Is “Ranking Up” Summer Camp a Bad Idea?

undefinedRecently I was talking to the kids in class about our upcoming themed summer camps. I said there would be Rank Camp (we’re actually calling it “Ranking Up”), and explained they’d be able to attend this camp, work hard at the required techniques for their next stripe or belt, and get promoted at the end of the camp.

As expected, there were some positive noises and smiles from among the group, so I asked, “How many of you would be interested in Rank Camp?” A good number shot their hands up in the air, but one student in the front row crossed his arms and scowled. So I asked, “How many would NOT like to go to Rank Camp?” – and that student raised his hand.


It’s always satisfying when young students show they’ve been paying attention to your teachings…except when it makes you feel you haven’t been paying attention!


“But why??!” I asked in shock. Usually the one thing kids are most eager to do is get their next rank (preferably soon, and with the least amount of work possible! 😉 ). This young man said, “Working for rank is what you do in regular classes! Summer Camp is for different stuff.”

Well, that’s true, I admitted. “Besides,” he went on, “a good karate student isn’t supposed to be thinking about getting their next rank. They’re just supposed to be training hard to get better at techniques.” Very true, I had to agree – and I realized he was repeating back to me something I’d told the kids many times, and had probably said directly to him in the past.

It’s always satisfying when young students show they’ve been paying attention to your teachings…except when it makes you feel you haven’t been paying attention!

So is Ranking Up camp a bad idea? I guess I’d have to say, as traditional martial arts instructors in a non-traditional Western culture, we have to be realistic. Many of our best students struggle to make it to enough classes, because they’re involved in too many competing activities. Yet they remain dedicated. Some of them may attend this camp to catch up on what they missed during a sports season, or get ahead in anticipation of their next scheduling conflict. Or maybe they fell behind because of illness, or schoolwork.

Other students come to the dojo very goal-oriented, very focused on rank – and as much as we’d like them to learn a different attitude, they won’t learn it if they don’t stay with training. Those students will find some excitement and motivation at this camp, and we’ll have more chances to influence their mindset.

Still other students simply enjoy training for its own sake – just as we want them to do! And they’ll enjoy training at summer camp, too: Another win!

So in the end, I have to say it’s a good idea – and I hope we’ll see you (or your children) at Ranking Up summer camp.

But what do you think? Feel free to comment!

— Sensei Didi

To pre-register for Ranking Up summer camp, click here!

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