Black Belt 'To Go'! - Aikido Articles

Today, we live in a society where everyone has to have everything NOW! Gone are the days when people would scrimp and scrape their pennies and pounds together in order to buy something considered a luxury by today's standards.

Instead, if we want to eat quickly, there are fast food chains, with hot meals ready to go. If it's a car we want, there are many different loans or credit cards, which enable us to drive on to the road within hours, and up until the recent economic troubles, there were 100% mortgages for those who hadn't saved for a deposit for a new home.

However, this "must have now" attitude seems to be creeping into the Martial Arts world. Having set up my own Taekwondo club four years ago, the most frequent question from a parent of a prospective student is: "How long will it take for my son/daughter to reach Black Belt?"

Unfortunately, many don't like the answer I give them, as they expect their beloved offspring to be the next Bruce Lee just as quickly as they received their Big Mac meal earlier on that day! Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating here, but many still have "Karate Kid" etched in their memory, where the student goes straight from White to Black Belt, and is beating the bullies by the end of the film.

But how many instructors are fanning the flames, by promising a fast track to Black Belt, either by special offers, or simply by telling the parents things that they want to hear?

From my years in Taekwondo, I have experienced some clubs who are, what I have heard described as a "Belt Factory", and instructors who promote their own students, mainly in order to maintain their enthusiasm and keep the money coming in. I even heard of one local instructor who, on hearing that one of his students was losing interest in favour of another sport, double graded her, in order to keep her at the club!

This maybe a good short term strategy, but it can only lead to problems in the long term. Last year, I went to a Black Belt grading to provide support for my Assistant Instructor, taking her 2nd Dan. On arrival, we were informed by one of our team mates that on the previous day, a third of the candidates taking their 1st Dan had failed. One of the examiners had confided to an instructor that a number of the candidates were not prepared for the grading, and simply were not up to the standard required. I wonder how many of these were due to "Belt Factories" handing out so many belts, until there's only one colour left – Black! Suddenly the instructor finds himself in a cul-de-sac, as the student is convinced they are ready for the "big one"!

There's no doubt that many of the candidates who failed would have had, what I describe as "a bad day at the office", (I failed my 1st Kup (Black Tag) the first time, simply because I wasn't good enough). However, those who have been fast-tracked through the coloured belts in order to keep the club numbers up, and the instructor's wallet full, would be entitled to feel aggrieved, especially when they can see the quality of the other candidates around them.

When I was recently promoted to 4th Dan, and became an examiner, I specifically asked the Chief Examiner for my students to be placed with other examiners where ever possible. I feel that all students (particularly children), should feel out of their "comfort zone" at a grading. This can only help their confidence, not only in their martial arts training, but in facing obstacles in their every day life. Any child who has been through the grades, facing one unfamiliar face after another will have a distinct advantage when facing other tests later on in life, such as GCSE's, driving tests and job interviews.

Students graded each time by their own instructor, may also feel far more pressure when, having treated each grading like another training session, they find themselves facing a panel from the National Governing Body.

There will, however, be instructors out there, who don't have the luxury of alternative examiners who can test their students. The options here are to either refuse an entry to the grading for any student not up the required standard, or even fail any candidate on the day who just hasn't performed.

Failure to keep the students' standards up has detrimental effects to both students and the image of the club. Firstly, how many times have we seen a higher coloured belt in a competition (sparring or patterns/forms), completely outclassed by a competitor with a lot less experience? (Obviously, as previously mentioned, we can all have "a bad day at the office"!)

Secondly, there's also the image portrayed amongst the general public. One of the parents at my club told me about a demonstration he had seen from another local martial arts club. He told me that none of the students knew what they were supposed to be doing, and the whole thing looked like a complete shambles!

As instructors, we owe it to our students to be as honest as possible with them and their parents. Most newcomers know absolutely nothing about martial arts, and are relying upon us to guide them through their early years and beyond. Since setting up my club, I've been as honest as I can possibly be, and have been rewarded with over 70 students, for whom I have the greatest respect. I believe that this has helped me develop a good reputation within my local community, and as a result, I have never needed to advertise for new students.

Tony Butcher
(4th Dan Black Belt)
Head Instructor
Ickenham Taekwondo Club

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Aikido is a modern Japanese Martial Art and is very different from disciplines such as Karate, Kick Boxing, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, MMA, BJJ, Kempo and Krav Maga where there is emphasis on kicking, punching or wrestling.

Aikido is an extremely efficient self defence (also as Self-Defence Women London) system utilising balance-taking and posture-breaking movements to achieve joint locks, pins and throws. It contains elements of Ju Jitsu, Kendo, Judo and other budo.

Aikido Classes are held every Tuesday and Wednesday evening at our Harrow dojo, and Thursday evening at our Pinner dojo in NW London. Pinner Aikido Club London is a part of the Kai Shin Kai International Traditional Aikido Association (KSK), which is a member of the Aikido Alliance.

Aikido is essentially a non-violent Martial art system that encourages the avoidance of confrontation and harmony with an aggressor. The classes are well attended with Aikido students always on the mat and aimed at all levels, from beginner to advanced but everyone is welcome to come along regardless of fitness or experience.

Our Aikido students work at their own pace during the training sessions and no one is forced into doing anything they are not comfortable with.
Pinner Aikido Club in London can help you achieve self-defense skills, self-esteem, confidence, and fitness. Most of all though, our classes are fun.

You do not have to be competitive or naturally athletic to take part in the Aikido class. Learning Aikido is about self-improvement and self-confidence.

Regardless of your size, body type and current level of physical ability or disability. If you are looking for a healthier, more confident way of life, then the modern art of Aikido may well be for you.

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