The Value of Understanding the CurriculumA Black Belt recently returned to class after taking a work-related sabbatical. Knowing that he had not trained for several months, the “Karateka” put himself in a Beginner class, asking the Instructor for recommendations on appropriate material to practice. The Instructor recommended Gold, Orange, and Blue Belt material which the student then worked on, demonstrating a deep understanding of karate training principles.
In the academic world, students follow a prescribed course of study for each subject - a curriculum. Likewise, at University Karate Center, specific material is studied at each belt level through the use of a written curriculum which was created by Sensei Mason In the academic world, students follow a prescribed course of study for each subject - a curriculum. Likewise, at University Karate Center, specific material is studied at each belt level through the use of a written curriculum which was created by Sensei Mason after years of work and study. This vital booklet, which organizes in sequence all material learned, is a “treasure house” for students of Mu-Do-Kai. Not available at most martial arts schools, this unique course outline is a priceless tool which can help the student look back on what has been learned, and look forward to what is to be learned next.
Due to the complexity and difficulty of the Black Belt program, students sometimes forget earlier belt material when they move on to higher belts. Hence, the Sempai (assistant) program for Purple Belts and above exists to bridge the gap between beginner, intermediate, and advanced knowledge. By assisting regularly with lower belt classes, the Sempai may reconfigure his or her own understanding of previously learned material in the curriculum, developing knowledge on a higher level by approaching the material from this new direction.
Since learning is progressive and gradual, all attempts to reinforce it are valuable. Repetition is an essential element in the process of turning information into knowledge. This is why assisting in lower belt classes and following the recommendations of the Sensei are all ways to capitalize on this idea. It is an important opportunity to train as a Sempai and practice earlier sections of the curriculum by helping the beginners.
A little known fact is that the University Karate Center curriculum states that : “at any Grading, a student may be asked to perform any technique up to and including material for the current belt being tested for.” When a student is recommended for Black Belt, they must prepare for that test with the understanding that they will be expected to perform, without hesitation and without coaching, all material learned from White Belt through advanced level Brown Belt. One way to insure successfully reaching the goal of Black Belt is to persistently practice not only what is needed for one’s current Kyu (belt) but also the material that went before.
Sensei Robert H. Mason © 1994
The New Student
When I was growing up I would always see actors on TV performing martial arts. It was so amazing to me how flexible and disciplined they were. For years I had debated on taking karate classes. I finally got the courage to look into martial arts classes. On my first day of class I was really nervous. When I walked into mudokai, I saw students with colored belts. My hands started sweating. To get over my fear, I had to remind myself that the same students had to start out as a white belt. I knew in my heart that I would not achieve certain goals as fast as others. Today I realize that karate is not a sport to see who can score the most points or who can move the fastest. Karate takes a lot of time and patience. With everything that’s going on in the world today I think everyone should try and accomplish all of their goals in life.
In fifth grade I went to a Jewish day school. Since Mr. Valentine, whose day we celebrate on the fourteenth of this month was a Christian saint, Valentine’s Day was not an observed holiday at my school. In an explanation as to why we weren’t allowed to exchange candy or cards, one of my teachers said, “It shouldn’t have to say February 14 on the calendar for my husband to bring me flowers.”
Even though this didn’t mean much to me at the time, she had a good point. Men should bring their wives flowers all the time. No, seriously, she was talking about needlessly reserving a human showing of affection. As members of a community, we should be able to tell our friends and families how we feel whenever the mood strikes us, and not have to wait for a special day. The special day is a great reminder, personally one of my favorite holidays, but if communities function as they should, we shouldn’t really need it.
Imagine if no one ever expressed gratitude except on Thanksgiving. How would we know we were appreciated? Love is one of the basic human emotional needs. It has been proven that infants who are untouched for their first few days of life either die or develop horrible social problems. A part of their brain is missing, and there’s no way to make up for that lack of affection.
Valentine’s Day is a time to show how much we appreciate each other. But this year, make it a resolution (yes, resolutions can be made on days other than January first) to show appreciation as a habit. Use Karate as a basic starting point. In Karate, we show appreciation for each other all the time. Think about it: We bow to our sensei, to the class, and to the Dojo twice per lesson. We bow to our sparring and pairs partners. And we try to avoid hurting each other in most cases. In a grappling match, no one leaves a submission hold on once their partner has tapped out. It would be completely unacceptable and very dangerous, but it would have another result that’s rarely mentioned. It would be a blow to that person’s esteem. It would make them feel uncared for as a partner, as a companion, and as a person. It’s not just a matter of respect and consideration—it’s a matter of showing someone you care, even on a rather impersonal level.
So let’s cut the mushy stuff and get straight to the crux of it all: Love in all its forms is one of the most important emotions that we as human beings can feel. We show our love by respecting others, and watching out for each other. We don’t reserve love for Valentine’s Day. If we did, the world would not function properly. Celebrate your love for your family and friends every day, even in a quiet way, and never keep your love bottled up for one occasion. Happy Valentine’s Day