So yesterday I saw a face book post regarding a 19 year old who had been awarded his 4th Degree Black Belt, well he had been training for 10 years and was entitled (according to his sensei) to be called a "Master". The post was followed by a number of derogatory comments from various martial artists in the box underneath, including the words Mc Dojo.
It set me thinking, how does this type of thing happen? I know from my 30 years in Karate that 10 Year Old Black Belts are a fairly common sight, from my logo you should guess I teach a large number of children each week.
My thoughts are that when Karate came to the UK it was the domain of adults, the syllabus was for adults and the time scales applied to that syllabus was for adults. Four, Five and Six years for a serious student to get to Black Belt, and we teach what we were taught right?
But now the number of children training in the UK far out number the adults, and children are just little adults, arn't they? So syllabus which have there base in the 1960s with the hard core stuff removed (for kids) still mean five years of training and the students are grading for a Black Belt.
So is the school awarding a Black Belt to a 10 or 12 year old student who has trained two or three times a week for 5, 6 or even 7 years, wrong to award that student a Black Belt? After all the same amount of training would gain the award for almost all adult students.
The Student in this case can wave there arms and legs about in just the same way as many of there adult counter parts, (some times better) and do what is required by a syllabus, some may be able to fight against there peer group, but really we all know they are not able to protect themselves to any real degree in the real world. ( an abductor would just pick them up and carry them away , or slap them and make them cry).
It is my belief that the holder of a Black Belt should have a reasonable chance of defending themselves in the real world, against real adults and that they would surely need a certain amount of physical development and strength, a certain amount of maturity and the ability to use aggression and take and inflict pain. Not traits usually associated with young children.
In school terms I think a Black Belt award its at least comparable to a GCSE, possibly an A level, (and some may think degree level).
We start a childs' education at nursery school at the age of three or four years old, however it is a truly exceptional child who gains an GCSE before the age of fourteen. The whole school teaching structure, system and syllabus is aimed to the awarding of GCSEs when a child is sixteen years old (some 12 years after starting education) and although an Adult learner could justifiably gain a GCSE in two year at night school, no infant school would award a GCSE in that time scale. The students mental and physical abilities just do not compare.
It seems clear to me that there is a perfectly good reason for having Infant schools, Junior schools, Senior schools and then Colleges and Universities. The experts in teaching understand how the learning requirements, the content and the teaching styles, differ for each age group. No child enters infant school and is presented with the GCSE syllabus.... why do we do it in Martial Arts?
So its the structure, the syllabus and the teaching knowledge that is missing. Its not good enough to just teach what you were taught, as Martial Artists, Instructors, so called Masters of our art, we have to do better than that.
10 Year Old Black Belt...........a hard working, dedicated, successful child, with a misguided sense of their ability to defend themselves in the real world and an instructor who needs to think more about how they teach, what they teach and when they teach it.
Just a thought!