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  • Writer's pictureKirby James

Now is When to Start Your Black Belt

You're kidding, right?

Near the peak of a pandemic I am recommending you start your journey to get a black belt?


How does that make any sense?

Simple, the journey to start towards a black belt is complicated, not the least because of, you know, Covid raging around the world.

Yet, your journey to start a journey to attain a black belt in a bona fide martial art, one that stresses mind and body training, is not something that just happens. There are stages, research and self discovery that can begin now while the world is locking down.

So why do I recommend you turn your mind to this idea now? Because most people would benefit deeply from the journey. Stress is higher than most people alive can recall. Our ability to cope is under assault.

Studies are emerging that identify a world wide 'outbreak' of poor sleep. People who never wake up at night now do.

Go further and ask yourself, "how often do I almost bark at someone for trivial slights?". What are you systematically doing to manage your stress that is also healthy?

Value: Even the beginning of your journey to explore martial arts brings insights, hope and something to look forward to.

Martial arts, learned from great masters and grand masters are not easy. They challenge you to rethink about how you think, to explore both what and why you believe what you think you believe. It is a deep, broad exploration of our humanity. To find and face your fears, breaks through barriers we all have created in our minds and go further, higher and with a deeper appreciation than you think you can have.

So again, why do I recommend you begin to explore this idea? Simply, because you will benefit from the discipline, structure and mindset development the journey to become a black belt takes.

There is so much you can do to explore the potential benefits for you. Read & listen to classic materials from martial artists of the past and present. Check out the Bruce Lee podcast, read the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, learn why martial arts protects women, is identified by a leading CEO as a core step in their success, and is the common thread amongst successful executives.

Do you have children? Watch Kung Fu Panda 1, 2 and 3 with them. Go past the obvious, and look to the lessons ... "there is no special sauce, just you", "seeing what is there and embracing it" and reaching for a higher level of YOU.


For now and for a while, many of our areas are severely restricted. OK. Yet martial arts websites are up. Dojangs (Korean for martial arts schools) are there to be explored online. Call the people working there. Ask them to explain how their school develops both body and mind.

If they leave out the "mind" then they teach fighting, not martial arts.

So what to look for?

1) School philosophy. Why are they in business? What do they believe? Look for photos of the "school oath" which is usually proudly displayed.

2) Grand Master. Does the school have one? My school, OMAC Canada (Oriental Martial Arts College) is so lucky to have Grand Master Hyung Chul Kim (9th degree) as our grandmaster.

3) Masters trained by the Grand Master. This is HUGE. Any martial arts school can hire talent. Yet how many have schools run by masters who are "home grown"? At OMAC Canada we have many 5th Dan and 6th Dan masters taught by the Grand Master himself. This ensures the school pedigree continues.

4) Awards. Sure, popularity contests do not always ensure quality, yet when the same schools win year after year something very good is going on.

5) As time allows and your comfort level for safety is assured, go to the school and meet the master instructor. Extend your feelings to get a "sense" of who they are.

11 years ago I took this step I recommend to you. Through great luck I found the best martial arts college in Canada.

As I watch friends and acquaintances explore whether martial arts is right for them, I offered the same advice offered above.

So what is the REAL benefit of martial arts? How has it benefitted me during the pandemic?

First, community. We trained outside from April until a couple of weeks ago. Distanced, not with same drills yet we are connected by our common journey.

Second, mental discipline. OMAC Canada still supports strong mental training, including 8 hours (yes 8) each year once you go for your 1st Dan (degree) black belt. That is NOT easy.

Third, the ability to reframe situations. As we train, we learn to see our fears & challenges, to be present in the situation and never lose sight of our goals and values. No well trained martial artist is trains just to learn to fight. True martial artists embrace a lifestyle where they are deep in discipline, deep in ability and dedicated to live life well.

Why not start thinking about this during pandemic? Do you have something better to do? ;)

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