Quality vs. Quantity

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There are two consequences to having too many “shoulds” in your curriculum.

1. Each requirement will have to be covered in class to prepare students for their exams.

2. With so many requirements, students will have less time to work on each, so quality will be difficult to obtain and maintain. When you have too many requirements for each belt, you are strapping yourself to covering those techniques in each class. If you don’t cover them, students will not be ready for exams, and it won’t be their fault. If you have 20 requirements for an orange belt exam, you have to spend a large amount of class covering these 20 techniques. With that many requirements being covered each class, your creativity is hindered. Your classes will tend to be the same. This level of repetition is good only to the degree you don’t lose students to boredom.

The key is to require only the base skills on exams. You’ll have to decide what those base skills are. You can still teach the other 100 techniques you think students “should” learn, but you don’t box yourself in as a teacher. For instance, I can teach a spin hook kick to a class of blue belts but not require it on an exam. It’s not a core technique, but it is fun.

Self-defense escapes can also fall into this category, though it depends. Self defense is at the core of most programs but, typically, it’s not taught very well, and it’s hard to practice. There is a lot of speculation, “I do this, which will make him do that . . .” in self defense that is style based. Realistically, a headlock escape practiced at 50 percent speed and power works 100 percent of the time. A headlock escape practiced at 75 percent speed and power works less. But how well does it work when both students are going at it 100 percent? Most of us never do that, so who knows?

Students have a finite amount of time to practice your curriculum. If they have 20 techniques to master in order to pass your orange belt exam, they will spend half the amount of time on each technique than if they only had 10 techniques. For example, in a 12-week testing cycle you expect students to attend class twice a week. This is a total of 24 hours in class. In each class, you devote 20 minutes to requirements. That is a total of eight hours working on test requirements. Some requirements, like forms, take much more time to master, while others, like a ridge hand, take less time.

It only makes sense that a student who has 10 requirements to learn in eight hours will spend twice as much time on each one as a student who has 20 to learn. Conversely, an instructor will have twice as much time on each of 10 requirements in eight hours than one who has to cover 20. Odds are, the students with 10 requirements will have a higher competence level than those with 20.