly from school to school with-in the KHF. Some Kwans require 500 tech. to BB some only 100 to BB, some even archery.

    There are no standards across the board and that is something the KHF wants to resolve but may be hard due to long standing tradtions of each kwan.

    It's also very true that skill levels of students and Instrs. can vary from not very good to good, better and best and that will probably never change either.

    I still say long term (10 years) Instruction under one qualified master will do the trick over time and I don't mean 1st dan Instrs. (by todays average standards).

    Who's qualified is another issue as Mr Stewart said, since standards vary so much.
  12. Topher

    Topher allo!

    I think simply because of the amount of time they’ve been training, a black belt, or even brown belt (with no “formal” teaching experience) should be able to easily take a group of people through some forms or one step sparring etc, but to teach a whole class the person should be capable of delivering ideas, spotting mistakes and so on. This comes with time and the best why to get good is to gradually introduce this during the coloured belts. I think this would be better than a six month instructor course. The thought of giving out instructions to a whole class during warm up was quite daunting at first, but now - not a problem.

    Even through I’m only a green belt some of us coloured belts usually take, or at least start the warm up. Even the other day I took a few white belts through the first form and basic one step sparring, stuff they already knew, but by doing this now and again at this stage in my training I believe I will be pretty comfortable putting together and taking a class by the time I’m a brown/black belt should the need arise (although I’ve no plan of teaching my own class for a long time, even when I get my BB). Putting a class structure together is easy, even I could do that, but being able to actually “teach” that class takes time.

    I guess it’s different in Hapkido but in many systems I’ve come across (or read about) in the dan ranks your really aiming to improve on what you already know (I believe the basics are what you will refer to in self-defence, not fancy advance techniques). You do learn new forms, maybe some weapons forms (optional) and maybe some more advance techniques (such as sweeps, takedowns etc), but these are not rigidly restricted to rank. Of course forms are not handed out just like that, you do need to learn the previous one first, but gradings become less of an issue at this stage.

    A general question to everyone here, what do you learn in the dan ranks. New forms, new techniques…etc?
  13. American HKD

    American HKD New Member


    You have to understand HKD has a curriculum that goes up tp 4th dan in most cases.

    First dan is the bulk of the empty hand stuff, 2nd still has alot of new material and weapons, 3rd a liitle less but harder material, and 4th still less but a little harder.

    Advanced material does not mean fancy stuff! HKD is a practicle system not for show or flash.

    2nd dan
    ground defence
    seated defense
    short stick weapons
    choke tech & defense

    3rd dan
    Joint lock reversals
    multiple attacker
    arresting tech
    long pole

    4th dan
    belt and rope tech
    knife throwing
    revival tech
    pressure points

    You mentioned something interesting to me, as you improve your own skills you will naturally start to spot mistakes made by others (that doesn't need to be taught) it's a by-product of training. As you become polished in your own skill and gain confidence, have good flow and power teaching come naturally as a result in skill and desire to be a teacher IMO.

    Most Masters I know agree it takes around 2nd dan for that to happen 7-8 years of training.

    That's my expirience FWIW.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2005
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Again, I agree completely and it can be a good method. For us (our school), we take it one step further and sprinkle in the teaching techniques along with the instruction to provide a "guided internship" for all students. So, at 1st dan, our students will have covered their required techniques as well as learned the basics of how to teach/assist in teaching.

    Our philosphy: "Anything you want the students to be able to do (whether it is a defence or assisting warmups), we spend the time and teach students how to do it... and provide the practice time."

    We do two systems, TKD and Combat Hapkido... progression after 1st dan differs a bit in each. (Note: this is our own school and may differ from others)

    For TKD, after first dan, each level has required forms (2-4 at each dan level) and an increased amount of supervision/assistance time in the class. Dan ranked students are encouraged to continue polishing their basic curriculum and are encouraged to branch out and experiment with things like sparring strategies, breaking, cross training and so on to give them a greater depth of knoweldge. There aren't a lot of "new" techniques in the curriculum.

    Our Combat Hapkido has a set series of new techniques frrom 1st dan to 6th dan, and covers topics from grabs, kick defences, sitting techniques, etc. The "required" techniques per dan level are relatively small and many of them are variations of techniques we know, but in a different situation, or with a different entry/variation. We are exploring the concepts more than just adding new techniques. At our school, we encourage the dan ranks to get more involved the various "extras" that Combat Hapkido offers (see their video library sometime)... and students may choose to explore more gorund grappling, cane, stick and knife, pressure points, etc.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2005
  15. shadow warrior

    shadow warrior Valued Member

    Not just KHF.

    I just want to explain that I was not just talking about the KHF. I was trying to make the point that each branch of Hapkido has grown away from the crossroads of the early to mid 1960's. However, even at that time the range of techniques and standards were quite diverse.

    But, if the standards within the KHF itself (being only one of a number of rival organizations), are so varied and the Kwans so independent in their interpretation of what techniques are required for this or that level, what happens when we consider the fact that very few original 2nd generation Hapkido Masters are actually active participants in that organization? Given the turbulant political history of the KHF through the 1990's, we won't see standardization even within in that group in the near future if at all.

    For example:
    Most of the practical techniques listed from 1,2,3, 4th degree under KHF, I was required to learn before black belt, some as early as yellow and orange. After black came such aspects as jointlock counters, all weapons, aside from knife, arrest techniques revival and so on.

    Understanding a technique and being able to perform it well is required when trying to pass on that technique to another person. However, this does not mean that one has the patience, will and determination to do so. These attributes can in some case be taught, enhanced or encouraged, but how can you instill talent as a teacher?

    The variation of the student's own talent, previous training and numerous other factors determination how much experience, talent, motivation the teacher themselves must possess in order to accomplish the student's improvement.

    The ability of a particular student to teach a single isolated technique below their level should be a part of learning (improving) the technique themselves. But, the ability to frame that particular technique within the larger picture and relate it to fundemental root concepts is where the standard teaching requirement problem makes its appearance.

    How do we determine how effective a teacher is unless we isolate one single student which that instructor is responsible for and test the results? To what standards? Did that student show talent, motivation, determination to improve? Maybe a single student is too small a sample size. How many is enough to test a teacher's ability? Some 2nd generation Hapkido Masters have produced very few Instructors. Does this mean they can not teach, or are their standards too high??

    Just for fun..try this:

    I think it's time that for the good of Hapkido in general as many as possible of the 2nd gen. Hapkido GMs alive today get together and come up with a reasonable set of required techniques for 4th degree and charge $1 to test plus cost of printing the new certificates.

    This would immediately have two effects.

    We would HAVE standards! Including teaching requirements, by testing the instructor's students as well!

    We would see which GMs truely have the good of Hapkido in the future in their heart rather then their own bank accounts and we would see how many people would give it a try when financial arrangements would mean nothing!

    Oh! Caught myself dreaming there for a moment.

    Keith Stewart
    Haed Instructor
    East West Hapkido
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Awesome post!
    The difference between being able to aisst and help other students is vastly different than taking responsibility for incorporating those technqiues into a curriculum. You make great points concerning that and I think all students can be taught the basics of supervision and instruction (to the lesser level as you described)... but the people who have the aptitude and desire to become full instructors will be a much smaller group.

    I look at all of the Hapkido students my instructor has taught and see how few stay on to black belt and the even fewer who take the path to becoming an instructor.

    Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that was going on (would probably be unpleasant)

    It's a great idea and it would be great for Hapkido, but I fear human nature (and especially Korean style politics) would never let it work.

    Thank you for posts that make my head think!
  17. American HKD

    American HKD New Member


    3-4 years ago I became poart of an Org called KIHAP, it took a set of standards sent it to many associations and masters got everyone to accept these standards and sign off on them.

    No matter which Assoc. you belonged if you tested with KIHAP everyone had to accept you that was on board. No politics!

    I thought this was GREAT and I was trying to promote it!

    It was destroyed by politics with-in a year. Many people who signed on quickly bailed. It was very dis-heartening.
  18. shadow warrior

    shadow warrior Valued Member

    I know!

    Mr Rosenberg:

    I am familiar with this attempt (I had a $1 bet with a fellow Hapkidoist that it wouldn't last a year, and if it lasted two, we would join), as well as a half dozen other well intended efforts since the late eighties..ALL ended in complete BS no matter how much some of those involved wanted to suceed. Most of the rifts in Hapkido are DECADES old!!! Dating back to old rivalries born in Korea. Most are based on incredible personality conflicts which have been nurtured and festered into many open public wars..those of us who have been around this art for awhile know exactly who the players are.. Of course we can not forget some of the usual North American suspects bent on lining their own pockets through various political dealings.. I stated before.. 'caught myself dreaming'...

    K. Stewart
  19. MaxG

    MaxG Valued Member

    Thank you very much for your contribution to this thread. Your posts were very informative and respectful to all points of views which is very much appreciated.

    Your concise and well written replies caused me to look at your other posts and I came across this one on Dec 20 2003:

    (Bold face by me)
    I was wondering why your view has changed since that post.
  20. shadow warrior

    shadow warrior Valued Member

    Different skill levels.

    I think what I was talking about is a minimum level of teaching skill. Just as other skills are tested to go up in ranks, developing 'some' level of teaching skill helps the student understand the finer details of their own technique.

    However I don't believe that a high level of this ability should be MANDATORY in order to receive a black belt. A minimum profiency at each level will assist in the progression of the student.

    This progression will also help the Instructor identify those students who show promise in the area of teaching.

    I hope that this helps to understand my view.

    K. Stewart

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