If you're going to do the rank thing, I like the "instructor gives belt when he/she feels that the student is ready" approach best. They are aware of what the student does and doesn't know by working with them over a period of time. Kinda like you know your own car better than anybody else.
A few things that I've seen regarding rank and a few of the above styles -
TKD - total belt factory at one school up to Deputy Black Belt (1/2 red and 1/2 black). People were encouraged to test if they had the time in rank regardless of skill. The instructor got $30 per student as a testing fee (this was in the 80's) and I never saw someone fail one of these tests. Testing for Shodan was different, though. The master of the style did the testing personally and you had to drive about 2 1/2 hours to his school and pay $90. I'd say that the pass rate was about 50%. You did need to perform at a decent level in forms, sparring and breaking to pass.
Isshinryu - after a particularly intense sparring session the head instructor would say "You're now ___ kyu/dan". Very low-key place with 4 or so people per class. No heat/ac in the dojo, no safety equipment. All adults, most 35 and over. Head instructor got Yondan in the late 70's and quit testing a few years later when he went to Okinawa and saw kids wearing black belts. At Shodan and above they encouraged you - but did not require - to pay $100 and register with an organization in Okinawa in case you wanted to teach on your own.
Judo - Usually there's a demonstration when someone has the points, skill and time and they receive the belt then, but occasionally an instructor will surprise someone in batsugun fashion with a belt and have them do a demo at a later time. And some schools just give a belt to students when the instructor is satisfied with the student's progress. A lot of the juniors and their parents really get into the demonstration. They get out the cameras and might even have a little celebration afterward at home or a restaurant. For most seniors it's a non-issue, but at Shodan and above it is sort of a big deal. A number of people may come in to watch, some of them will probably videorecord portions of the demo, etc. A Judo Black Belt isn't issued every day.
Look forward to hearing more about the schools that you visit.
go powerbox, united mixed martial arts, kali academy
I'm in the whittier, ca 90606 area, and these are some schools in my area.
I've heard good things about Jet's Gym in North Hollywood, and the Gracie Gym's in Torrance, and Hollywood, but I need something closer since I already have other after-work committments most nights.
United Mixed Martial Arts: La Mirada, CA
Someone on another forum mentioned shark tank in la mirada, so I searched the net and only found one post about it, but that gave me another clue at least, and I was able to find out that the school is actually called United Mixed Martial Arts (google cache that still mentions shark tank). Jay Martinez, who taught the shark tank class, is still there, but the shark tank class is gone. The girl I spoke to on the phone said she was new there and didn't know anything about the shark tank. I'm 99% sure that the original shark tank that this affiliation grew from was the Shark Tank of Rancho Cucamonga that trains people for some of the televised MMA competition.
Styles: 1) Tae Kwon Do 2) Kick Boxing 3) Grappling
Suggested/Required Gear: $175 (for Kick Boxing and Grappling)
Monthly Pricing: They don't give it out over the phone (or on their website)
Testing: They do regular testing and have a belt system.
Instructor: Jay Martinez (there are more, but he seems to be the most notable)
Aikido Ai: Whittier, CA
The last time I visited, it seemed to have a spiritual emphasis.
I am interested in self-defense and foreign cultures, but I'm not really interested in spirtualism.
Styles: 1) Aikido 2) Tai Chi
No more info acquired.
Go Powerbox: Whittier, CA
Go Powerbox is literally right next door to Aikido Ai in Whittier.
It is a small studio, with another larger studio at the rear, separated by a wall.
On the right are 5-8 heavy bags, and on the left is a mirror-wall.
In the rear room, on the right are 5-8 heavier bags, an open mat area (for sparring?), and what might have been an office or bathroom area in a corner.
Styles: Muay Thai
Suggested/Required Gear/Registration: $50 hand wraps and gloves (shoes and headgear also for sale, but not pushed)
Monthly Pricing: $75 for unlimited classes (i think).
Contract Pricing: $10-$20 Cheaper, but I didn't look into it since it seems there might be limitations placed on practice times.
Testing: They do not have testing
Sparring: Sparring is primarily for "fighters", but normal students can join in by invitation only.
Owner/Instructor: Christopher Moorings "The Machine Gun". 4-League Middleweight Kickboxing Champion
links about the owner: link 1 link 2 link 3 link 4
I sat in on a class (just watching - I came straight from work and didnt' have my gear. Plus I'm out of shape and I think I need to start walking before I kill myself with the 1-free class they offer).
The instructor/owner was leading the class himself with about 12-14 students. I got there a little bit late when they were doing their stretches. I dont' know what kind of warmups they did before that.
After stretching, the instructor demonstrated a combo, and they copied it 5-10 times. He would come by sometimes correcting some students, but it seemed to me like all of them were sloppy and in need of correction. I got the feeling that maybe he figured they were just in it for the exercise and didn't need to be precise? Some of the ladies in particular were flailing instead of punching, and all he said was good job when he passed by them.
His demonstrations were crisp though, but I wish he'd done more of them.
Then the class separated into pairs and went to the right side of the gym to train on the heavy bags. One student would stand behind the heavy bag (no need to hold it since none of the students were moving it much with their attacks).
The instructor continued directing the class with various combos, this time aimed at the heavy bags. I wish he'd have gone all out when demonstrating on the bags, but instead he gave half-hearted kicks and punches on the bag, unlike his crisp movements when directing the class earlier.
Overall, I think this is a school for me to try. I think that the fact they have a division between "fighters" and whatever they call the normal people is good. It means that although I was not impressed, that might be because they are holding back so as not to overwhelm those who aren't in it for keeps, or who aren't physically fit enough yet.
I think I have gathered enough data to make a decsion, and have chosen to enroll at powerbox.
Any other questions I should be asking or things I should be looking for?
Anyone got experience with any of these schools beyond what my reconnaissance could reveal?
Last edited by brew; 1/19/2006 2:00am at .
The Powerbox place sounds like a good place for you to start. You'll adapt quickly to the striking w/your TKD background and there is not a mandatory contract. As far as the self-defense goes, I'm one of those who thinks that it is 90%+ awareness and avoidance. Once you get comfortable with your Muay Thai I'd suggest that you take a look at grappling programs as well.
My school has the mindset that the test is there as a shugyo-type experience, to push the student's drive. We test sparring, kata, self-defense, etc, but just like any good school, we already know they're ready by the time we tell them they're up for the next rank.
A strenuous physical exertion, some challenging sparring, recollection of techniques in a loud, hectic, pressured environment...these are good testing things, if you decide to go with a school that does tests.
My question is, why are you evaluating potential schools/places to train by their testing methods? It's much better to look for styles, teachers, and schools that look fun, safe, competent, and well regarded in the community (both the general community and MA community). You want a school that you will learn from without getting hurt, where there are good, trustworthy instructors, and a good set of hardworking, dedicated students.
BJJ, for most schools is this. Are you currently sparring at that belt level? Congratulations, you are now at that belt level.
There are some schools that do formal testing but it is rare and slightly frowned upon to do formal testing. Formal testing tends to remove the emphasis away from actually having the skills and more so on being able to pass the test.
I do agree that testing is a good thing is certain scenarios. For example, in BJJ, it's generally considered a no-no to promote one belt lower than yourself. An example would be a purple belt promoting someone to blue or a brown promoting to purple. In the Straight Blast Gym organization, only a 1 stripe black belt can promote to black belt. This is similar to the IBJJF organization and Gracie Barra (although one site has stated only a 3rd degree black can promote to black and the other says a second degree...hmmm).
In these situations where you have blue, purple, or brown belts teaching, usually, they will have THEIR instructor come down for a seminar and also run belt testing for the students. Usually in these situations as well, the initial instructor grades up to the point they are allowed to and THEIR instructor then has to grade beyond that.
I think a stressful combat situation is definetly a key element of a good test. BJJ has it right, and it can be transferred to TMA. See if they survive a tough fight with a bigger guy/multiple opponents, and judge the results. Has to be heavy contact though, or else you phail no matter what belt you are.
Sorry Marcus, but I disagree. Heavy contact is not appropriate for all ranks in all schools.
I think someone who's been doing karate for 6 months can be challenged and tested without full contact sparring. Eventually, yes, but generally not right away in my school.
I don't think this contradicts aliveness, or makes us into a soft school, or is a rejection of full contact sparring. It's just not always necessary right away for everyone.
When you say "multiple opponents", "tough fight", "bigger guy", and I'm thinking of my 3-month-experience mothers of two, testing for a piece of tape on their white belt, I get concerned. Seems too much too soon.
None, a good instructor will know your level without testing.
Good post. I agree 100%. The instructor really should know when someone is ready to move to the next level. The testing is more just a formal way to promote, but should not be the pure deciding factor.
Originally Posted by dakotajudo
In the end don't worry so much about the testing. Honestly how often do you test anyway? The important thing is to get to know the day to day class and make sure it fits for you.
The only key I tell people is be aware of testing fees and the schedule. If someone tells you for sure you will test 1 or 2 times a year make sure you check out the fees. I have heard stories where people paid over 1K to test for a black belt. ARe you kidding me??