View Full Version : To Rank,..or Not to Rank?

07-30-2001, 11:10 PM
Although, I have been training in the martial arts for over 17 years, it has never occurred to me to not issue rank in the style that I teach. I've always been of the opinion that the ranking system was for the purpose of guaging a student's progress while also giving them smaller obtainable goals on their way to black belt. I still feel this way, but now I am thinking about doing away with the rank structure in my class.

Why? Because I teach only adults and I don't see the need for giving them a new color of belt every 6 months or so. Most of them could care less about the rank, they just want to learn how to defend themselves and learn the art form.

My current rank system has 8 ranks in it; white to black. I am considering reducing it to 2 ranks; white and black.

Have any of you guys used this sort of rank structure before? If so,..how did it work?

07-31-2001, 03:37 AM
I personally do not set any store in ranks, but if you find they help you to gauge a student's ability, then keep them. If you think your students couldn't care less, then get rid of them.

My advice is to keep the ranking system for those who want to rank, but do not require your students to grade so that those who don't care about rank don't have to test every 6 months.

What we do in life echoes in Eternity

07-31-2001, 02:37 PM
Interesting question. Like ABandit, I have made strong arguments in the past for no-color belts.

But one issue occurs to me when trying to imagine this a little from your point of view as a teacher, and some from mine as a student.

To me, there seems to be three general levels that could be used, rather than just two. Clearly there is an advanced level (black belt). But, I could see having an intermediate level, as well, that is separated from the beginner level.

One thing this would accomplish is to acknowledge the commitment proven by those students who actually stick it out for a year or so and prove they are serious. So often, people come in, flame out and disappear. It would be nice to have my teacher recognize that I am past that.

Now that I've said that, though, your question to me should probably be "What color would that intermediate belt be?"

I don't know. Something not too high and not too low, maybe blue.

Can eat with either hand. (But becomes moody when not fed regularly.)

07-31-2001, 07:26 PM
I trained without rank for 9 years.

The school I currently attend has 6 kyu ranks, and 7 black belt ranks.

At 3rd kyu, you can take the advanced classes.

Honestly, I hate the fact that by this point I don't have a blackbelt. Esecially sine I see shodans with only 3-5 years of experience.

Besides, rank gives a good outline of who you should be seeking advice from when training (although you have to decide on your own which mr. fancy belt you actually should listen to). I find testing every three to 6 months to be very encouraging, and would not train at a school without ranking at this point.

07-31-2001, 11:58 PM
Though I just started training in a classroom environment, I know that from past experience that my level of performance is higher than some of the higher belt levels that attend my scool. I realize that I do not have the froms,katas,or pinions that other students have been taught. What I do have is real fighting experiance from 10 years of military training. You see I am fluid in my movements with and strenght and power. I do admit being somewhat lacking in balance, but that could be remediated at home with time.

So with all that I see a definate plus With a beggining level (white) that teaches balance,forms,katas,and pinions on a begining level. Then more indepth and advanced forms ect. to an intermediate level (Blue). and then a more advanced level that incorrperates greens browns and black.

I think you would find that the students that burn out might stay because they are learning more and in a sense paying less. We all know that there are some Dojo's that look for the almighty dollar. I think New student realize that what they are thought compared to what they are paying is outrageous. Me for example $140.00 to learn 2. punch techniques and 2.combinations. doesnt seem right does it. Anyway maybe I rambled alittle much but take this into consideration. I think Your School would Prosper more. Also I would like to know What you think about this statement Daedalus. :)

Theory without practise is like a cloud without rain!

08-01-2001, 12:49 AM
I tend to agree with Abandit

Theory without practise is like a cloud without rain!

08-02-2001, 12:12 AM
I prefer the no-ranking system for the following reasons:

One, students stop using goals as an excuse to practice and instead practice to develop the martial techniques and self defense systems. No longer is it an achievment to have the almighty black belt but instead an achievment to actually be able to use your art in a self defense situation if you needed to.

In response to students having belts so they knew who to go to for guidance, once again, you can ask your teacher who the more advanced students are to find the guidance that you need. In fact, I have found this to be a very useful tactic and the student you go to does not look at you as the "lowly yellow belt" asking for help from the "super brown belt" but instead meets you mutually and usually they are more accepting of you sharing your ideas as well (not always the case).

In regards to removing the ranking system, you need to be very clear and specific with each and everyone of your students of your decission and your reason for doing so. Make sure that they are well aware that you are more interested in giving them the martial applications/abilities then colorful belts to hang up in their trophy cases. Note to the class that if they wanted a black belt as an achievment for their martial arts studies, they could just as easily buy one from a martial arts store once they reached the level in which they felt they deserved one.

Once again, keep in mind that you are the teacher, and it is your job to ensure that the students learn the content you want them to, rather than how hard they must work to get to the next rank.

I have experience in both ranking martial arts and non ranking and I prefer the latter. Some people like having the goals, I do well just knowing I progress with each time I practice.

- Nexus

Freedom is what you do with what is done to you. - Sartres

08-02-2001, 04:01 AM
Maybe keep ranks for those students who aspire to be teachers one day, and those who couldn't care less don't have to rank. Then, the students with belts are marked as teachers and also know how their progress in understanding the art is going.

The reason I say this is because often black belts are expected to teach. But if they are not interested in teaching but only learning then they shouldn't have to grade. Those that want to teach, or do teach, need something to distinguish themselves as teachers.

What we do in life echoes in Eternity

08-02-2001, 07:33 PM
The first school I ever attended had a mix of ranking and not ranking. If you wanted to rank you had to learn forms.

I hung out in the basement and hit the heavy bags, sparred, etc. and never tested.

Dark Knight
08-02-2001, 10:02 PM
If your students go somewhere else down the roud, they have rank walking into another school. So now you dont have someone with three years experience walking inot a school and starting as a white belt, while guys with less experience have more. It may not reflect ability, but at least they can attend the advanced classes.

Also it gives you an idea of where they are and how much work they need, or what information they need.

08-03-2001, 12:54 AM
We use rank (phases) because the material we teach is different in each phase. The concepts and material in later phases cannot be done without prerequisite training. Much like how math is divided into classes. General math, then Algebra, then Calculus, then more Calculus, then Alternate math.

10-09-2001, 02:48 PM
I like both sides reasonings. I have never trained in an official dojo without rank. I have trained alot with friends and usually get more out of it because we're all serious and don't waste time or think that we're good simply because of our belt color.

Once a year I get to train at Ted Wongs seminar in Tulsa and he gives three levels of certification. 1 - you know the basic footwork (a huge part, it's harder than I thought) and the 3 kicks and 5 punches. 2 - You can apply all those in combo's and learn a little trapping.
3 - You know all of it so well that you can explain it to a 5 year old in a way that they can understand.
All this is a little bit of a generalization but my point is that you don't have to test for cert. if you don't want to. I do find that it helps me work harder if I know that I'll be looked at harder when I say I'm ready to be tested the next time I go.

I want to open my own school here in town and was thinking of doing this: have self defense classes and give certificates of completion, have "fighters" classes with no rank but lots more sparring etc. and tailor it to the individuals needs/desires, and have ongoing classes for those who wish to be ranked.

What do y'all think? :confused:

Any body wanna spar?

10-09-2001, 03:04 PM
I'm a bit leary of those self-defense classes that offer "certificates of completion". IMO, you learn the moves, but you need to continue to practice so you really can't be complete.


Surrender yourself to nature and be all that you are.

10-09-2001, 03:55 PM
There's nothing wrong with wanting to use some method to group your students so you have an idea who's where in their training. Ranks seem to solve this problem nicely.

Robin's right on target about certificates of completion, though.

K. Mark Hoover

10-24-2001, 12:22 AM
For starters, it can help you to remember where exactly the student is at in their training. This may not be a problem for many instuctors, but it is for some. Where I train, is in a gym, and any gym member can join us free of charge. Because of this we get a LOT of people that come in for short periods of time, then quit. It gets difficult to keep track of where everyone is at because of it.

Also, it like others have said, it provides a gauge to the student. Many people say that the rank isn't important. However, often when it is taken away students can get stressed. They start to become unsure of their progression, because there isn't something substatial to gauge from.

Rank will let students know, without a doubt, if they are improving or not. I am a big believer in not passing a student if they test poorly.

Without testing and rank, some students, may become overconfident in their abilities, or frustrated because they are not sure if they are improving.

Obviously, with close attention and hard work from the instructor, ranking can be cut down or totaly removed without having these problems. However as a class size grows it becomes harder for an instructor, no matter how good he/she is, to give the personal attention, that would be required, to each student.

Just my thoughts

Assumption is the mother of tragedy. Just keep and open mind and be ready

don bohrer
10-24-2001, 06:32 AM
In our school belts have become a reward for many of the students. This is a very dangerous precedent and a hard one to break! In my experience younger children like to blast through techniques and get bored easy. Children and teens want to be praised and rewarded. It doesn't matter if it is deserved or not. It's the gold star mentallity.
However I do think belts are a valid measurement of progress, but only if the test are real. Honest standards along with hard work is what makes someone proud to wear that rank.
Most adults concern themselves with learning first then progression. But only after they are comfortable. You shouldn't have any problems using a belts to mark progress in adults.

10-24-2001, 03:58 PM
I would like to agree that belt ranking is acceptable if the tests are real. However, I've been in too many schools that have brown and black belt students who plain ol' stink! They got promoted because they're consistent with their payments! I certainly won't do that because I don't intend to leave myself dependent on the income from teaching MA's only. It's just a knee jerk reaction against belts.

Robin: thanks for your opinion. But... the same could be said about any student, even those who achieve black belt. If they stop practicing, it's just a matter of time 'til they lose it. You'll never enforce dedication. :)

"Box a fighter and fight a boxer". Bruce Lee