View Full Version : Non Dan Ranks leading class?

Robert Cheshire
7th May 2004, 04:42
When do you let your non black belt students lead part of or the whole class?

In Yoseikan, our blue belts (3rd kyu) can be considered Assist. Instructors, but, we sometimes have students help before they reach this rank.

What do you do in your class/style?

David Toner
7th May 2004, 04:55
In our system it's a requirement that a colour belt log a certain number of teaching hours before grading for their black belt, but there are strict rules when no Sensei is present - no sparring, no weapons.

7th May 2004, 19:17
In my school, I let the students lead the warmups and basics. After that, I take over the class. If there are new students, the assistants help show them what they need to know. Brown belts show the green belts. Green Belts show the white belts. I got this idea from my Sensei and it's been working for him for 30 years.

BTW, I study Isshinryu and I don't think all schools do this. It's just how we run things.

7th May 2004, 19:42
The senior student present is expected to start the class on time, or at least reasonably close to on time! If they have not been authorized to teach, they are to simply go through the normal warm up drills, the basics and then work through the katas. They are not to 'teach,' simply to lead by example.

We very seldom do not have at least a Shodan to lead class. We typically have a Yodan or above. There is a 4th Dan assigned to teach on Thursdays, a 5th Dan on Tuesdays and a 7th Dan on Saturdays. On Mondays it is more of a whoever shows up.

There are specific individuals that have been told they are not to teach (one Nidan in particular). All of the current ikkyus (both of us!) have been specifically authorized to teach (I am one). In fact, the two Ikkyus run the children's programs. I have opened a branch for kids and the other Ikkyu runs the program at the main dojo. We both receive some compensation for our efforts.

At my branch, my sempai leads the warm ups and basic drills, which allows me to walk through the others and make corrections and adjustments on a one-on-one basis.

7th May 2004, 20:35
When I firt began taking Aikido my sensei would allow us to teach a technique on a regular basis. My sensei did this for yellow belt and above back then. Yellow belt being the first ranking. I have to say it was a good experience. Teaching now it is my intention to carry on this tradition.

8th May 2004, 01:37
One of the most common mistakes that martial artists make is in believing that a dan rank means that you are a teacher. It means that you have a certain degree of competence at the formal curriculum of the system. Teaching is a much different skill. Almost nobody does a decent job of developing instructors.

You can't get better at something without doing it. At a certain point in his or her development a student who is interested in teaching should start teaching. Under supervision at first, more independently later. So yes, at some point upper-level kyu students should be teaching and enjoy increasing degrees of independence and self-supervision as they learn how to teach. Early on in the process they need feedback from the senior instructors, suggestions, help with lesson plans, that sort of thing.

That way when they have teaching credentials they won't ruin a bunch of students trying to figure out what they're supposed to do.

Budoka 34
8th May 2004, 03:22

We have a similar expectation for teaching and assitant teaching hours. All mid level and up kyu ranks are expected to begin assiting in classes or at least warm ups. Adults are expected to help in the youth classes or one of our outreach programs several times before ikkyu.

You have to have many hours of experience before you are elidgible to test for Shodan ho.

That does not include the regular (Kohai) duties, if you are in that position.

Due to my teaching experience I was lucky enough to be taken on early as a Kohai and teach and assist in several youth and beginner adult programs. I have learned a great deal, definately more than I pay in dues. My Senpai always ensures that I have a good training plan and thorough understanding of the material.

Heck, I'm learning to run a school which is one of my long term goals.


9th May 2004, 05:31

First, a little background:

In our non-profit school, rank takes as long as you need it to take. Usually 1st dan is earned in 5-7 years of attending 3, two hour classes, a week. Of course many talented people drop out because of a variety of reasons. Yes, some take longer than 7 years and only one that I know of, took less than 5 years. (I, myself, took almost 6 1/2 years to attain 1st dan.) However, that said, let me explain about 'teaching' in our school.


At various points, sometimes during testing, lower ranks are asked to lead a class, through warm-ups, and or punching/kicking drills. This occurs under the supervision of the Chief Instructor, and rarely lasts more than 10 minutes. However, this is only the first taste students get of leading a class.

By brown belt, 2nd kyu for us and usually at least 2 1/2-4 years into the program, brown belts are occassionally asked to work one-on-one with students and/or to lead small groups of lower ranks in forms or drills. Again this is done under the supervision of the Chief Instructor, and these sessions may last up to 30 minutes.

As the brown belt student 'matures', they are eventually told that they are being considered for dan rank. Once they are so notified, sometime in the 4-20 month period of intense scrutiny they go under, they are asked to lead and then to teach portions of the class. This happens with more and more frequency. Again, this is only done under the observation and supervision of the Chief Instructor, and rarely lasts more than 45 minutes.

Eventually, the brown belt student is told he is being tested and teaching is definitely part of the test. (Usually, after 1 hour of forms, drills, Judo randori, and sparring, they are dead tired and are told to lead a vigorous class in a specific drill, or to teach a technique.) This aspect of their test usually lasts about 5 minutes, then its back to exhaustive testing.

Tests are scheduled only at the last minute, with a week or less of notice, and without visitors and/or spectators. Students, rarely pass the first test, I have seen a student be tested as many as 9 times, mainly because of his attitude, not ability. (I, myself, was tested 3 times, before being promoted to dan rank.)Once a student passes their test, they trade their brown belt for a black belt to go with their standard white uniform. In the 32 year history of our school, I would estimate that less than 50 1st dans have been awarded.

Once a student is promoted to 1st dan Black Belt, they are considered Assistant Instructors, and may be asked to work with students one-on-one, or to lead a class for longer periods and in the same area as the Chief Instructor. The Chief Instructor may ask other Instructors to take a new 1st dan aside, and refine their teaching technique. Usually within their first year their teaching is refined to acceptable levels, however, in some cases this may take longer.

As a new 1st dan continues, he will be given more and more of a class to lead or teach, but for limited periods and with the Chief Instructor, or another of his Instructors present. After a minimum of 3 years and usually 5 or more, a 1st dan will be considered for higher rank. Attainment of 2nd dan is extremely difficult and the student is put through the same training as when they were attaining 1st dan. However, the observation of their teaching is more often and usually more critical. By the time of their notice for consideration as a 2nd dan, their teaching methods have been 'put through the wringer'.

Once notice of consideration of 2nd dan is given, the process can take several months or several years. (In my case, I waited 7 years as a 1st dan to be given this notice, then because of a variety of factors, including shoulder surgery, it took me another 5 years to attain 2nd dan. I believe I am only the 17th person in the school to attain this rank.)

However, once 2nd dan is conferred, the person promoted is considered an Instructor and is given 'Black Pants' and an Instructor patch to go with the white uniform top they now wear, and as a symbol of their new status in the school. The new Instructor is now allowed to teach portions of the class on thier own, and according to circumstances may be the only Instructor in a class.

Another minimum of 3 years and usually up to 5 years takes for 3rd dan to be offered. The candidate is tested mainly on forms and teaching, but their test includes the same regimen as the lower dan ranks. 4th dan requires an additional 4 years as a minimum and is really based on dedication, value to the school, teaching ability, time in the school, and overall ability. Testing is pro form and may consist of forms and sparring/Judo randori. If promoted to 4th dan, this rank is considered a 'Senior Instructor'. There have been only 4 4th dans in the 32 year history of our school. Our Chief Instructor is ranked 5th dan.

For us, teaching is serious and a true apprenticeship, a practice that may be considered 'Old School, by some. Since we are non-profit there is no motivation to rush anyone through the process. If they are ready, they get promoted.

I know this may have seemed rather long winded, but I felt it was necessary to put our teaching methods and its relationship to our kyu/dan ranks in the 'right' perspective.

Perhaps a different viewpoint for some.

Robert Cheshire
10th May 2004, 05:22
I was pleased to see mention of lesson plans and teaching kyu ranks and new black belts how to develop them. This is something we do in Yoseikan and is a good thing for all schools to do. It helps in time management and development of the class and students.

I think that getting mid to advance kyu level students helping to teach helps their own training and helps them not to make as many mistakes when they have a school that is their own.

We like to use to old doctor method of "see one, do one, teach one."

14th May 2004, 16:54
Hi Guys,

I agree that a Dan grade does not constitute a qualification as an Instructor.

There are other areas of learning required such as Health & Safety, Child Protection, First Aid, Communication and "people skills" etc..

Within our Association there is a set criteria for becoming and Instructor that i will share will you all.

Here is a direct link to it on our website:


14th May 2004, 17:55
Requirements seem pretty sound and I like some of the topics you cover. Has, or would, CMAA consider providing the course syllabus or workbook at cost? I would be interested in more detail. No way I can make it to England for a class!

22nd May 2004, 09:48
in my dojo i allow my sempai to conduct warm ups and ukemi then assist in lesson review. proceeding to new material i have him instruct the underbelts and that allows me the oppurtunity to instruct advance technique elsewhere on the floor, or tend to a students individual needs one on one the performance of the jr students reflects on my sempai, their capability is part of the sempais requirements. i keep my classes small and very personal 6-10 students, eventualy everyone ends up leading in something-this is important that all deshi have this oppurtunity and responsibility in some regard however supervision is a must-remember how much more you learn teaching, it really is a gift.

Brian Owens
22nd May 2004, 18:33
ronin-phoenix, welcome to E-Budo! I'm always glad to hear another voice in the chorus.

One thing, though. Please remember to sign all posts with your real name (first initial and last name is acceptable, per John Lindsey). That rule was specified when you joined, and is listed on the bottom of every page.

The easiest way is to modify your signature line in the user control panel -- where you currently have "in the perfect symmetry of a circle can be seen the nature of the universe,strive to learn from this." That way you won't have to do it manually with each post. (It will also add it to your two current posts, so future readers will wonder why I'm saying this. :D )

24th May 2004, 19:07
Quote from Tellner:

One of the most common mistakes that martial artists make is in believing that a dan rank means that you are a teacher. It means that you have a certain degree of competence at the formal curriculum of the system. Teaching is a much different skill. Almost nobody does a decent job of developing instructors.

This is a huge misconception by the public as a whole.
The ability to transfer knowlege has nothing to do with
your technical ability to perform which is what the Dan
grades are supposed to indicate.

I recently met a woman who was soooo impressed by her son's teacher
because she was a 4th dan in Tae Kwon Do and that she competed
in the Olympics. I did a background check on her and found
that Tae Kwon Do was only a demo sport the year she claimed.
A marketing ploy, go figure. Any way, turned out that the teacher
wasn't even teaching the majority of classes any more.

This brings up another question, when is letting Kohai teach
too much? I know of some people who stopped going because
they complained that they never saw the head instructor and
that all the classes were being run by the students.

I agree with most of you here, teaching or learning to teach
should be a process and not an automatic assumption once
you make Yudansha. It should start early with limits and
progress to more and more responsibility.

Just my 2 cents...


24th May 2004, 19:30
Tae Kwon Do was only a demo sport the year she claimed.

So? It was still part of the Olympics and it was still an international competition. As long as she didn't claim to have won a medal, I don't see anything wrong with that. (They don't give medals in the demonstration sports.)

Now there are an awful lot of places where the head of the school no longer teaches, but the marketing makes you think each student will get a great deal of attention from this gift of God to the martial arts. And, of course, they hold black belts in a wide variety of martial arts. But there are places that are very up front with the teaching staff and as to who will lead the classes.

In many schools, as long as there was a Black Belt there, everyone was happy. And teaching can be very important to refreshing one's basics and getting grounded again in the foundations of the art you are studying.

As a teacher, I can learn a lot about a student by watching how they approach teaching one of the lower ranked. Are they kind about it or mean? Do they build a relationship, or just bark orders?

29th June 2004, 01:54
Originally posted by Robert Cheshire
In Yoseikan, our blue belts (3rd kyu) can be considered Assist. Instructors, but, we sometimes have students help before they reach this rank.

Same in our Tang Soo Do class. If our instructor is away, usually on business, and the other instructor isn't there we have a blue-stripe belt will often teach. She'll ususally go review stuff for our test, since she'd told me that she'd rather not go into anything new, which is fine with me, since everybody needs to review I'm sure y'all know.


6th July 2004, 16:41
My 2 cents - I agree with one of the earlier posts and think that there is a distinct difference between teaching and running class. Anyone with a year experience can run warmups, and basic kicking, tenshin, etc. But, running a class is very different from teaching in my opinion.

Teaching involves giving new information, correcting technique, pointing out blind spots to the student etc. I would only want to learn from people who have been taught to be a teacher and not from someone who just trains and has been taught how to fight. I would take a class with anyone "running" it because they can do what they want and I will do what I want or know is right. In some traditional Okinawan schools there is a distinction between these two types of "instruction" - teaching someone so they know how to teach and teaching someone so they know how to do karate. It is my understanding that very few people are taught how to teach.

Tim Black

6th July 2004, 17:38
Very well said Mr. Black.
I totally and whole heartedly agree.


7th July 2004, 13:06
Good point Mr. Black.

Before any of our people can teach they have two acheive two things:

Shodan and a Coaching qualification from our governing body (in the UK the British Aikido Board). Hopefully this ensures that they are both competent in Aikido and have been taught how to teach.

IMHO the quality of teaching in martial arts generally is not what it should be and this has slowed the progress of many good students over the years.

Philip Smith

7th July 2004, 13:48
Just like many cases of "do you have enough qualified teachers" the need to have a teacher is not always the practicality of having a dan ranked practitioner available, so what do you do? Quit? Blow off practice because there is no Dan rank available? I don't think so.

Even if there is a kyu ranked practitioner in charge of the class, as long as the parameters of what is practical and what is not practical within the knowledge of that practitioner and the classes ability, the margin of safety is observed, and ... the practice continues, depite the mistakes. Why, without mistakes how would any of us learn? Maybe I learn from mechanical repairs and my mistakes differently than the physical practice of using a human being for aikido practice in a different application of mistakes, but the awareness of what to avoid or to look for is just as important in both venues.

We usually start, those who are inclined, at 3rd kyu to teach with an instructor present, and then as the parameters are learned in the following year of teaching, the leader of the class, as this person is more that than a real teacher, is allowed to practice within a guideline of parameters that is acceptable to the head teacher. Thus, the load of teaching is spread out so that the teachers can be the students and the students can be the teachers, so that the entire class learns both from practice and mistakes at the same time.

We are a small band of a dozen or so, with a revolving membership of two dozen for our non-profit group here on Long Beach Island, so maybe I have to agree that our prioritys are different than those who must make a profit to maintain their practice facilitys. There are many good replys to this subject, but in the end ... it is the practice, not the instructor that represents living breathing practice of martial arts, isn't it.

I don't think I am alone in thinking that everyone contributes to the dojo and the extended family we gain in our practice of our chosen art. If anyone thinks that dan ranks are the only ones that teach, then maybe those people should sit out of practice and rethink that position. I can't help but think that at some point in their training someone said to them," I want to to teach the class ..." which then began their teaching venue. I am sure it was filled with regrets, mistakes, and lost opportunities, but despite whatever rank they were, it was the beginning of falling in love with the practice that they were trying to teach. Such is ... the love affair we all have with our practice.

17th July 2004, 22:02
Bruce sure spends a lot of time on vacation.