The Process Of Becoming An Expert Student

By Mark Brosten
Published on Nov 15th, 2009

I have long been disappointed with the format of having a list of techniques, forms, sets, basics, terms, etc. for testing. This format stresses memorization and the ability to regurgitate what was memorized. Forms, Sets, and Techniques are models designed and used to teach principles and ideas. They are NOT a fix all for self-defense. This model of memorization does not reflect the needs of combat. If one is trying to think of the technique for the attack being thrown he's --- already been hit! Focusing on a memorized pattern tends to limit one's choices. The internalization of principles is far more valuable for combat and in everyday life. The traditional testing format has limited spaces for new information, technology, or ideas, and as the art grows it must change. Remember the past, but plan for the future.

The testing of rank for 1st black and beyond can be done with a four part criteria.

  1. Your coach: A coach is a person that has experience and knowledge in the direction that you have chosen to train in and/or research. Their job is to help guide and advise you in your chosen direction. Your coach does not need to be involved in the art. For example, if you have chosen to do some nerve work you may want to consider a coach that has trained in the medical field, massage therapy, physical rehabilitation, reflexology, or other bodywork. Once you have made the choice and picked a direction of training, your coach can help you with the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual requirements needed to reach your goal.
  2. Yourself: What do you think a black belt, 2nd Degree, or a 6th Degree should look like and be able to do? What personal goals do you have for yourself (stop smoking, lose weight, listen better, etc.)? This can be the place that you make the changes that you'd like or want in your art or your life. What aspect of your art excites you? Being excited about a goal or thesis project will keep you highly motivated. This personal goal can be anything that applies to your art, for example, developing a memory method or looking into non-verbal communication as applied to pre- incident indicators etc.
  3. Contemporaries: These are people that you are training with they may be at the same skill level as you, at a higher level in some areas, or they may be someone that you guide to higher levels of personal excellence. They can give you a requirement for your next level whether they know it or not. If my work out partner has a very effective lead hand jab, my goal or assignment may be body maneuvers, bob, weave, slip, or to effectively control distance and angles. They may help your progress by giving you a second or third person point of view. They can inform you of things you don't notice, like holding your breath when you close the gap or dragging your rear leg when you launch.
  4. Thesis: This is the information part of your presentation, the overall idea. Your thesis involves what you did, what materials and information you used, what you came up with, and what directions you think could be researched farther. All mediums are acceptable: you may use video, hand outs, demonstrations, acting, etc. --- however you communicate the best.

The testing board: this is a presentation and celebration of the work you have done. The board may hold as many advisors as necessary depending on the size and scope of your project. Your presentation may consist of a seminar taught by you, a demo in front of the board, etc. whatever you and your advisors decide would best represent your project. A presentation of your work may not look like Martial Arts! For example, if your thesis were on memory work or relaxation, you may have everyone on the floor to explain the idea and then work some exercises. If your project was on developing flashy kicks you may choose to do a demonstration, since expecting everyone to gain 6 months of flexibility in a single day would be unrealistic, at best.

The testing format can be tailored to the goals and requirements of the practitioner working with his advisors and the Board of Examiners. The expectations for your project are set. They are worked on in advance. Once your goals have been reached, testing becomes a celebration --- you never show up unprepared or wondering what the extra credit question will be! The board will know what your goals and requirements are before the test. The test can be tailored for the particular thesis and intelligent questions may be formulated by your examiners.

The time spent between grades is up to you and your advisors. If you train one hour a week your progress will be slower than a practitioner who trains every day. The practitioner who spends an hour a day on his attributes, two hours on a thesis project, an hour on research, and keeps in contact with his coach and contemporaries, should have the opportunity to be rewarded for his extra effort. I do realize that people have a life and responsibilities, but that is no excuse not to train. 95% of your practice is out of the club while you're not in your uniform.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Mark Brosten

Mark Brosten began his Martial Arts teaching career as an associate instructor in Missoula, Montana. After Serving with the Military Police in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to continue his training. Mark was promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt by a Board of Examiners for the International Kenpo Karate Association. While in New Orleans, Mr. Brosten continued teaching, working with a diverse group of students from artists and architects to law enforcement and military personnel. Mark also developed a summer program for children, ages 4 to 5, for the Isadore Newman School in New Orleans.

An exceptional athlete, Mark is committed to training and competition. He competes in Martial Arts events throughout the United States and has placed within the top three, each time he's competed internationally. Since his return to Montana, Mark regularly teaches seminars at various martial art studios. Mr. Brosten successfully tested for advanced Black Belt rank in October of 2007. In 2008, Mark taught his first international seminar at The World Kenpo Karate Championships in Jersey, Channel Islands U.K. His practical experience and no nonsense approach to Kenpo have served him as a student, competitor, and teacher for nearly 25 years.

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