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I currently work (part-time) as an instructor with a karate dojo. I have been with them in one way or another for over five years (including taking classes).

Recently, a highly decorated instructor has started teaching with us and I have noticed that he seems to skip belts with some students. I was always told that students should have a waiting period between each belt.

Is this something to be concerned about or is this a normal practice? Should I bring the concern to the owner or my bosses?

Update for future reader's: After considering the marked correct answer I spoke to owner- The response was mostly positive & is planning to have me assist him and learn how to grade students from other schools or previous experience as well as what would qualify a student to "skip" a level. He also said that students should not be charged to "skip" and he will look into it immediately and make sure all students are given the fee if they were charged. :)

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3  
I do not have a substantive answer to offer in terms of the belt promotion side of things, but in general, if something is bothering you, it's good to bring it up to your owner. If you're unsure as to whether you're right, just bring it up as a concern without accusations. Most people are willing to talk at that point. – Sean Duggan Mar 21 at 12:50
    
I can understand the skipping the fee, if it was meant say the person went from 7 to 5, they only pay the grading fee for 5, not for 6 that they skipped. I dont think many students have a problem if someone of a higher grade comes to learn their style and grades quickly or misses some. However, when you see it on people who arent, and its because they are "in" with someone.. It is a whole new story – BugFinder Mar 21 at 21:49
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Yes, this is normal although not common.

Grading are set to determine if the examinee has a certain skill set appropriate for said grade. If they have, they should pass. If not, they should fail1.

Most, if not all, syllabus have a recommended time between gradings. That time is a general on average most students will be able to learn the skills for the next grade within said time. The reason is simple: everyone is different and grows at different rates.

Consider the following: Alice is a 5th dan Aikikai Aikido. She starts Iwama Ryu Aikido as a kyu-less grade. Making Alice wait six months between gradings is pointless, you might as well grade her to 2nd kyu (say) as the skills from Aikikai and Iwama are transferable.

Consider the following: Bob is a 2nd kyu but is lazy and does not train hard yet demands to be graded to 1st kyu after his allocated time. He does not have the skills, he should not grade.

Note that the same reasoning applies to dan grades as well although I have rarely seen someone jump dan grades. The only times I have seen it was with "auto-promotions" within an organisation for "service rendered".

On a side note: I would be very uneasy about any instructor charging for each grade and not only for the final one2. This would smell like a make-money-fast scam: promote students fast so you get as much money from them in as quick a time. This would be even more worrying if the instructor got a cut of the fees...


1: In my not so humble opinion, no one should be put forward for a grading if they do not have the skill to pass.

2: OP confirmed this in a comment at the time. However, a further edit shows this not to be the case... Hopefully this now reads as generic advice.

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Thanks very well worded and explained. Students do pay for belts, so i think i will bring ot to the owner as a general question about is we can skip belts. – YesTeacher Mar 21 at 12:59
2  
Good explanation. In your analogy though, lazy Bob would never make it to the next grade in our club. Anyone who demands anything gets nothing, as humility and respect are core principles. Our highly qualified and experienced teacher invites us to test when he thinks we are ready to pass. – user6847 Mar 21 at 20:05
    
@user6847: tru dat. ;) – Sardathrion Mar 21 at 22:04

It's not unusual if the student has prior martial arts experience. Even in other situations, it may make sense. For example, if the student has natural ability and is training very hard, and the dojo generally attracts a crowd that trains less seriously and/or less often, it doesn't make sense to prevent the former student from getting stuck into more difficult training sooner.

That said, if students think they're finding the current training easy, and they're relying on e.g. strength, natural athleticism, flexibility, speed, and/or other students not hitting them too hard because e.g. they're young or female, then promoting them before they've had the chance to really assimilate the deeper parts of the curriculum: the technical body-mechanical nuances, the sparring experience (especially how to block and dodge effectively against a stronger opponent who's not taking it easy on them), the behavioural expectations in the class (and especially sparring), exam, tournament setting etc., and they get promoted to a level where only some of their better abilities are a match for others at their rank, they're likely to come a cropper.

In my first school, we had too many promising young ladies rapidly promoted to a belt or two below black belt, where the students weren't intimidated by an aggressive lady and had the skill and experience to dominate the fight still in an appropriate way, and that was often a huge shock for these ladies who'd been publicly praised at gradings for their aggression and ability, skipped belts, then found themselves struggling, because really they hadn't had the chance and stimulus to develop their defensive abilities at the same rate.

In most schools, someone skipping a grade or not doesn't make much difference in the long term, so I think it's better to encourage such promising students to focus even harder on perfecting the more basic parts of the curriculum - encourage that kind of mentality, rather than a headlong rush.

Still, you might ask the instructor for advice about why they're giving such promotions and how they've seen them pan out in the context of your style/school... I don't see you've got anything to lose by asking. You can do so in a "I want to learn from you as maybe one day I'll be in your situation" way, rather than as a challenge.

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It's not unheard of, but it may or may not be a problem.

Good reasons: a student has shown natural aptitude for both the technical skills, and understanding of the philosophy, to a standard beyond that required for the next grade. Perhaps they have trained previously at another club and achieved a high grade, then switched, and applied what they know to the new club.

Bad reasons: the club, or that particular teacher could be a trophy hunter, who likes to tell people how many black belts he has created.

Karate is a way of life, not just a hobby (that's what the 'do' in karate-do means). The grades should represent an understanding of the philosophy, etiquette etc, and development of spirit. Not just the ability to robotically demonstrate a kata and then break a half inch breaking board. If you think the teacher in question thinks otherwise, it would be a good idea to tactfully discuss the situation, in a way that comes across as a desire to learn the reasoning, and not in a way that sounds judgemental or accusing.

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I think that there should be an order. No skipping belts. Don't care how good your skill is, real skill takes time. Plus it's so much more than just belts. I feel as though more and more these days it is becoming a forgotten art. Not taught the way it use to be

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Whilst I'm inclined to agree with your point of view, you haven't answered the questions: should the OP be concerned? Is it normal? Should the OP talk to the owner/boss? – Mike P Mar 22 at 11:28

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