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American Karate & Martial Science

Student Transfers

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How Do We Handle Students From Other Systems?

We live in an age of upward mobility. With that comes the opportunity for transfer. Not just to a new department or division but facility as well. We often find ourselves moving from town to town, city to city, or state to state. For the martial arts practitioner this means uprooting yourself or being uprooted. If you love the martial arts this means that you will have to find another dojo to train in.

This could cause some minor set backs or major decision making, especially if you can not relocate to a school that provides instruction in the same or similar style or system! Traditionally if you found yourself facing this type of change you would also be facing the fact that you may have to start all over as a white belt in this new style. It is not uncommon for a “classical” practitioner of a Korean style to have to begin all over in a Japanese or Chinese style or vice-versa. Sometimes even within a particular style you may have to begin at the novice level. This is to be expected. In my opinion, to humble one’s self to this builds character. The instructor would see this in you and you would find yourself advancing up the ladder in this new style or system in no time!

There is also another option for those that find themselves in this predicament. American style martial arts schools often called “Freestyle”. Most American style martial artists come from several classical martial arts backgrounds. These instructors have a well rounded knowledge and/or experience in classical art forms. With this understanding they will be able to decide whether or not you need to start at the beginning, drop down one belt in rank or maintain what you currently have.

But what if I’m already at black belt rank? There are also instructor options here as well. Regardless if you come from a classical or eclectic background you may still have to start all over from the beginning. If you have been out of it for 5 years or so you can pretty much bet that you will start over. If you have maintained your studies and are merely a black belt, the instructor may chose to allow you to maintain your belt and learn his system from the beginning.

What if I have Dan (degree) rank on my black belt? The same applies. Be prepared to at least start over with a clean black belt. It is not about taking away from you what you have already earned. It is about humbling yourself to the learning of something new or different.


Thomas L. Williams, Chief Instructor

American Karate & Martial Science