This week I passed for my 2nd degree (dan) exam in taekwon-do (ITF), which is the result of several months of training labour. Without the required learning and training of both mental and physical skills it's extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve a black belt degree. In a reflection on the learning process I went through, I also would like to give the reader a little insight in martial arts training, and more specifically the thorough and blended learning approach (including ICT!) that we followed to prepare for the exam. As you may know, martial arts is not only a physical thing, i.e. kicking and punching each other or performing a spectacular power break. As a matter of fact, a lot of techniques are performed in a non contact or semi contact way. The success and failure of your training labour depends largely on the five so called tenets (values): self control, integrity, courtesy, perseverance and the indomitable spirit.
So how to prepare for a degree exam? First of all there is the list of ITF criteria which in detail describes what you need to know and perform in order to pass the exam. The exam includes the following categories: patterns (hyongs), partner exercises, self defense, breaks and some sparring. In the near future the exam will also include a theoretical part about (historical) facts and background of taekwon-do. As an example of how a blended learning approach is applied I'd like to elaborate on the way how the performance of a pattern can be trained.
For the 2nd degree you need to train the first 12 (of a series of 24) different patterns. For the exam you know for sure that you have to perform the highest pattern (no 12, Ge Baek), four others are selected randomly by the exam committee, i.e. they mention the Korean name of the pattern and you need to start performing it immediately after the start command. To give an impression what it means to perform a pattern, take a look at the following movie of the Ge Baek pattern:
The question is how to learn such a pattern. Not only in the sense that you perform every movement in the same, mandatory sequence, but also to achieve that your movements have the right speed, balance and power.
The following list shows what we do and use to learn performing a pattern:
- video examples of each pattern (like the one above)
- a text book in which every pattern is described and illustrated with a series of pictures
- instructor led training
- practicing each pattern by yourself
The video examples work very well in different phases of the learning process. First it helps you to orientate on what the pattern looks like, secondly it is helpful when you want to practice the pattern at home and the instructor obviously is not around to ask questions or to demonstrate the pattern.
The text book basically has the same function as the video examples, although the emphasis is different. The pictures are of excellent help to show the specific positions between the subsequent movements. The movies can show how the movement itself needs to be performed. We used a text book written by van Beersum and Jansen (2009), two certified Dutch taekwon-do instructors (4th dan). In addition to the book we also used some reading materials about self defense and some advanced partner exercises.
A major part is probably the instructor-led training given by Sabum Ad Dekker. This part was done in the local dojo in Boxtel. This training is necessary to (1) demonstrate (first step-by-step, then as a whole) how the pattern should be performed and (2) to give immediate feedback once you need to perform the pattern yourself. The only way to perform a pattern really well is to do it over and over again, but also to receive feedback on how to improve your performance.
Obviously, it is not possible to use every training to perform patterns, so there is a need to practice patterns by yourself, outside the dojo, at home, together with fellow students.
This example demonstrates that a blended learning approach can work really well in sports education. In addition to the four points mentioned in the bullet list, the blend was even further extended in the sense that we could participate in several national training events of ITF Royal Dutch in Nieuwegein, hosted by master Steve Zondag and Sabum Hennie Thijssen. Here we had the opportunity to train with other certified instructors and masters in taekwon-do. Moreover, we were invited at the dojo of Sabum Willem Jansen and Sabum Paul van Beersum (the authors of the book), to train a couple of times with them in Bemmel.
I think it's fair to say that all of these training sessions did contribute to the final result: pass! The blend of tools, resources and trainers (who all had their specific insights and feedback to share; many thanks to all of you) provided a really rich learning environment.