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Indiana Martial Arts
Martial Arts Indiana
Martinsville Martial Arts
Martinsville Karate
Martinsville Indiana
Taekwondo Tae kwon do

   dedicated to the cultivation of the martial artist
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FAQ's for College Classes

Can I / do I test for belts?

Traditionally, basic competency in the arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido have been indicated by progression through the beginning belt ranks. This course is designed to provide a comparable beginning proficiency, so it is natural to offer the opportunity to test for a belt that the student is qualified to receive. Testing through such certifying organizations like the USHF and TTCA, however, costs money. Consequently, testing is an extracurricular event and has no bearing on the class grade one way or another. The testing experience can be a valuable learning opportunity in a martial arts education, so students who are interested in possibly continuing their practice are encouraged to test. Feel free to talk to the instructor about more personal specifics.

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What if I canít make the test or canít afford the test?

You can continue to practice through the classes/clubs and be treated as though you have the same rank as those who have already tested. When the opportunity presents itself, the test can be "made up" to get you to the rank you deserve. Keep in mind that there are other opportunities or activities, such as advanced tournament divisions in championships, advanced classes etc., that require an official rank.

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Can I wait and test once for several belts?

Obviously, it is not fair if one student pays one testing fee and other students pay for all the testing fees in between. Such "skip promotions" are not allowed. As stated before, students can make up belt exams to get them to their true competency, so students can take each test in a more rapid succession (providing they previously had put time in without testing.) But keep in mind that the belt exam offers valuable feedback on things the student needs to improve upon before the next rank, and make-up testing in rapid succession can make it difficult to truly internalize the advice from the previous test, a detriment to the student.

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How far can I progress through the ranks?

Naturally, this depends a lot upon personal commitment and sincerity in training and study. The main factor is time remaining at the university. Given that a black belt usually takes 2 Ĺ to three years to obtain, freshman and sophomores (even some juniors) have the potential to earn their black belts before graduation. Upper classmen can easily progress through the intermediate to advanced colored belts. Once again, time committed, while certainly an essential part, does not guarantee rank progression.

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If I want to continue to study during the summer or after graduation, what should I do?

There isnít a clear cut answer to this question since everyoneís goals and motivations are different, but some common options merit discussion.

  1. In the past GMA has offered informal workshops over the summer to those students who are around or are willing to travel. This allows you to continue to train uninterrupted in the GMA curriculum, but is dependent upon both your willingness to commit time and GMA instructorsí availability.

  2. Transfer to another affiliated or recommended school. Depending on where you are going, there may or may not be a school in the same organization. There are also several schools that, having relationships with TTCA or USHF officials, have a rank reciprocity agreement. There are additional schools that GMA can recommend, depending on how similar the curriculum is to the GMA curriculum or how close it matches the studentís personal interests and goals, to ensure a smooth transition from one school to another.

  3. Start over in another school or different style. Unfortunately, this last option, though probably the least favorite, is very likely. There are a lot of martial arts schools out there, making it hard to know everyone. There is no certainty that rank will be recognized from school to school, even if they both belong to the same larger organization. But having the experience may provide accelerated progress at the other school, it is just hard to say. If you are going to start over, then shop around--maybe try another martial art to see if it fits you better. Maybe a good instructor in another art is much better than a questionable instructor in your previous art.

If you are just looking for a place to train over the summer, the cross training option becomes even more attractive. Continue to train in TKD or Hapkido while at DPU, and use the break as an opportunity to gain additional experience in another art that might interest you but is not currently offered at DPU, such as judo, kali, or silat.

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What if I have rank/experience in martial arts coming into the class?

First, GMA is not an organization that feels threatened or looks down on other martial arts or previous experience. Lots of time experience helps. GMA is not interested in telling you how wrong the other style is, but at the same time, we ask that you appreciate our opinions. You will probably be expected to start over through our classes or club, but depending on how much experience you have and how hard you work, you may be able to move at an accelerated pace. Keep in mind that it is not completely about how good you are. If you want rank through the GMA, then you should know the GMA curriculum. We are not one of those organizations who simply sells belts and says the rank "carries over". GMA instructors tie on a white belt each and every time we start another art, or in some cases if we attend a seminar in an art in which we already have a black belt. We might have black belts, but we donít have THAT black belt. To wear ours is presumptuous. If you have rank or experience, talk to the instructor. Perhaps the beginning class is too remedial, but attending the club might be of benefit. If you are not interested in rank through GMA but simply want a place to train, we may be able to accommodate that as well. Decisions are best made on an individual basis.

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Will previous rank or experience affect my grade?

Most likely it will help. But keep in mind that if a stylistic difference occurs on one of the techniques being graded, then make sure that you do it the way it was covered in class. These techniques will be graded on objective criteria, and regardless of how fast or high the kick is (for example), if it doesnít have the chosen criteria then it cannot be given full credit. That is not to say that GMA suggests that our way is the only right way to do things, but for the purposes of grading, the technique needs to be performed according to class instruction.

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How does the grading system work?

The class grading system works very similar to the rank certification procedure to the USHF. Remember, the instructor doesnít expect students to look like black belts. For the most part they look like beginners, and so they are graded as beginners accordingly. Each technique performed is given a score on a scale of 1-5. Most grades fall within the 2-4 range. These numbers do not correspond directly with a letter grade (five is not an A, four a B, and so on). A score of three is the proficiency that someone of the given rank (in this case beginners) are expected to be at. A score of 4 means that the student performs at a level indicative of someone who is one belt level higher than his/her actual present rank; a score of 2 suggests something is being performed sub-par. Thus, a student with a 4 average can usually expect a grade in the A range. Pluses and minuses are used to further distinguish between performance, but do not factor into the grade unless the student is borderline between grades, in which case several pluses will give him/her the benefit. The written section of the final is graded, quantified and weighted according to the breakdown in the syllabus. At the end of the semester, the scores are added, a distribution for the class is made, and grades are assigned. While key, objective criteria are the basis of giving scores, the scores themselves are more qualitative than quantitative. It is not, "you failed to pivot the foot an extra 30 degrees, so you have a 2 tenths deduction, and so your grade on the roundhouse is an 89.4" It is more like an essay. While a little confusing, this grading system has proven remarkably consistent through the years.

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Why doesnít the grading system take into account effort?

Let me share a story about a guy who had a photographic memory. He would walk down the hall flipping the pages of the textbook just before the test but still ace the exam. Most people who worked hard in that class found it to be "not very fair". It is an accepted part of college life that some people are more gifted than others, some subjects come easier than others for different people, and that students may have to put in varying degrees of effort to reach the same grade, depending on talent and ability. This course is no different!!! One of the reasons that a written portion is included in the final is to help make "level the playing field" for those people struggling with the physicality of the class. But it cannot be denied that the martial arts are physical based skills. These skills need to be graded on objective criteria that demonstrate to the instructor the level of proficiency of the student. Unfortunately, effort cannot be objectively factored in.

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How do I make up material that I missed?

First, most skills will be reviewed in subsequent classes, although probably not in as much detail. Second, the instructor is available to answer any questions. Third, club provides an excellent resource to learn missed skills and get additional practice.

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How do I learn more about philosophy or other aspects about the martial arts

Unfortunately, a semester is simply not long enough to cover everything in detail. Indeed, one can hardly scratch the surface. That is one of the reasons why the GMA page offers reviews and recommendations for a myriad of martial arts subjects and references. This represents the best insight that GMA has to offer in regards to finding additional information. The instructor will be happy to further elaborate, providing it is within his professional expertise to do so.

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(When) do we get to free-spar?

It depends on the class, but most likely never. Beginning Tae Kwon Do will do drills to simulate sparring conditions towards the end of the semester. Actual sparring is reserved for more experienced students and is a club activity.

Hapkido students will not likely "free-spar", even if they continue and take club, unless they want to try their hand at Tae Kwon Do sparring for cross-training purposes. Getting sparring practice from TKD, kickboxing, boxing, etc, does offer valuable experience in making the techniques more dynamic, and it is a great test of range perception, but the rules of engagement that keep the sport safe limit many of the Hapkido techniques and approaches, so Hapkido does not "free-spar" on its own. Drills are often done to simulate more "real" or dynamic situations than the normal cooperation among partners.

Self defense is similar it is not worthwhile or of interest to try and have self-defense students point spar. Particularly in the groundfighting section, drills will be done to simulate ground-sparring scenarios, so that the students get a feel for what it is like to try and struggle against a person who is not willing to cooperate. But even then, students are not interested in submission grappling but self-defense, so the scenarios are contrived and limited.

Tai Chi students will get a taste of push hands (a Tai Chi sparring-like drill), but time and curriculum constraints prevent an in-depth pursuit.

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If I want to take another martial arts class here at DPU, which one should I take?

It really depends on personal motivations and interests. If you are interested in self-defense and are looking for more work in that regard, then Hapkido is a very similar curriculum and probably the best place to go. If you are in TKD and you like the mental aspects and are not very interested in applicable self-defense for now, then Tai Chi might be an enjoyable class for you. If you are looking at getting into more of a martial sport, then an introduction and subsequent study to TKD might be beneficial. Peruse the course syllabi for starters. The following is a very brief description (more like an over-generalization) of each course.

Tae Kwon Do (Korean Karate). Very traditional martial arts experience with an emphasis on the mental and cultural aspects of the martial arts. It is forms based with an emphasis on kicking, and the potential to experience the martial sport of TKD sparring. Limited self defense application, but very good to develop attributes needed in fighting and health and fitness in general.

Hapkido. More self-defense oriented, but still has some of the trappings of the traditional martial arts. Like its Korean relative, there is an emphasis on kicking, as well as on falling, joint locks, and throws.

Self defense. No martial arts tradition; emphasis is on self-defense with perhaps fewer and simpler techniques to learn. There is also an emphasis on groundfighting. Equally important is that the course extensively covers the mental and psychological costs and needs related to self defense. It is not an end, but a crash course nonetheless.

Tai Chi. Often referred to moving meditation, movements are slow and relaxed. However, martial application still exists and will be discussed. Extremely intellectual in its approach to biomechanics and how force vectors influence the human body. Very limited self defense value, at least in terms of short-term study.

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What exercises should I do on my own?

Obviously, the first and foremost thing to do to improve in the martial arts is to practice! Still, if the student wants to supplement with additional exercise to improve performance, there are a few suggestions. It should be noted that these exercise recommendations are not personal prescriptions, and students should be sure to seek quality instruction in any unfamiliar activities. It is important to train specific for the activity we are undertaking. Martial arts is primarily about speed, power and agility, and fighting is very much an anaerobic event. Running 3 miles makes you think you can handle a free sparring match only a few minutes long, but in actuality, you may not prepared for the intensity, the burn in your legs, or know to find time to rest. Exercises that tax the legs are better such as biking with resistance or running stairs. Shadowsparring is a great way to get the feel for a short burst of sport specific, maximum output and how to get your wind back during the match. Any sport conditioning class that drills agility, speed, reflexes, etc. is also recommended. Plyometrics are also very valuable but should be used judiciously. Once again, these are suggestions that need to be modified to individual health and fitness levels, under the guidance of a qualified fitness professional.

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What if there is not a uniform size that seems clear for my personal measurements?

Very few of us fit exactly onto the sizing chart. The key thing here is that there is not a lot of fashion involved in these uniforms (no relaxed fit, etc.) It can be a little long or a little short without mattering. This leaves the answer a lot to preference. You can order it a little big and simply roll it up or try to shrink it, or you can order it a little shorter. Generally, it is recommended that you go more by height than weight as the determining factor. Please feel free to ask the instructor for further estimates.

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How do I address the instructor?

First, at the current time, GMA instructors are not, nor have we ever claimed to be, professors. Sensei is a Japanese term and does not apply to Korean martial arts. The Korean equivalent is sabomnim. BUT, both of these terms are honorific, and Asian language and custom dictate that one cannot glorify or honor himself. Consequently, anyone who puts sensei on a business card, signs things as such, or demands to be addressed in such a way has no understanding of the application of the term or Asian custom and would probably be laughed at by anyone who did. Therefore, if a student feels compelled to honor the instructor with such a title, then that is acceptable, but the instructor can hardly stipulate the way he is to be addressed. Simply "Mr.", sir, or even calling us by our first names is acceptable.

If in a more formal setting, such as a testing, tournament, etc., then a more respectful language is expected to both your instructor and any higher ranking guests or officials. This may include the more honorific (albeit Americanized) titles of Master of Grandmaster as the situation is called for.


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Last modified: July 05, 2012


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