Our instructors all have earned black belts in the traditional Korean style of Tang Soo Do. This is very similar to other Korean styles such as Moo Duk Kwan and Tae Kwon Do ("TKD"). The primary difference is that TKD is a more stand-up fighting art focused on kicks and punches. Tang Soo Do is more balanced between hands, feet, elbows, kicks, etc. The study of Tang Soo Do also includes instruction on five traditional elements of martial arts. These include:
o "One Steps" (self-defense)
o "Grab Arts" (self-defense)
o Sparring (Point Sparring, not full contact)
We use a smaller number of belts of similar color that other arts employ. Students begin as white belts, then yellow/gold, then green. Our senior belts are blue, brown, and black. Dr. Kennedy was awarded his black belt by Dr. Robert Suggs in 1982 and has been teaching for over 25 years. Mr. Hathaway also earned is black belt from Dr. Suggs and has been teaching for 17 years. Both Dr. Kennedy and Mr. Hathaway currently hold the rank of Sa Dan (4th degree). Other black belts often contribute in teaching the classes. Our group in northern Virginia is known as Stratford Karate. The lineage of Stratford Karate back to the founder of the Tang Soo Do style is provided here. Senior students are encouraged to visit other instructors' classes to learn a wide breadth of techniques.
We respect the accomplishment evidenced by belts awarded in other styles by other instructors. However, advancement in our style depends on learning our techniques. Students are welcome to wear a belt awarded by another style in our class, Students attend classes with students at about the same level of knowledge of our style's technique.
Our classes are taught in English using some traditional martial arts terminology. For additional information on terminology, click here.
Our style uses only five color belts: white, yellow, green, blue, brown, and black. Therefore we expect more for each promotion. However, in some cases, a stripe of the next higher belt color is used to indicate progress, approximately halfway, toward the next belt, for example, a yellow belt with a green stripe. Advancement is based on the student learning and demonstrating techniques of the next belt level during class and in an in-class test. Advancement is based on performance, not on attending a minimum number of classes. Each advancement to the next belt level generally requires learning two more katas (or forms), self-defense techniques (three more progressively advanced one-step sparring techniques and three more Jujitsu-based grab arts), and for some levels, additional blocks, punches, and kicks. The advancement is based on the student knowing the material. There is no expected or scheduled promotion tests. Sometime it takes 12-16 weeks for each of the first two promotions for adults and usually longer for younger students. Learning martial arts takes time and practice. There are no short cuts, no royal road.
The web site is updated with pictures as we complete testing. In the spring of 2011, we produced a new 3rd Degree (Dan) Black Belt, a new Black Belt, and a new Blue Belt (pictures here) We also participated in the Memorial Day parade in Falls Church (pictures here). Two previous promotions to yellow belt are show here. In 2010, the senior instructors were promoted to 4th Degree by their original instructor, Dr. Suggs. In 2009, three students were promoted to Black Belt. In 2008, we had a major Black Belt test with two promoted to Black Belt, three promoted to Black Belt second degree, and one to third degree. Pictures are available here. In the fall of 2006, Mike and Michelle became our first teenage Black Belts. (Pictures are available here (large files). )