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What Does It Mean to Be a Black Belt...?

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 14:25 -- minbriarcliff

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When I meet with new students, especially school-age children, they tell me they ‘want to learn how to fight and defend themselves’. Whether the influence is Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, the Teenage Mutant Turtles, or the Power Rangers, the initial goal of becoming a Martial Artist is the physicality of it all.

To me being a Black Belt and a Martial Artist is so much more. It is my passion...it is what gets me out of bed each morning...it is the “why” of my whole being.

But the children just want the Black Belt....

I am teaching a class and notice that my students, between the ages of 7 and 12, are not performing to their best abilities. I call a timeout and ask them to sit down so that I can teach them what it means to be a Martial Artist and a Black Belt.

As beginning students they are training to become Martial Artists and as part of their training they will be learning about the 5 tenets of Taekwondo:

  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Indomitable Spirit
  • Respect
  • Self Control

My goal, and the goal of every UMAC instructor, is to incorporate these 5 tenets into our lives, making them a part of everything we do, in school, at home, work, and play. We are always striving to be the best that we can be...and we teach this philosophy to our students so that they too can learn to live and be the best that they can be.

Then I tell them a secret, “You don’t need to be a Black Belt to act like a Black Belt.”

They look at me with wide-eyes and I tell them, “You don’t need to wait for the Black Belt to encircle your waist. You can live by the code of the Martial Artist, because a Black Belt encircles your heart.”

I ask the class to demonstrate how a Black Belt sits at attention.

They all sit up really straight, their backs erect and eyes focused forward.

I tell them, “See, you do have Black Belt character, even though you are only Blue Belts. That means you are on your way to becoming the best Martial Artist and person that you can be.”


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Learning to live a Black Belt life can have a great impact on living a more meaningful life. Incorporating the Tenets of Taekwondo into everything you do will give you the solid foundation upon which you can develop physical, mental, and spiritual strength. This confidence and positive attitude will allow you to be successful in anything you choose to do.

This is what it means to be a Black Belt.

Master Chris Berlow, 6th Dan
UMAC Briarcliff Manor


Submitted by Robert Cassuto (not verified) on

And when you add Love to your training it makes everything feel better and brings forth the awesome power we all possess.

Submitted by peter556 (not verified) on

I'm planning to bookmark the site and you have a well written article.

Submitted by Thomas Sabo (not verified) on

I enjoy your work and you present interesting concepts. You are doing a brilliant job.

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