ATA Block Training

March 2001

Block Training??? What is that???

Block training is an interesting concept. The idea is to train a group of different belt levels on the same material at the same time. This cuts down on the number of groups being trained in different materials in one class.

In a normal ATA adult class, we have as many as ten different belt levels in one class (White, Orange, Yellow, Camo, Green, Purple, Blue, Brown, Red, and Black). So if we have two instructors, each group gets about 20% of an instructor's time. NOT very efficient. [Ideally we want more instructors than that in a class, but reality doesn't always cooperate!]

So with block training the class is broken into different "blocks", or groups of belts, and all the students in one block learn the same material. This reduces the number of groups in the class, so each group gets a larger percentage of an instructor's undivided attention. Each testing cycle the material taught to a given block changes, so that each person learns all the material they would in a regular class structure, but they don't necessarily learn it in the same order.

So How Does Mr. Wegmann Break It Up?

Mr. Wegmann mentioned that one school uses *1* block, e.g., ALL students learn the same material at the same time. As a Red belt, I'm quite sure I don't see the point of trying to teach my material to a beginner. There is a matter of building up confidence and skill before trying some of the complicated stuff. Fortunately for me, Mr. Wegmann apparently shares my opinion. So he has implemented a smaller block structure.

Our classes are broken up into blocks of two or four belts, with the exception of white belts. White belts are a block of their own, and tend to receive a lot more attention, as is necessary. Each block is named as follows:

Block

Belts

Beginner

White

Novice 1

Orange, Yellow

Novice 2

Camo, Green

Intermediate

Purple Recommended & Decided, Blue Recommended & Decided

Advanced

Brown Recommended & Decided, Red Recommended & Decided

Black

All Black Belts

Technically, Intermediate and Advanced blocks contain four belts each, but given that the material for the Recommended and Decided levels of Purple, Blue, Brown, and Red belts are nearly identical, the blocks feel similar to the Novice 1 and Novice 2.


Update December 2004

The following table shows the block structure used at Vision TKD, starting in mid-2003. This structure makes less blocks, but IMO made it more difficult to teach the students, as White belts needed separate instructions and there is too much difference between Camo & Purple, and Blue & Red.

Block

Belts

Beginner

White, Orange, Yellow

Intermediate

Camo, Green, Purple Recommended & Decided

Advanced

Blue Recommended & Decided, Brown Recommended & Decided, Red Recommended & Decided

Black

All Black Belts


Ok, Ok, How Does It Really Work?

I'm going to describe the sequence of training for the Advanced block; the other blocks are similar in structure.

Most of the material is taught by testing cycle, which I'm going to label A, B, C, and D. This is odd at first, because it ignores the belt a given student wears. The following table summarizes the material taught during each testing cycle. [Please note that this is NOT all the material a student is responsible for at testing; I'll get to that in a bit.]

Testing Cycle

Material

A

Red belt basics, Choong Jung 2, Red belt B sparring segments

B

Red belt basics, Choong Jung 2, Red belt A sparring segments

C

Brown belt basics, Choong Jung 1, Brown belt B sparring segments

D

Brown belt basics, Choong Jung 1, Brown belt A sparring segments

The first thing you may notice is that the material is being taught in reverse order! This is necessary, unless a school is starting all students from White belt using this method. For a school that is switching to this method, it ensures that all students receive training in all the material they should.

Note: In the following example I'm using masculine pronouns. I'm not being sexist, merely being concise, as "his or her" repeated a hundred times gets tedious.

Let's say we switch to block training for a group of four students, a Brown Recommend (BR), Brown Decided (BD), Red Recommended (RR), and Red Decided (RD). If we start with any material except Red Decided, the RD student will miss part of the training, has he has already received training for BR, BD, and RR. So we start with RD material (testing cycle A), and then the current RD promotes and becomes a Red-Black belt.

At this point the RR, who also promotes and becomes a RD. He has had BR, BD, and RD training, and needs RR training to make it complete. Fortunately, that is the material of the B training cycle. When the training cycle completes, the former RR promotes, having had all four cycles of training.

Now let's consider the BD. He started out with BR training, and then received RD and RR (in that order). All he needs is BD training. And by some strange coincidence, that's next on the list! :-) So he promotes after the next training cycle (C), having received training in all necessary material.

Finally, let's consider the original BR. As a newly promoted BR, he has received no Advanced training. But during the previous three cycles, he has received RD, RR, and BD. All he needs to make everything complete is BR, and wouldn't you know??? That's the material for the D cycle! And then it starts all over again.

So teaching the material in reverse order makes complete sense. It's also not any more difficult on the students (other than being a bit confusing). The material for Brown and Red belts isn't all that different, and the same is true for each of the other blocks.

You may remember that I stated that the above materials are taught during each testing cycle, but are not the only material that each student is responsible for? In addition to the above materials that are taught by testing cycle (A-D), each student is also responsible for some material that is tested for by belt, e.g, I learned Red belt basics, Choong Jung 2, and Red belt A sparring segments as a Brown Recommended, but at my testing for Brown Decided I was testing on other materials that a BR is tested for in "standard" training. The following table summarizes the material that each student is responsible for, based upon belt.

Belt

Material

Brown Recommended

Songahm 1 & 2; Reverse Elbow & Side Kick breaks

Brown Decided

Songahm 1, 2 & 3; Reverse Elbow & Front Kick breaks

Red Recommended

Songahm 1, 2 & 3; Reverse Elbow & Jump Side Kick breaks

Red Decided

Songahm 1, 2, 3 & 4; Palm Heel & Round Kick breaks

Basically, new material is taught by testing cycle (A-D), and previous material is responsible by belt. I've discovered it isn't all that complicated.

What Do I Think About Block Training?

I wasn't sure at first, but I've decided I like it. It does give us more of an instructor's undivided time. It also gives us more people to practice with.

I was fortunate -- as a white belt I had a partner in my same size and age category. Craig and I have been together for all our tests, except one. It's been helpful having a partner of similar attributes. And since Craig & I each skipped a testing to take an extra testing cycle for Blue belt (before it became mandatory), we now have four adults at the same belt level.

But everyone isn't as fortunate. A few of the lower belts are the only adults in their rank. Block training gives them more possibilities for similar training partners, especially for Intermediate and Advanced students, as completing each of these blocks requires four testing cycles instead of two.


Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas