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My son attends a taekwondo school, who in my opinion is a diploma mill. I have seen many students with black belts who are lacking skills that are fundamental to earning a black belt.

The dilemma is, at this school my son is almost ready to test for his black belt, and so are a few of his school friends. So as to keep up with his school friends, and not face teasing (which has already started sadly) do I let him do his black belt?

In parallel l have him into a new school where the instruction is much better and more aligned with proper WTF proficiency for black belt. Is this allowed? To get a black belt from one school and with another school, all registered through the WTF?

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    As a clarification, do either of your son's instructors know about the other? If not, that is a breach of protocol. I mean it is your prerogative, but general decency would dictate you should tell them both. (Plus, what happens when the new instructor goes to register him as a BB and he is already one?). Also, it might help if you gave your background as to what makes you qualified to determine what is required of a black belt. – JohnP Oct 4 '18 at 13:27
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    Oh absolutely the instructors know, as you say that is general decency. As for my background, l am a parent and have spoken to several Masters as well as other senior black belts. What l am hearing is one school says he is ready for black belt, and every other one say he is not. Which makes me question why is one school saying he is ready? – IAmSpartacus Oct 4 '18 at 13:35
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    Different schools, different standards. They are also different styles with different emphases. I'm a member of the ATA, which often gets knocked for "soft" black belts because we also take into consideration where they started, rather than an arbitrary mythical standard. If you want to talk about it more, you have enough reputation to enter our chat room – JohnP Oct 4 '18 at 13:52
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Special thanks to @JohnP and @Fuzzyboots for an interesting discussion in the chat (Link to the Open Roda discussion). The answer is, for me anyway, is IF there is any doubt that your child is not receiving all he/she can from a Taekwondo school, pull them out and send them to another school. Do not get caught up in the titles, belt levels etc. Do what is best for them in the longer term. Taekwondo is not a race to black belt, but a journey to build confidence and respect that lasts a life time.

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As per my input in the chat, I think the answer really depends on your goals and whether you feel it's worth the cost. If your concern is competence and a "legitimate" belt, then you may want to look at another school. If you're just looking for your child to have a fun time with his friends, the cost is reasonable, and they're not actually being unsafe, you might just write it off as "entertainment". I know that's how I pursued sports as a child (and still do them today), not worrying too much about getting better at them, but just enjoying the experience.

I actually speak on this from a bit of experience. When I was in elementary to middle school, my mother got me into classes at a local Tang Soo Do academy and she picked up the "black belt" package where we paid for three years of tuition at a discount with a statement that after three years, I would be a black belt in the style. Yes, this is a belt factory tactic. That said, they had enough integrity that, when I failed my black belt test (I wasn't that good of a student), they did not promote me, although I think they came to regret that because my mother pointed out that their contract read as that the initial payment was valid until the later of the two conditions, three years or my black belt, so I got an extra year of classes out of it before I failed the exam again and we came to a mutual agreement that I was not black belt material and therefore the contract would never really terminate except by agreeing to let it lapse.

Ultimately, also as I stated in chat, if you do decide to remove your child from the "diploma mill" school, make it explicitly evident that this is not their fault, that it's not a punishment, and that you're doing this because the school itself doesn't do what they are being paid to do.

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Be very careful, I would not take him to two WTF schools at the same time. Here's why:

Most "WTF" schools are actually Kukkiwon schools - Kukkiwon is the authority which issues dan certificates. In this case, your two schools are teaching your son the same curriculum, except one accelerates its students to dan certification faster than the other. The better school would no doubt raise Cain over this, and you might get kicked out. They will likely see your son going to the belt mill just to get black belt faster.

This would be absolutely insulting to that instructor. Had you sought training in a different style, that would be a different story, since you don't bring in certifications/uniforms/belts issued by a different authority. But in this case, the authority is the same.

Once you achieve a dan grade in one school, any other Kukkiwon/WTF school is obligated to keep you at that level, since when you test, you can only test for the next dan. At the very least, that school could allow you entry at any level (including underbelt), but for any dan grading testing, you'd have to test for your next actual dan grade. If a WTF school is not Kukkiwon certified for instruction and dan grading, and instead issues its own black belts, then all of this goes out the window, and they can do pretty much whatever they want, since they're not obligated to take anyone in at any level.

  • "any other Kukkiwon/WTF school is obligated to keep you at that level" - just to be clear, they don't have to recognise it or allow you to wear it, but they can't re-promote you to that level. I have a friend who runs a dojang for adults in Korea (he's an ex-Kukkiwon demonstration team member) and when black belts join his dojang, he makes them wear a white belt until they know all of his syllabus up to their grade, then they can wear their black belt again. – Andy Jeffries Oct 18 '18 at 9:57
  • Yes, that's a common arrangement. It is the school trying to make a difference between "dan" and "black belt" - they're very different things, despite the common path they require to get either one. Things get complicated during competition, though. That "white belt" will no doubt be seen as a cheat (although, I can't remember an instance of someone wanting to cheat in this way where a dan-grade white belt competed at a white belt level, that would cheapen the event as well as the trophy, and nobody wins. But I won't say it doesn't happen.) – Andrew Jennings Oct 18 '18 at 12:09
  • I don't know what my friend does about competitions - I assume enters them as a black belt, but just for class makes them wear a white belt (so coloured belts don't approach them for help with his dojang's specific syllabus/way of doing things) – Andy Jeffries Oct 19 '18 at 6:58
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This is not a complex question.

The testing criteria are determined at a higher level than the school, and the grading takes place under a High Level practitioner who has earned the right to grade and has gained the respect of his pupils and peers over many years. Whether a student is allowed to grade is up to the instructor, but the result of the grading is up to the examiner. An Instructor should never grade their own students as this would demonstrate a lack of Integrity.

If the Instructor is also the Examiner this will present doubts about the value of the grade. In my 30 years of Martial Arts I have never been examined by my instructor.

Finally - why is your son "doing" Taekwon-Do? If it is for the belt, then he is likely to give up when he gets the Black Belt; if it is for him to be the best he can be, then the belt does not matter the challenge comes from within. I am a Black Belt, and I have had to work much harder to get here than many of my contemporaries who are more talented, can jump higher, kick and punch more rapidly and frankly scored higher at gradings but I am the best Martial Artist I can make myself and that's what matters. I started in 1986! Belts are less important to me than to others, but that is fine.

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I don't think the belt progression should be an issue. Is the teaching good? Does he learn and keep learning there? Is he enjoying it? Sure there are standards to keep the belt levels comparable, but in the end it's just a belt and motivation tool for kids and adults. (And a safety feature when sparring)

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