Thursday, June 27, 2013

Our New Curricula

The Times They are a Changing
A couple of weeks ago I announced in class that I was changing the way I teach karate and arnis as well.  Over the past several months (about 10 months now) I have been working with Jackie and Kevin Bradbury to streamline my curricula.  When I early retired from American Airlines with the intention of teaching martial arts full time, I knew that I had to change some things about the way I teach and my program here at the Roanoke Rec. Center.  Being retired early (in October 2012 instead of Spring 2013) meant I had to speed up my plans, even so it has been a long process for me.

Right up front though I want to make sure that everyone knows that for my senior belts, my 1st browns (soon to be red belts), and my 2nd browns (soon to be brown belts with a black stripe) the changes will be less dramatic than for the beginner and intermediate belts.  The students who will notice the most change will be the purple belts since they will be taught the new system in the new format.  While I am currently teaching from the new curriculum in class our students who are in the process of getting ready to test for black won’t be held to the new curriculum or the new testing standards.

I have for some time now recognized the need for my curriculum to be updated and written out and to be made available for students and parents to see.  I have in truth been resistant to change in some aspects due to trying to keep with what I perceive to be tradition (in my martial heritage at least), the fluidness of my teaching style, my constant state of learning new things and concepts related to the martial arts, etc. etc. I resisted having a formalized set curriculum. I had on several occasions tried to formalize things in a way that would allow me to teach my students in the manner I felt that martial arts should and could be taught and yet have a more robust curriculum that was written down formally.

Between work and teaching it was to much to keep up with so I had a standard for tests based on kata, one steps, basics, etc. etc. and taught from a curriculum I had helped developed more than 10 years ago.  To be sure our students did learn a variety of different techniques and skills from a blend of American karate, Tae Kwon Do, Modern Anris, combatives etc. etc. and these would be taught in class and the students would demonstrate them on their tests but they weren’t formal requirements as such with this technique or that being taught a this level or that etc. etc. even though that is what I strive for.

Rest assured our students were previously held to a high standard and I had quality controls set up by their always being examined by outside senior instructors, who by the way had commented to me on several occasions after the belt exams that they were pleased with the diversity of techniques they saw on our tests.  However this is a hard way for students to learn, fun maybe, but hard overall.  I had been counseled by my instructor and others that changes should occur to help my students. In short I had to become more professional about the way I taught and the material presented.  So taking into account counsel from others and focusing my energies a formal review of my curricula took place. Listed below is a short list of some of the changes that are beginning to take place.

  • Once the American Karate/Tae Kwon Do has been published (finalized) (we are in the final editing and picture mode) it will be available to parents as a PDF file.  These can then be kept on a computer or printed if the parent desires, so that they can see what the child/student needs to advance at any time.  The Modern Arnis curriculum has already been published and the Modern Arnis students have been bringing thumb drives to class to download it.
  • Addition of two belt colors in the advanced ranks.  In order for the students to show progress and to differentiate between brown belt levels we are changing the belts for 2nd brown and 1st brown.  2nd brown will now have a brown belt with a black stripe through the middle of it.  1st brown will now be a solid red belt and be called red belt instead of 1st brown.  The new belts have been ordered and should be here next week.
  • Stripes will now be used on the belts to denote progress and techniques learned.  Twice a month students will be informally evaluated in class to see if they have learned the techniques required for their next belt.  At that time the instructor will place a stripe on their belt indicating that the student has been shown or learned the techniques required for the next rank.  Not that they are test ready mind you, but that they have been shown and they have performed the techniques.  This will help me as an instructor know at a glance who needs help on what body of knowledge when the students are lined up.
  • Short video clips will soon be placed on our You Tube channel that will feature our students and myself performing various kata, basics etc. etc. so that parents and students will have a video reference on what a kata or technique looks like.  These won’t be detailed explanations of the kata; for that the student should be coming to class, rather short videos that the student or parent can use to help them remember their kata or technique.
  • The Modern Arnis curriculum has been redesigned with a similar testing progression format as well to align itself with the karate curriculum.
The Modern Arnis class uniform
  • With the new curricula comes some formalized changes for the uniforms as well.  The biggest change is that I have settled on a formal standard uniform for the Modern Arnis class.  It has been hard to find “Modern Arnis” uniforms, I even purchased one direct from the Philippines.  However having them sent from overseas, or custom made is really cost prohibited, so we settled on a uniform from a martial arts supplier here in the U.S.A.  While in class tee shirts can be worn in place of the formal top, a standard uniform will be required for all rank tests.  Students cross training between arts won't be required to purchase a new uniform.
  • Another change will be that all uniform tops should have the Hidden Sword patch placed on the left lapel as shown in the new curricula.
As mentioned before the students who will see the biggest changes are really the purple belts and below.  My current brown belts won’t be required for instance to make up all of the additional material that is now a formal requirement, even though they might have learned the material or variations of it previously.  There is no new added cost for the stripes nor the belts.

So far the students have accepted the changes eagerly.  When I announced the different belts colors in the advanced ranks I saw all of the students smile and one clenched his fists and said “YESSSSSS!”  Since then I have been asked several times ”Mr. Lynn have you ordered the new belts yet?”  Likewise students are asking when can they demonstrate for me so they can earn their new stripe etc. etc.

I have tried before to add the videos, to make some course corrections with my material etc. etc. and frankly I for whatever reason didn’t see it through. I had the vision so to speak but I soon recognized I didn’t have the skills needed to finish the projects.   With some much needed help given to me, this time these changes will now finally brought to bear.

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