RIQ: Really Important Questions!

These are samples of Knowledge Test questions that we ask all senior, black belt and instructor candidates. We are looking for rationale, examples and debate to examine the amount of research and thought processes executed by each individual. Very few answers are closed, and many have a multitude of open-ended answers.

  • What are the main benefits of correct breathing skills?

  • Why do we injure ourselves (bruise) when we fall, and how do we minimize this?

  • What is the difference between active and passive stretching, and when do we correctly use them?
  • How do we accurately measure the exact proper front stance stance for each practitioner?

  • What are the primary and secondary functions of a stance?

  • What are the major differences between stable and unstable stances, and when should we use each?

  • Why do some martial arts have patterns, and what are their pros and cons?

  • Why do we Kiap, and how would we apply this to multiple concurrent strikes?

  • What was the original colour of the dobok and why?

  • Why are our doboks now white? Why do we have colored (belt) ranks?

  • Why are Dan belts black?

  • Why are MooDukKwan dobok trims blue, as well as some MDK Kwan Dan belts?

  • Why do we need to Test?

  • Why must we have Kyorugi (free sparring)?

  • Why is there Kyukpa (breaking skills)?

  • What is Ki, and why do martial artists need to develop it differently from others?

  • What is a black belt; Instructor; Master; Grand Master, and don't the titles come automatically with one's rank?

  • What are the pros and cons of competition biased training?

  • What are the application and power delivery differences between a punch and a palm strike?

  • What are the reasons (and differences) for resting our fists either on our hips versus our upper ribs?

  • What is the reason for twisting our wrists when completing a punch, and is this a good thing?

  • Why do we use obverse punch first when we double punch formally?

  • What does it say about the DNA of the art when most patterns use the obverse punch vs the reverse punch?

  • What is the difference between 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional applications of the 3 HapKiDo Principles?

  • What is "sine wave", and why do some see it as 2 dimensional?

  • What REALLY is a martial art, and what do most of us practice?

  • Why is authentic, quality certification especially important today?

  • Why are traditions and linage crucial?

  • Should martial arts evolve, or should they be preserved as their respective founders designed them?

  • What has been the evolutionary path of TaeKwonDo?

  • What has been the evolutionary path of HapKiDo?
Certification Questions in the MAs:

Through the years there have been many key questions repeated regarding the issue of certification. Due to various factors, these questions have increased, both in their frequency and scope. In order to shed more light on these sensitive areas, we have tried to list out the key areas of concern below:

1. Why are there so many Dan levels?

b) 3rd to 4th Dan is normally given to those who have achieved a complete grasp of the advanced physical requirements of the art.

c) 5th to 7th Dan normally means that they have achieved mastery of the art.

d) 8th to 10th Dan are normally honorary grades, given for loyalty and contribution to the art.

2. At what Dan level can we teach, or be a Master?

Dan is a term for rank achievement generally via skill and knowledge. It is NOT a mark of instructional or intellectual ability, let alone capability.

Instructor status can be awarded to deserving candidates who have satisfied the requirements, normally via a set curriculum given at a course that can last 1 day to 2 weeks.

Assistant Instructors can be from 3rd Geup level onwards.

Full Instructors can be from 2nd to 3rd Dan; International Instructors can be certified from 4th Dan.

Master Instructors can be certified from 5th Dan (junior Master level), although they are normally awarded from 6th Dan (full Master level).

Grand Masters (GM) can be recognized from 8th Dan (juniors). GMs are traditionally awarded to those who have not only mastered the art (Master qualification), but also to those who have understood and enriched the art, and helped in its continued development and promotion.

3. Who can issue said certification?

Normally one needs to be a Master to grade (6th Dan). Some organizations allow 4th Dans's to recommend, but normally you would need a minimum of 6th Dan to sign and authenticate the grade. Normally one can grade up to one level below one's own, i.e. a 6th Dan can grade to 5th; a 7th Dan can grade to 6th, etc.

To further add weight to the rank, it helps if the issuing body is either one of the recognized world bodies (e.g. ITF or WTF; Korea KiDo, etc.) or one of the founding bodies (e.g. ChungDoKwan™, KHA, MooDukKwan, etc.) of the art. Obviously, the Examining Master should hold credible and genuine certification from at least one of these bodies him/her self.

4. Why is there a growing concern over certification?

Simply put, fraud, resulting from greed and ego. Giving out rank is now a big business. So big in fact, that we must watch out for Dan mills or worst, scams. Always have a simple checklist to verify the authenticity of various claims:

a) the cert is given out by a panel or committee of lower Dan ranks. This is becoming common, but this does not make it right (e.g. Can ten 1st Dans really authenticate a person to 9th Dan?);

b) the cert is given out by a grand sounding body that may have some genuine (trying to be polite here, ok?) martial artists but some sign off on styles or even arts that they are not qualified under;

c) the cert is signed by someone who themselves have suspect certification (what value a cert signed by a fraud?);

d) the cert is in the name of a "paper" organization, i.e. one that does nothing for its members (i.e. a paper mill), probably headed by an unqualified head;

e) some clever persons have taken paper bodies to a great extreme, e.g. I could go to Korea, and register several companies to sound like KMA bodies, e.g. "ConDoKwan HapKiDo", "FakeDoKwan TaeKwonDo". As an added touch, I could also register a quasi governing body, e.g. "Korean Martial Arts Masters Association" that will act as a form of national governing body. Of course since all these companies or business are legally registered under South Korean government, by law any certs issued under their name can be said to be "Korean certs" that are government recognized and "legal";

f) the cert is in the name of a recognized organization, e.g. KukKiWon, but the design and contents of the cert are different from the original (it's still a fake, good only for toilet paper);

g) the cert is in the name of a recognized organization, and looks real. If so, write off to the issuing body to verify its authenticity.

Any real Master or Examiner will not object to you verifying his status, just ask politely.

5. How come some 9th or 10th Dans are around 30 years old?

Well, it could be a religious thing; they woke up one morning, and God told them that they were anointed as Grand Masters.

Seriously, some persons (including talented ones) decide to "found" their own art or style, and as founders, some organizations (for a fee) recognize them as founders, normally at 9th or 10th Dan level. Of course, some may have less than 10 years training (if at all) and questionable understanding of even the basics. However, if you want fast and immediate certification, simply apply to these "founders" with (a lot of) your money.

Generally, 8th Dans are not awarded to those below 42 years, normally 44 years; 9th Dan to those above 50 years, and 10th Dan to those at least 60 years old.

6. Why do some genuinely qualified Masters step away from their "mother" bodies?

There are a number of reasons, i.e.

a) money, in terms of membership fees (too high)

b) services, in terms of non-value for fees paid (too few)

c) politics (too much)

d) ego (way too much)

e) a change of personal direction, etc.

Some reasons may be genuine; just ask politely. However, the master does have the prerogative to decline to answer. In which case, you have to make up your own mind.

7. Which certificates are internationally recognized?

At the end of the day, it depends on the individual's standard and attitude as well as the person asking if you bring your rank certificate to train in another gym.

Some Masters of the same world organizations don't even recognize the same organization certificate! Some world bodies brand images have suffered because of lowering of standards and "giving" out of Dan certs.

At the end of the day, unless you are an Instructor, don't worry too much about the number of stripes on your belt. Focus on your skills, knowledge and attitude. Find a good instructor who is capable and recognized, and do your best to learn.

8. Why is proper or premium certification important?

  • Certs offer a renewed emphasis on training, e.g. another worthy goal to achieve;
  • Certs demonstrate minimum competence or mastering of set identifiable basic levels of ability in the art;
  • Certs can sometimes identify outstanding practitioners of the art, egg Citations, "Outstanding student", etc.;
  • Certs improve skills and knowledge;
  • Certs demonstrate an individual's drive, initiative and accomplishment spirit;
  • Certs demonstrate accountability to a governing entity;
  • Certs also demonstrate an individual's commitment to the art and profession (if Instructing);
  • Certs establish linage to the Art and one's roots;
  • Certs enhances the image of the Association, Art, and Profession as a whole as being standards and quality driven;
  • Certs contribute to building self esteem and confidence in the individual;
  • Certs help build trust, respect, and confidence from the students and public;
  • Certs set an example and promote a culture of continuous learning and achievement;
  • Certs help establish professional credentials;
  • Certs improve career opportunities and advancement;
  • Certs help prepare one for greater responsibilities;
  • Certs offer greater professional recognition from one's peers.

9. What certification should I get? O

ur answer to this is pretty straightforward:

a) Aim for the best.

b) If this is not possible or impractical, get certified from someone who has him or herself been certified by the best.

You will need to do some initial research to establish which Bodies or Associations are recognized as the best. Some bodies may be the best in a particular aspect of an Art; you may then need to seek certification from another body that is recognized as the best in the other area that is seen as important, e.g. The KukKiWon is the governing body for Olympic TaeKwonDo, but is not seen by many as being the authority in traditional TaeKwonDo (the original Kwans are seen as such).

Again, due to historical or evolutionary reasons, there may be 2 bodies for a particular martial art seen as the pinnacle for certification and membership, e.g. Between them, the DaeHan KiDoHae (Korea KiDo Association) and the DaeHan HapKiDo HyupHae (Korea HapKiDo Federation) control over 80% of all HapKiDo in Korea. Membership to either body is very prestigious and virtually mandatory to have standing with one's peers. Membership with both is very, very rare.

10. Why do some MA Instructors claim academic certification?

This is a very odd and somewhat growing controversial issue. There seems to be a growing trend for Instructors to claim an academic title (e.g. "Doctor" or "Professor" or a lower academic degree e.g. MBA, BSc, etc.) in their MA. If they received their academic title for an (accredited) academic study from an accredited University, then fine.

Otherwise it's mostly a self promoting PR exercise or worse, another con job; facts:

  • There are precious few academic Universities that issue academic degrees in the MAs. One is the Kyung Hee in the ROK. Even then, their course content is heavily dosed with Sports Science and Teaching methodologies;
  • I believe that in many countries, the use of academic titles without the proper and recognized credentials is an actual crime;
  • Most of these "professors" or "doctors" don't even have a proper thesis, let alone a dissertation. A MBA thesis can run from 50 to 80 pages, including references, graphs, maps, photos, etc. A Doctorate dissertation can run to 200 pages. This does not take into account the oral presentation and defense, which can run to 3 hours! Some leading Universities even insist on papers following specially established ISO standards (e.g. ISO 7144; 2145; 690; 31, etc.);
  • A certificate that tries to pass itself as from a recognized institution but is not is a FAKE or counterfeit – beware;
  • If the issuing institution is not recognized or accredited by its own government (Ministry of Education or equivalent) what value is that degree?;
  • Again, an accredited institution may issue actually issue a MA degree, but is the actual or specific course itself accredited?;
  • The normal time required for a MBA is usually 2 years full time study; for a Doctorate, it can be up to 4 years. Yet these MA "geniuses" are able to receive their academic papers with months of applying (and paying the fee of course);
  • If a government accredited University officially appoints you as a Professor, then you have the legitimate right to use that title as long as you have tenure with the University. Once you leave, or worse, have no tenure, you aren't a "Professor" any more and cannot call yourself one unless you want to mislead people.