Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Black Belt Bag of Tricks

As a gup student, and to this day, I always kept a close eye and ear on senior black belts and Master instructors to see if I could pick up something interesting from them. The one thing I truly enjoyed was getting an opportunity to see them demonstrate a special skill. Over the years, I've had the chance to catch a few things that stick out in my mind: Grandmaster Shin teaching diagonal kick, Master Strong demonstrating Oh Sip Sa Bo, Master Wick escaping 5 people holding knives to his body without being touched, my own instructor's interpretation of Bassai, and many more.

There are many folks in our Association who are "known" for a particular ability that they have especially mastered over the years. Name a facet of Tang Soo Do training, and I can give a name of someone who exemplifies that skill.

It is my goal that one day, my students will be able to inspire their junior students in similar ways. To get to that point, it takes a fair amount of practice. Not only practicing the skill, but also taking the center stage and sharing it with others.

I try to view black belt management as being somewhat different from managing gup students. Yes, occasionally classes are structured in the same way but focusing on more advanced material. Black belts also need opportunities to develop leadership abilities and receive feedback as well. Without a upcoming belt test on the horizon, goals are more open ended. New material isn't introduced nearly as often, but rather new concepts based on previously learned material.

Using this method of teaching, black belts become more and more independent and begin to specialize in certain aspects of the art. Some may find a passion for breaking, interpreting a hyung, teaching self-defense, kigong or flexibility. This is great, as no one person can really master all of these aspects. Teaching black belts becomes a matter of helping each student find the thing (or things) that inspire them and giving them the opportunity to develop that skill.

Sometimes giving them the opportunity isn't enough, and it's more appropriate to force the issue. :)

That's why I've decided to work black belt demonstrations back into our gup testings. Partially, it is a treat for our students who have worked hard to be at testing and gives them something to continue to train towards. For my black belts, it gets them off the testing panel and makes them show their chops.

Of course, if they don't have any chops, maybe this will provide the impetus to build some.
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