For many people, martial arts is one unified style, which they call “karate,” and includes learning a variety of self-defense moves. When students decide to change martial arts schools, they are often told they must “start over” at white belt. And while it is important for a student to learn all lower rank information of a new style, it’s less frustrating when they can merge into the new system without feeling that their previous training has been for nothing.

Martial arts classes are typically technique-based training systems where everyone, no matter the age, learns the same things. The students are taught the information required for testing and then progress to the next rank. This system has been in place for many years and is done by all martial arts organizations. However, the actual information being taught is different in all styles and can make the transition to a new school and style more difficult.

The SIDEKICKS program is a skills-based martial arts curriculum. Within each age-group, student must master a certain set of skills in order to progress to the next level. This developmental approach to training involves the students learning skills that are relevant to their stage of development. This ensures that these skills will be the most beneficial in helping them achieve the correct technique for the style of martial arts they are enrolled in.

However, getting a student from a different style up to speed in a new style can be a challenge for instructors. They key is for programs to have a plan in place for this and therefore create more successful transitions. The best starting point is for the instructor to assess the student’s current knowledge. In the SKIDEKICKS program this begins with a pre-evaluation to determine if the student can master the skills for their current stage of development and rank within the system. After that, the instructor evaluates the student’s martial arts technique according to their organization’s style guidelines.

Once a full evaluation of the student’s skills is complete, the instructor then makes the decision on the best way to merge the student into the new system. This usually involves a balance of bringing the student up to speed on skills and techniques that they are lacking and giving them new information that will be challenging as well. One of the most important aspects of this transition is to make sure the parents are educated on the new system and how their child will be transitioned into it. Having a solid system in place for this will make it an easier move for all involved.

When transferring to a new martial arts school it is important to remember that there will be a learning curve for the new information. In addition to this, although the belt color is traditionally used to show status and the time someone has spent in training, it doesn’t always give a good reference point from one style to another. The most important thing for children and parents to remember is that mastering a solid set of skills and techniques is far more beneficial than any belt color could portray.

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