I have been studying combat sports and martial arts non stop since 1982 and in that time, I have earned instructor/black belt ranks in 6 different martial arts styles and trained extensively in many others. And over all the years of me being involved in martial arts, I have heard some really crazy perspectives about what most people think that it takes to become a black belt, and what being a black belt means. Here are a few of the more colorful ones:

• You will never lose a fight and can beat up anybody easily
• You have to register your hands as a lethal weapon with the police department (my personal favorite).
• You know everything there is to know on the day you earned your black belt
• You possess some ancient secret knowledge that was passed down from one ancient grandmaster to another.
• You are a Ninja/Samuri and have all sorts of secret weapons
• You still have fighting skills even if you stop training for 20 years

Now, they are obviously all ridiculous and quite comical but let’s talk about what a Black Belt is and what it takes to earn one. From the start, we should clarify that the requirements to get a black belt vary dramatically in each style of martial arts, just like the requirements are dramatically differently between instructors/organizations within the same style. Why? Money, politics, quality of the instructor and sadly, the human ego.

So, what is a Black Belt?
• Someone who opened their mind and spent a specific amount of time going through an apprenticeship to learn a specific skill from a qualified teacher
• Someone who was dedicated to their specific style and learned the fundamentals of that style
• Someone who has enough understanding of their style that they can pass it on at a basic level
• Someone who can perform basic techniques under the amount of stress that is indicated for that style.

Now, in my opinion these are the only things required for anyone to reach the black belt level in any style of martial art:

• Dedication
• Effort
• Discipline
• A “Never Quit” Attitude
• Being Coachable
• Someone with some leadership skills

I have spent the vast majority of my life dedicated to the martial arts and as long as I have breath
in my lungs and a heart that beats, I will continue to do so. Why? Because it fundamentally
changed my life for the better in so many positive ways and now, I am in the wonderful position
where I can help my students experience how martial arts can fundamentally change their lives
for the better.