If all you want is a Black belt for yourself or your child, then go and buy one, get it all nicely embroidered with your name and any rank you like for about 25 quid. But beware, a belt will not save you, it will not protect you, it will not win a competition for you. Only correct instruction, dedicated practice and effective training will enable you to develop the skills you need to do this.
An unearned belt will make you look a fool, will make your instructor look a fool and will make you vulnerable.
The instructor who promotes a weak student before they are ready, potentially harms that student. An unearned black belt can give a student, children & vulnerable adults in particular, a false sense of security in their own ability, leading them to get into potentially dangerous situations whilst feeling invincible.
It could put them in a vulnerable position with bullies who, may try to push them to demonstrate what they can do, or provoke them into a fight. Then when the child clearly can't 'do', at best they lose face, get laughed at, and their self esteem takes a bashing, at worst a serious injury could result.
If a student enters a competition wearing a belt that is too high for their ability, not only will they not win, but they will be totally outclassed, made to look foolish, or get injured. Their instructor will also look foolish, and people will question his or her integrity and ability.
Better to remain forever as an OK green belt than be laughed at as a joke of a 'Black belt'- yes really it is – much better! Of course better not to stop progressing but to persevere. So what if you take twice as long as someone else to get to black belt, or if you never get there at all. The point is to enjoy your training and always try to improve.
As instructors we owe it to ourselves, our fellow instructors, fellow practitioners of our art, but most of all to our students, not to grade them too soon. Better to lose them, than lose your self respect.
Students / parents, is it really a belt that you want? Think again:
Enrol; in a reputable, certified school, part of an established association, one with external examiners
Focus; on what you are learning and the enjoyment you get from training, not on what colour belt you are wearing
Parents;, do not push your children to grade! If you really must push, push them to perfect techniques and persevere with training
Sometimes parents are anxious about the rate of progress their child is making. Every child will progress at their own pace due to differences in:
Age Innate ability (have they got the 'sporty gene') Concentration span How often they train How interested they are in progressing Whether or not they practice at home If they have older siblings / parents who do it If they are learning other sports or activities at the same time. General motivation Learning disability Physical disability
At Wirral UKTA, when a grading comes up, some people will be ready, others won't. Usually only a handful at a time grade. For this reason any child not ready to grade need not feel left out or different from the others as they will be in the majority NOT grading.
A child who is slower to progress may notice that others who started after them are beginning to overtake them. To avoid the child losing self-confidence if this happens, parents can explain it to them using some of the reasons above, i.e “He's learned it faster as he's older than you” or “She has a older brother who helps her at home” “They come more often than you” etc. Kids are quite happy with these explanations.
If a child is slow progressing, its important for the parent not to pressure them, its best that parents don't ask the instructor if their child is ready, in front of the child. Better to ask when the child is not around or by phone or email. Parents could also ask how they can help their children at home and instructors are only too willing to explain points to help them with, as long as the child is willing.
If a sensitive child is making slow progress, it is important that parents don't try to put their child in for a grading against the instructors advice. Failure is far worse than just not being put in for it. The main thing is that the child enjoys taekwon-do.
To put things in perspective, I had one child who took a year to get to yellow tag, and another student who spent 7 years on one belt colour. They both enjoyed it and kept coming and they both moved up to the following grades a lot faster.
Don't feel as though belt colour is everything, its not. Children can be given encouragement and praise for improvements made along the way, such as mastering a particular kick or improving their balance.
Of course every parent knows their own child best, but in my experience as a teacher and instructor for many years, and as a parent myself, when parents are laid back about it, kids take it all in their stride but when parents become hung up and anxious about gradings, kids do the same.