Dear Black Belt Candidates,

Congratulations are in order. So few people make it to this point, this close to Black Belt. Typically, a martial arts school is happy if 10% of their students make it to this point, we are lucky to see that number much, much higher. However, I am horrifically stunned when someone gets all the way to this point, but doesn’t test, yet it happens every year. Imagine earning a degree, getting to the final exam, having passed all the quizzes and then deciding the degree isn’t worth getting. What a waste. Perhaps worse are those who earn their Black Belt but never experience the amazing education and training that occurs after earning their Black Belt. That’s like getting a doctorate degree and then never practicing medicine. Remember, this is not a final exam, it is an entrance exam.

Earning this rank has helped so many. Some accomplish great things, some seek to live a simple life, all find happiness in their pursuits because they know how to work hard and persevere until they achieve their goals. There are over 180 names on this list, we look forward to adding yours. For all of them, they say education is easier, personal life is easier, stress is easier to deal with, all because they earned their Black Belts. I’d love to hear how it helps you as you move forward in life as well.

Many people feel guilty when they quit their training. They know it breaks my heart and is disappointing to all of us. But you need to know this, we will always care for you, and when the day comes that you (erroneously) think you can’t learn more here, and you quit, we will hold no hard feelings towards you, and instead hope you will stay in touch and let us know how your life is doing. Earning a Black Belt here puts your name beside other warriors on a historic list. It will be there forever. I try to have this discussion with all students of high level. The ones who I don’t get to do this with, end up trying to legitimize their feelings of guilt and that’s not what anyone wants. You are family and are always welcome here.

Now, let us get this test out of the way so you can get started on that Second Degree Black Belt.

For your Black Belt you are required to write an essay, around 500 words. In the past, I’ve read some great ones that bring tears to the eyes of everyone in attendance. I’ve read some that needed to be rewritten a couple of times. I decided I wanted to make this as easy as possible, so included is a series of bullet points. If you write your paper answering the bullet points, the essay sort of writes itself. I’m here to help if you need it. By the way, you will be reading it aloud to the panel of judges and onlookers.

People often ask what the test is going to be like. We’ve done it a lot of different ways. Some have done a dramatic presentation, acting out roles and demonstrating their skills. Others have set up entertaining presentations so those lay-people in attendance, who may not know what they are looking at, can be entertained and impressed. I personally want you to show your proficiency and in a way that your family and friends, who may not understand what they are looking at, will be able to appreciate what you have accomplished. I’ve found that the best way to do this is just to go through 100% of our curriculum. I will direct it and describe what you are doing, so the onlookers can understand how awesome you are.

I won’t be asking for you to demonstrate all the electives but be prepared with something. I would encourage you to decide on something special to do and practice it a thousand times before test day. Perhaps you will do a weapons form, a short specialty form built from HYPER techniques, a dynamic sparring match, a ground fighting match, perhaps an epic sword battle or an impressive series of board breaks. Get some friends to grab you from different angles and work all our grappling or grab defenses. Have something ready please.

Finally, what happens next?

Being a Black Belt is like writing a book, earning it is just like sharpening your pencil. Black Bet is where the real education begins.

There are 4 semesters to get to Second Degree. Each semester is 6 months long instead of 3 like they were in the colored belt ranks. You will learn new punches, new kicks, new pressure points, take downs and grappling as well as new forms. You must maintain the old stuff too, so it just gets better and better.

I’ve never seen one of our students who earned their Second Degree Black Belts who I didn’t think were twice as good as they were the day they earned their First Degree. I hope you will be one of those. On the day you will be testing for your First Degree, there will be a lot of nervous Black Belts, earning their next tip, and a few earning their next degree. I look forward to the day to earn yours. At First Degree Black Belt, there is no title. If you decide to follow the path of an instructor, you will be referred to as Sensei, which translates into “One who came before,” and is used for teacher and grandparent in Japan. The word First Degree is often used as a title, Shodan. Sho means one, dan means degree. The first 5 levels just use the numbers: 1st – 5th dan: Black Belt (shodan, nidan, sandan, yodan, godan)

6th – 10th dan: “Black Belt” that is sometimes bicolored or with additional stripes often red, white, or gold. These dans are almost exclusively given not for learning new katas and moves but fine tuning the art within yourself, helping others though the art, and overall dedication.

Karate Titles that we use (there are others that some schools use):

Sempai: means “mentor” or “senior” often used to indicate an assistant instructor (usually 1st and 2nd dan)

Sensei: means “one who came before” or has walked the path before and often used to indicate a fully capable teacher (usually given at 2nd or 3rd dan but can be given earlier or later depending on their dedication to teaching and honing their instructor ability)

Shihan: is a master title for a senior instructor (sometimes given at 4th dan) and equivalent to a doctorate degree

Renshi: is a master title meaning “polished expert” (usually given at 6th dan)

Kyoshi: is a master title meaning “teacher of teachers” (usually given at 7th dan)

Hanshi: is a master title for the head master of a style

Soke: is the absolute head of a style

Shodai-Soke: is the founder of a style

No one can just adopt the title when they hit that belt rank, not until a higher belt rank honors you by referring to you as the title does it become your title. Theoretically, I am Shodai-Soke, as the founder of this system, but couldn’t refer to myself as that until one of my peers honored me with that title, which happened recently, but I’m just not ready to change all the embroidery and certificates. We’ll do it someday. I prefer Hanshi or Soke.

Enough of that. I can’t wait to refer to you as one of those esteemed titles.

Your Black Belt test day is Saturday, May 27th, 2023. We will have a Black Belt Prep night on Wednesday, May 24th at 8:45 PM. This will be more of a pep rally but be in uniform. All current Black Belts and Red Seniors should attend as well.

Current Black Belts will test at 11 AM for stripes and Degrees, Red Seniors testing for their Black Belts will begin at 3:00 PM. We will have a group photo and then everyone is invited to participate in a pot luck dinner here at Ancient Ways. Let Nidan Jannel know what you are bringing so we can add it to the list, this way everyone isn’t bringing the same thing.

 

Here is what you need to do:

Take care of the Graduation Fee

Testing for Black Belt has always been more expensive than colored rank. We have kept the price about half what most schools charge at $350. I personally paid $500 for mine in the 1970’s.

Paperwork
Minors should have guardians with you this day as there will be legal paperwork to be completed. Please email us the tester (and guardian’s, if minor) legal name and physical address asap. brown@awmaa.com

Essays
I need to get these essays as soon as possible so I can help you with them if need be. The essay guide sheet is below.

Belts
Also, Black Belts are typically a size larger than your regular belts to accommodate embroidery. To avoid confusion, please email me with your CURRENT belt size. Many people get two belts, one plain for day-to-day wear and another embroidered for display and important events.

All Black Belts or Red Seniors (former students too) are welcome to attend. Black Belts come in uniform and sit on the panel with us. Come and help welcome our new Black Belts to the tribe.

Invite all the friends and family you want, we have no limitations on that, and be prepared to video and document this most momentous occasion.

Your Check list:

  • Email us with the tester and guardian’s legal name and physical address?
  • Email us your Essay asap
  • Email us your current belt size?
  • Pay your graduation fee
  • Be at test prep night if possible, bring legal guardian if you are a minor
  • Be here on test day early, eat light, but eat something, bring a banana or something and lots of water
  • Let us know what you are bringing to the Pot Luck.

With that, I’d wish you all good luck, but just remember what I always say… Hard work puts you in a place where Good luck can find you.

Your Mentor, Grandmaster Boon Brown

Black Belt Essay Title: What the Black Belt means to me and why it is important for me to achieve it.

Black Belt Essay guidance ideas, answer these and the essay sort of writes itself.

  • What was your original reason for joining martial arts?
  • What is your first memory of training?
  • Did you know of or hear of anyone who was a martial artist who inspired you to start training?
  • Before training, what was your impression of someone who was a “Black Belt?”
  • During your training, there were times when you had difficulties, discuss one, “This one time…”
  • During your training, there were moments of great success and accomplishment, write about one, “This one time…”
  • What kept you going through the tough spots?
  • You’ve had many training partners here, discuss one or more of your favorites and share memories of that training.
  • Of all of the techniques you’ve learned, which one or ones do you feel like were the most enjoyable or beneficial?
  • Have you ever used something you’ve learned in martial arts in the outside world? Not just self defense, but focus, confidence, respect, self discipline, etc. If so, share the details.
  • Do you have any funny stories about your training? If so, please share.
  • Was there anything tragic that happened that you feel your training helped you deal with? If so, please share.
  • Can you think of a situation in your past, or maybe looking ahead to the future, when having a “Warrior Spirit” might have been, or might be valuable? If so, please share.
  • We hope your training has expanded your knowledge of yourself and your identity. How do you feel the martial arts have molded you over the years?
  • This accomplishment (Black Belt, duh), is not just your accomplishment, but also those people who are a part of your success team. Who do you need to thank for helping you to realize this amazing accomplishment?
  • We know that being a Black Belt means having amazing skills, discuss some that you developed.
  • We know that being a Black Belt means having higher quality character, discuss some that you have developed.
  • In your opinion, what does it mean to be a Black Belt?
  • Why do you feel like this was an important accomplish for you personally?
  • What would you say to those people who quit along the way, who could have been here with you?
  • What would you say to those people who are considering training?
  • How do you think, feel or hope this accomplishment will affect you in the future?
  • Do you have any last sentiments you would like to convey as you finish this essay? (In closing I’d like to say….)

TEST COPY

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