Martial Arts Progression

In answer to what most people think or say about black belts, my response is….

I don’t really care about black belts or rank in general. The only thing that matters is their skill at doing, skill at doing, and their overall capabilities.

The more I see of how martial arts is taught, the more I agree that people won’t become proficient in a year or even 2 years. That’s because I’ve seen students with 1-3 years of aikido, and their skill levels are nowhere near what I would expect. However, this low growth is mostly due to the training methods being used. There are better training methods, both developed by the ancients in INdia/China as well as more modern methods developed here in the US. But martial arts, in the black belt area, intentionally slow down progress. While many people seem to get this as a consensus, they won’t agree that it is intentional or that they won’t agree that there are better methods for teaching/learning.

The key to teaching people faster is not through teaching them more stuff, it is by removing material from the curriculum to focus on the essentials. Samurai (Martial Arts Top Contributor at Yahoo Answers) has found through personal experience that if he just focused on less kata per rank, his students would become more focused and are skill wise better than others who tried to learn 2 kata per rank. But if you ask me, that’s not going far enough. There is “a lot” of stuff that can be eliminated from the curriculum in martial arts in order to make time to actually bring novices and beginners up to speed. But at a certain point, people remove enough material and it’s no longer martial arts, but a system to teach fighting and that’s it. And that’s what it would take to bring a person to a quality skill level in 8 or 18 months. Removal of all non-essential elements, including forms, memorization, and the other stuff that are unnecessary to develop skill. It’s almost common knowledge that a martial artist that can select tools instinctively, without thinking about it, will be able to learn other styles easier and better. The hallmark for this progress stage is usually 10-30 years. However, if a person was raised to this level by a process which removed non-essentials and made the person practice a single movement or application until he knew it instinctively, then that student could learn all the rest (whatever forms or memorization routine there is) with far less friction and resistance. Instead of spending 30 years learning the complete curriculum, they spend 2 years learning a single thing completely, then use this experience to learn the rest in 10 years, not 30 years. Still glacially slow, but not as much as it currently is. I also find it strange that black belts, niidan and over, spend most of their time training novices and beginners. This refreshes their material, true, and allows them to perhaps think more on the purposes to which their forms and techniques are designed for, but niidan black belts should spend most of their time, free or otherwise, practicing advanced methods and concepts, devoting time and energy to pure concentration. I’m not quite sure I agree about the whole issue of black belts spending most of their time teaching, just because they are black belts. Their rate of progress gets cut in half almost. This is even more important given the time restriction modern life places on students. 2 hours per week or even 4-5 hours per week, is not enough. Especially if it is segmented into 1 hour days. Thus the solution should be for people to focus, not do jack of all trades by learning every single thing in their style/system as a way to be “new” or “refreshing”. But that’s exactly the requirement for many people’s black belts, so there’s no compromise available on this score. And that’s why people take forever to reach any significant ability or skill level. I’m not quite satisfied with “that” status quo, however.

I would recommend 100 repetitions of ikkyo, the shoulder/eblow lock in aikido, be done by a novice before any word is mentioned about strikes, blocks, leg movement, or leg positioning. It seems to me that substantial amounts of time each day is taken up with students “refreshing” themselves by trying to remember non-essential elements from weeks or months ago.

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