Taekwondo Syllabus

Pat asked me to talk a little about Aikido influencing my practice and transmission of 'Traditional' Taekwondo.

I thought this was a fantastic question which touches on many issues that a martial arts instructor faces; but I had to establish the following background for that post.

On one hand, and I've used this analogy before, the martial arts instructor is a curator tasked to deliver a very standard 'official' transcript of traditional techniques and applications. Newer styles and more pragmatic instructors break from this to include innovation that brings quality to the syllabus they operate with.

In this light I have seen many instructors frustrated with their syllabus and constantly try to deconstruct, modify, and fine-tune what they have. In 2003, this was the major impetus for me to re-evaluate all of the things that I have been taught and that I have inherited as a martial artist.

The lead up to this recognition that something was not quite correct was me trying to make sense of this syllabus I was using to train students for their black belt. Nothing seemed to be 'objective based'. Meaning I could not look at the syllabus and figure out any reasoning for anything! Kata was unrelated to drills which were unrelated to technique, etc.

I also had decided to expand the range of aiki and locking techniques within the syllabus, and threw in a standard Aiki 9th kyu listing of techniques between 5th and 4th kyu requirements. I continued to look at this long and hard. It was arbitrary. It was promoting the messiness of the previous syllabus. All in all I hated it.

The short of it was that I revamped the entire thing. I used kata or taekwondo patterns as the 'backbone' of my training syllabus, I then added all the drills and experience I have gained, appropriate for student skill and associated them all with techniques within the patterns. I deconstructed the Aiki syllabus and chose pertinent techniques that would also fit the training program needed.

Some additional drills that I have observed from other martial arts and from video resources that bring good value and which are 'no-brainer' extensions for the patterns I use have also made their way into my syllabus.

The rules of thumb:
1. Objective-oriented means stuff only related to what the student needs to learn for that particular belt pattern are included.
2. Everything is related to the patterns.
3. Fewer techniques are taught to beginners, more to intermediates, and many more to senior students. This helps with student turnover and my investment of time, but also with the manner in which older students learn.
4. All my techniques are sketched out in my notebook - I have abandoned technique lists because when I teach it's hard to go reading - it's better to visually see the sequence and then go from there.

This is not how my parent organisation A-Kato (which I am a BB member) does this in the States. But the current syllabus makes logical sense in my mind and is a properly structured training program suited to the beginner.


My Traditional Taekwondo
... and that's found in Traditional Taekwondo?
Karate Grappling???


Patrick Parker said…
very interesting post. So, when engineering a syllabus like this, when does enough become enough. What i mean is this...

tekki is so rich that I have often thought that it, along with perhaps sanchin, would make a complete system - enough to study for years and years. What do you get from the other kata that is not shown in tekki?
Colin Wee said…
Posters on Bullshido would probably argue that I have already let my innovations run away from myself.

But within the course of training, the fact is that there are many drills and variations - some preferred and used more frequently. My global exercise is to link these drills plus valued experience to the patterns.

In answer to your question, if I continue doing so without some form of a leash, I will eventually create a monster.

The leash is that my view of the entire exercise is that a newly passed shodan has completed his basic training in the martial arts. No more. Other schools think of the shodan as some form of fantastic all round fighter and instructor. I don't share this view.

As for Tekki, I agree that it offers such a rich tapestry that I could make it a complete training system. Meaning I could give up all the patterns I teach and retain only Tekki and perhaps one or two other patterns to replace everything in my syllabus.

However, Tekki is Tekki and does not represent the Traditional Taekwondo program. If I use Tekki to represent myself I would face much more heat from a small portion of the martial arts community - not that I care much from them. What I am saying is that I've got 9 patterns to BB which break down training by objectives and skill level. It does not overwhelm the student and makes for a compelling system that a student can mentally access and grow based off their own individual preferences and skills as they grow in the arts.


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