How Phases Work

Teaching a room full of student at different skill levels has vexed instructors for years. What is the best way to keep everyone progressing towards their next rank yet have the least number of instructors on the deck? How do you adjust your lesson when key student levels don’t show up thus sending your plan into a tailspin? Over the last decade, there has been a movement towards Phase Curriculum. Implementation of this concept has been perfected over the years and it helps the instructor plan his class better.

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

Black belt teacher helping a yellow belt child

First, you must understand the concept. Phase Curriculum is a new paradigm for teaching and ranking. It disassociates material from the rank. So Technique 4 is no longer a Purple Belt technique. It is a technique in Phase 2. It also requires each rank to have the same amount of material. Phases don’t work in an increasing curve of material. Each rank must be teachable in the same time block – usually four months. In a sense, it remakes each Phase a college class.

Next you must understand how the concept is implemented. Each Phase is a block of time, say summer or fall. This block of time is assigned a Phase, like Phase 1 or Phase 4. These Phases are snippets of material that are the focus of instruction during that time period. When the time period or block ends, there is a rank test. Then the next Phase begins. If Phase 2 completes, then the next Phase is 3.

How does it equate to rank colors? This is where the concept gets tricky. Our first three ranks are Candidate ranks. These allow the new student to get comfortable with balance, terms and punching. They are very simple ranks – lower than beginner is – they are introductory sessions. For us, these classes remain the same, outside the Phase circuit.

We start the Phase Curriculum at Purple belt. The former Second Purple material is now Phase 1. First Purple material is now Phase 2, and so on. After you graduate from the introductory cycle, thus you are Purple Belt; you join the Beginner class. Most likely, they are not on Phase 1. Regardless, you join the class and learn say Phase 4 material. Normally, that’s Blue belt material. However, at the end of the cycle, you get promoted to your next rank. You still need Phases 1-3 before you can change classes. The next Phase is 1, and now you learn that material. Other students who finished all the Phases at this level are now Green Belt and move to the Intermediate class.

The classes are divided into ability ranges, namely Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. This equates to Purple-Blue belts, Green-Brown belts, and Black belts. This prevents a new Purple belt from learning difficult Brown belt material. The difference between Purple and Blue belt material is minimal so learning that material “out of order” shouldn’t be an issue. And “out of order” is really a subjective decision anyway. Someone long ago decided to do it that way and poof, it’s “traditional”.

By the time you reach your Black Belt test, you still have all the same material as if you went “in order”. But it has tremendous benefits for the instructor. Now, he only has to prepare for one “level” of material. Everyone in the same class is learning exactly the same thing. The three higher-ranking folks aren’t learning a different kata from the lower ranking folks. Everyone can work together on the same thing at the same time. Now the instructor doesn’t have to split his or her time between two or three groups in the same class. The instructor devotes their full time to all the students at the same time. This is much more efficient.

Here are the highlights of Phase Curriculum. First, classes are divided by similar skill-levels and everyone learns the same material at the same time. Next, those that complete each segment can advanced to the next skill level class, or stay in the class for the next phase. Rank is measured by time and material, but the material is not bound to a particular rank. Finally, by Black Belt, all material is covered.

That’s Phase Curriculum in a nutshell. Its benefits to you are more instructor time and regular advancement dates …and a less stressed instructor.