Rosemount ATA FAQ

What is the significance of the black stripe on a belt?
There are two possible Black stripes that you will see on a colored belt. One runs the length of the belt, and the other runs around one end.
A Black Stripe Running Lengthwise:
When you see a colored belt with a Black stripe that runs the entire length of a colored belt this indicates that the student is enrolled in the Single Weapons Club (SWC). This denotes the program that provides single weapons instruction for a modest premium above the Basic tuition.
A Gold Stripe Running Lengthwise:
When you see a colored belt with a Gold stripe that runs the entire length of a colored belt this indicates that the student is enrolled in the Double Weapons Club (DWC). This denotes the program that provides double weapons instruction.
A Black Stripe Running Around One End of a Belt:
When you see a student with a Black stripe wrapped around the end of a colored belt this is a secondary indication of their rank. All colored belt ranks after a White belt have two possible classifications, Decided or Recommended status. Students who advance to a belt with this black stripe are classified as a Decided rank and students who do not have this black stripe are a Recommended rank. The two levels exist to allow a student to make a half step rank progressions when appropriate. This happens for a few reasons described below.

Tiny Tigers (ages 4 - 6) advance in half-steps starting at the rank of Green belt because their young age requires that they have more time to learn all of the curriculum.

If a Junior or Adult student attends regular classes and works hard, yet still performs at a level that is less than the minimum equirement for a full step rank advancement, the testing judges may award a half step advancement. For example a Green Belt Decided rank advancing to a Purple Belt Recommended rank has progressed a half step and a Green Belt Decided rank advancing to a Purple Belt Decided rank has advanced a Full Step. There is also a mandatory half step rank advancement that begins at the rank of Brown belt and continues to Black Belt decided. This is done to increasing the time on the floor and deepen the level of martial arts understanding and proficiency.
What is the significance of the colored stripes on a belt?
For White through Green belt there are three stripes used to indicate a student is test ready. The stripes represent they have met the minimum requiremtn for Forms, Self defense / One Steps, and Technique. When students receive these stripes they have demonstrated in class thet they have sufficient ability to pass a belt test. While this is not a guarantee they will pass, it does indicate that they have the ability to pass.

For purple belts and higher there is a fourth stripe used for indicating a student has met the requirements for board breaking.
What is the order of the colored belts?
There are many different belt rank systems but the ATA colored belt ranks progress in the following order. I have added the general training group category we use in our school as well.
  • Beginners: White, Orange, Yellow
  • Intermediate: Camo, Green, Purple
  • Advanced: Blue, Brown, Red, Red-Black
How many times a week do I need to attend class?
In order to have an expectation of testing for rank we require the 4 to 6 year olds (referred to as Tiny Tigers) to attend classes once per week. We recommend that they attend twice a week, and we welcome them to attend as many as three classes a week since there is no added cost to do so. Three classes weekly can be too much for some younger children.

For Juniors and Adults we require students to attend an average of 2 classes per week. Classes are offered 4 times a week and we encourage people to attend as many as they would like to since there is no added cost to do so.
What are the stars and how are they used?
We have a character reward program that allows parents to fill out a 4 x 5 Star Slip describing what character trait their son or daughter has demonstrated to deserve recognition. The traits vary based on each parent's discretion, and these are read in front of the entire class, which always resulting in applause. This is a very powerful way to reinforce positive behavior. For each Star Slip the student receives we supply them a small adhesive star to be placed on a patch which they have been given. The patches are called Victory Patches and there is a series of these which students earn as they accumulate stars displayed on each patch.
How long does it take to earn a Black Belt?
Juniors and adults can attain their 1st Degree Black Belt in a minimum of two years. That assumes they never miss a belt test, scheduled every two months, and that they pass every test.

For Tiny Tigers the training to Black Belt takes longer because, due to their shorter attention spans, they only learn about half of each ranking Form material per two month training cycle. The time it takes them to advance to Black Belt varies based on what age they are when they started because they move up to the Junior's program when they turn 7, and this accelerates their advancement. Tiny Tigers tend to take about 2.5 years to attain 1st degree Black Belt.
What is a "no change"?
When a student does not perform at the level required for advancement we do not call it a failure, we call it a No-Change. This terminology is used to emphasize that this is simply an indication that they need more time on the training floor before they can advance. We routinely have a small percentage of students who receive a No-Change at every test cycle. This is normal for any true learning environment. If everybody in the studio attends testing and everybody receives a new belt, then the testing process is questionable and the rank attained has little worth.

The most important part of a No-Change is how the parents react. If the parents make excuses and find fault with the testing process the child will not learn to take responsibility for the own performance. Children lean many more things from their parents than what their parents teach consciously. They will do what you model, so please, when speaking with your child try to focus on what they could have done better. If you have questions or concerns about the testing process contact Mr. Schneider or Mr. Johnson and set up a meeting. They will make every effort to help you understand their rational and decision making process. The next section is a very important explanation of how many schools have dropped the No-Change from their rank advancement process. Please read it carefully.

I heard many ATA schools no longer test their students. Instead they use terms like promotion or graduation to indicate advancement. What is the difference? There are many schools which have abandoned the idea of testing. They use the term Graduation, Promotion, or other terms to indicate an automatic award of new belt rank based on calendar dates or class attendance. In these environments there is no minimum skill level required because every student simply pays for and receives a new belt at some interval. These schools are often referred to as Belt Mills because the belts are not awarded based on any demonstrated measureable improvement in martial art skills. While proponents of this system have many justifications for using this approach, I find it interesting that in discussions with their clients they seldom mention the significant revenue increase this method provides compared to the testing business model. Belts awarded in schools that use the Promotion / Graduation model are of dubious martial arts value, and this quickly becomes apparent to the students in these schools.

In case the problem with this approach is still unclear, consider that in all academic areas of life we see the testing model applied whenever proof of learning is considered important. Pursuits ranging from obtaining a driver's license, attaining a CPR certification, obtaining a gun permit, and many other areas where expertise at some level is important all use testing as proof of competency. This is the only way to systematically award recognition to a an individual or a group of students and maintain any degree of legitimacy. Since martial arts are presented as granting us the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones, why would we feel proof of learning is any less important than the many other topics listed? To those who advocate Promotion or Graduation there seems to be little they can offer to refute this argument. When you peel away the excuses, they are simply selling belts.
What about kids with special needs?
A legitimate martial arts school is one that sets a standard that must be met for a student to advance in rank. But professionally run schools also take into consideration ways to accommodate students with medically diagnosed learning disabilities such as Autism, ADD, ADHD, etc. In addition to diagnosed medical conditions, well run schools also take into account the wide range of athleticism that exists between kids, lowering or raising the bar accordingly to apply an appropriate level of expectation based on natural abilities. The term for this approach is called Personal Victory and this is an important part of our school.
How often do you test for advancement?
We run our program on a 2 month testing cycle. Students who attend classes regularly can expect to test every 7 to 8 weeks. With hard work and commitment Junior aged students (7 to 12) and Adult students can expect to attain a first degree Black Belt in about two years.

Children ages four to six take closer to three years to attain Black Belt because they learn the material in smaller segments.
How can I know I'm ready for belt test?
Near the end of each training cycle each training group is assessed for test readiness through a process called Mock testing. Students are required to demonstrate that they can successfully execute the material required for advancement in front of classmates and spectators. Students will receive a stripe on their belt for each of the areas they will be tested on, and this serves as a visual indication that they are test ready.

Students will often discover that no matter how prepared they feel prior to Mock testing, there is always a sharp increase in learning in the final few weeks of the cycle as they push themselves to be prepared and do well at the test.
Does the school participate in tournaments?
In the early days of our school we participated in all of the regional tournaments. I personally have been a successful competitor, with a triple crown in an open tournament Jamaica in 1999, an ATA Minnesota State Champ title in 2005, and several other minor achievements. During this time I saw the negative impact that competition can have on our students. As a result I decided a number of years ago that we would stop attending or promoting tournaments. Since then our school has been a healthier place. Below are some of the observations I made in coming to that conclusion. Please read carefully if you are contemplating attending a tournament.

Judging Bias: Judging bias has been reported often by parents, and they would often bring me video recorded evidence to support their claims. I have also seen it personally on more than one occasion. The general consensus is that winning competitors tend to have their own school's Black Belts judging in their competition ring. This is more obvious than they must realize and it creates a lot of hard feelings. It leaves a lot of parents struggling to explain the outcome because it's one thing to teach your kids they can't always win, but it's another matter altogether trying to explain judging bias. When this happens kids can become very discouraged and lose all interest in their martial arts, not just in competition. You can tell them winning is not important, but when they observe that they did not win under unfair circumstances (kids are not stupid ) they become much more discouraged. Winning can also affect the interaction between the winners and losers here in the school and this creates drama long after the tournament.

Sparring Intensity: Sparring is very intense at tournaments, and face cages and chest guards are mandatory for this reason ($55.00 each). We received numerous complaints from parents about how hard the other kids were striking, and the fact that there were no warnings from the judges when excessive force was used. We value your safety, and since by ATA mandate it is by definition "Point Sparring" we emphasize and enforce the importance of control when trying to score points. For this reason we limit the intensity of sparring in our school to minimize injuries, and we have done so very effectively.

Form Memorization: We do not teach the entire form to our students because it creates too much emphasis on memorization and not enough emphasis on technique. The struggle to memorize a longer form creates a lot of stress for kids and adults to be ready to test. Since memorization never saved a life, but technique does, we decided to teach only about 75% of the forms, since the repetition within each form ensures that all of the techniques are taught. Since we adopted this practice our students have become more fluent in their self defense techniques.

School to School Drama: Whenever you go to a tournament somebody will come back with an observation that another school teaches a technique differently. Even with all of the excellent documentation in the ATA curriculum, there will always be "Instructor Differences", and and there are even Regional Differences. This has created a lot of conflict between many ATA schools, and for this reason our ATA Certified Instructor Manual clearly states that we are never to provide instruction or correct another instructor's students. It still happens all of the time at tournaments when a student who does not win approaches a Ring Judge and asks what they did wrong, or what they should have done better. Sometimes a Ring Judge will even initiate the discussion. It always ends in friction between various school's instructors and students when a student thinks they were taught incorrectly.

I was judging a ring once when an attractive woman approached me afterwards and asked what she should have done differently. I politely gave her the proper ATA Instructor Manual answer (see your instructor). Shen immediately turned and went to another judge with the same question. He threw out his chest with his hands on his hips and waxed on and on about how she should have been taught differently. He was posturing and strutting around like a Banti rooster and it almost made me nauseous. It was a blatant violation of policy by a high ranking instructor, and one can only guess how much drama he created between that woman and her instructor, all for the sake of his over inflated ego.

Time Commitment: It's also a big time commitment. Typically competition is set up to start with the youngest and lowest ranks at 9:00 in the morning, and then work through the older and higher ranks throughout the day, ending around 3:00 or 4:00. This means juniors of higher ranks have a long wait and Black Belts and adults are the last to compete. You can try to off-set this by showing up later, but you may miss your event since the timing depends on how many students compete and how many Black Belts turn out to judge. Since people who have finished competing start to leave throughout the day, those who compete later do so with fewer spectators or qualified judges. It has a very anti-climactic feel to it.

I would strongly discourage you from going to any tournaments for these reasons. Please give this a lot of thought and stop by the office and see Mr. Schneider if you want to discuss it further.