At Long White Cloud Kung Fu we strive for a culture of excellence among our students. That means that periodically we review what we are doing and see if we can do it better. The Kung Fu itself doesn’t change much, but from time to time we look and see if there are ways that we can teach it that will help our students to get the most out of it and achieve the highest standards that they can.
We have recently completed such a review, and as a result there will be a few changes to the syllabus and the way that we run gradings in 2017.
Introduction of Animal Movement Warm Up Exercises
To supplement the animal fighting forms that we currently teach, we will be introducing Animal Movement Warm Up Exercises. These exercises are designed to help students develop the physical characteristics of each of the animals they learn. The strength of the Tiger, the fluidity of the Snake, the balance of the Crane, the agility of the Leopard, and the power of the Dragon. These exercises are different from other strength building exercises such as push ups or sit ups in the way that they develop whole body connection and alignment and some of the more subtle aspects of the animal movements. They are not complicated to learn, but by practicing these regularly students will be able to greatly enhance their ability to do the fighting forms and techniques to a higher standard with the true ‘flavour’ of the animals, as well as improving their overall health and fitness.
Most of you have already had a chance to try at least a few of these exercises in class towards the end of 2016, and we will be practicing them regularly in 2017. You can also find videos of the exercises in the online academy for your reference to help you to learn them and practice them at home.
There is also a simple Qigong form that has be added to the Yellow Belt syllabus for similar reasons. This form helps postural alignment, opening the shoulders and the spine, and also with cross wiring of neural pathways. You don’t need to understand how all of that works, just to practice the form, but I can explain the details of the theory behind the practice if you are interested.
Changes to Adult Yellow Belt Syllabus
The adult Yellow Belt syllabus is being simplified. Saam Bo Jin, while it is a short form also contains some quite complex body mechanics. The development of short striking power emphasized in the form is also very physically demanding. For this reason, while adult students may begin learning Saam Bo Jin as soon as they would like, this form will now be tested at Black Belt level instead of Yellow Belt Level. This will allow students to put more focus on learning the basics of fighting stances, guards, strikes, interceptions and kicks to a higher standard. Adult students will also now be required to learn the punching and kicking form that junior students currently learn.
Gradings are an important focal point for students to work towards achieving milestones in their training. They also provide a great way for students to receive formal feedback on their progress and to understand what they need to work on and improve.
With the way our grading system is currently run, we often come across the situation of students missing gradings because they do not feel they are ready, or because of clashes with other commitments. When this happens the student misses this valuable opportunity to enhance their learning and development. If they did not feel ready they missed the opportunity to challenge themselves through testing and bring out their best. If they had a scheduling clash, they missed the chance to affirm and gain confidence in their knowledge to help them move forwards.
After looking at best practices for grading within other schools, we are going to be making some changes to the way we run our gradings at Long White Cloud Kung Fu. In 2017 gradings will be held during regular classes, and if students miss a grading the will have the opportunity to catch it up in another not too distant class. This will allow all students to grade twice a year.
It is likely that grading with this regularity will mean that often students will not be ready to move up by a whole tip, or a whole belt. So we will be adopting a ‘tab’ or ‘stripe’ system whereby students are awarded a number of ‘tabs’ towards their next belt. There will be four tabs between belts. The fifth tab being the new coloured belt. So at gradings students will have the ability to earn one, two three, or four tabs, or a whole belt.
Each tab represents significant progress towards the next belt, and helps students to focus not only on ‘knowing’ the material, but on how well they can do it. This system is used extensively in Judo and Brazilian Jujutsu schools, and every tab is highly valued and respected. We would like to encourage this same culture of respect for incremental progress within our school.
Running the grading system in this way will also allow us to significantly reduce our grading fees. The new grading fees for coloured belts will be $15 (previously $35) and as all students will be grading each time, these will be collected along with other training fees at the beginning of the term that a grading is due to be held in. Students will now also be responsible to obtain their own belt when they move up to a new colour. These may be available through your instructor for a nominal cost or you may be able to recycle a belt from another belt that has graduated onwards.
Black Belt gradings will still be held with all candidates from across the school grading together. Costs for these gradings will remain the same as they are currently.