Friday, 8 June 2012

Do You Like Being Watched?

As a martial art Choi Kwang-Do is very traditional in that the curriculum is taught to students defined by belt level. Students progress through the curriculum by learning the various components of the martial art then presenting their skills at gradings. If they successfully demonstrate the required standard and ability for the belt level they are promoted to the next advanced belt rank.

However, I personally think that gradings are important, but not solely for the challenge of rank advancement. Imagine you were to enlist the services of a personal fitness trainer. As part of your exercise regime they may ask you to keep a food diary for an agreed period of time, say one week. From your food diary they can analyse your eating patterns, look closer at the content of your diet and then provide nutritional advice to help you eat healthier as a way of complimenting your physical training programme.

Now, you don’t want to have someone else look at what you eat in a normal week and say, “my word, you do eat lots of biscuits, don’t you? You need to cut down!”

So, knowing that you’re diet is going to be analysed, in that particular week you suddenly find a liking for carrot sticks…

Okay, maybe carrot sticks aren’t your snack of choice, but I’m sure you get the point here: the mere fact of knowing that your actions are to be analysed means that, whether consciously or unconsciously, when being watched you change your actions.

This is why gradings are so important.

The majority of students and instructors will become slightly nervous, stressed or anxious on the lead up to and even during gradings (and yes, that does include me). This is a natural part of the process, and the test is really how well we manage those feelings, which does become easier with time. Training from White Belt to Black Belt, a duration that could range from 3½ - 5 years or more, allows a fair amount of time to develop these stress management skills.

So firstly, gradings provide a moderately stressful environment whereby you can learn to manage stress while aiming to perform at your best.

The Hawthorne Effect refers to the change in behaviour in response to participation and attention received. Studies conducted between 1927 and 1932 at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company, Illinois looked at the relationship between productivity and worker environment. The original study looked at levels of lighting, and went on to include factors such as quantity and duration of break times and temperature.

However, the findings were that regardless of which and how the factors were changed, the productivity of the workers involved in the study improved. The reason being the workers knew they were participating in an experiment and that the researchers were watching and taking interest in them. I would argue that it is much the same for students taking gradings.

Secondly, when taking a grading, the aspect of being observed and assessed helps you to simultaneously perform at and experience an increased level of efficiency and proficiency.

Jason Wright is a 5th Degree Black Belt and Master Instructor in the martial art Choi Kwang-Do. For further information on Choi Kwang-Do classes in Ealing, West London visit

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