This is a Black Belt School

by Kyo Sa Nim Victoria Rivas

Statistics say 50% of those who start martial arts drop out within the first six months. Only 3% of those who start will make it to black belt. So, out of 100 people, only 3 make it to black belt. 

However, because “we are a black belt school,” each student can make it if they work to the best of their individual ability. We understand not every “regular” student can learn to do a full split or kick above their head. And there are more serious physical differences. 

Others may have trouble with memory, arthritis, autism, cancer, attention deficit or even just the drama and dangers of being a teenager. 

We welcome all, including imperfection, at our dojang, and that is what we mean by “this is a black belt school.” It does not mean we do not have high expectations. We do. It means expectations are set on an individual basis. 

We watch for improvement. In the early ranks, there are so many areas, we promote as we see improvements in “any” area. 

As students get into higher ranks, they will have specific goals to reach, things where they need improvement, from kicks or forms to improving their attitude or finally learning vocabulary. 

Sometimes I tell students they need to work on specific items and I get back what I call doing a “but what about”. 

“My kicks are higher than so and so’s. Why are you telling me I need to work on kicks?” “I may have said such and such and been disrespectful, but so and so said something else the other day.” Not only are those responses disrespectful, they are not valid. 

What I talk to students about privately is not anyone’s business but mine and theirs. Likely those other students have had their own “come to Jesus” moment with me. 

Students need to be concerned with their own techniques and not worry about others. That also shows respect for me, allowing that I am dealing individually with each of my students. 

The bottom line is that if students want to earn a black belt at our studio, they need compare themselves only to themselves. Keep improving and it will happen.