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Black Belt: Yr One Lessons

June marks my one year anniversary of being promoted to Black Belt. It has been one hell of a year. While I wasn’t interested in competing, that season may have completely passed for me, what I was focused on what being a better coach and instructor. I took on more of a leadership role at the academy, teaching various classes at both Gracie San Diego and Gracie La Mesa.

Some things I’ve learned over the course of this past year.

No Special Powers

None. No special powers were granted to me upon receiving my Black Belt. You’re still the same person you were before promotion.

No More Belt Promotions

I understand, the degrees will come but as a 41 year old Black Belt, this is probably the last belt I’ll be awarded. As strange as it may sound, it was a weird realization for me.

You’re Usually the Hammer

While you’re usually the hammer… you can still be the nail during any given round if you’re not careful. Additionally, it’s healthy to look forward to being the nail.

The Weight of Your Words

You’re words carry so much more weight than at any other belt. You can both motivate students out of their pitfalls or derail their confidence quite easily.

It’s important to weigh your words carefully.


I fell in love with studying outside of class. I found immense value in it, as it enriched the classes that I was teaching. Highly recommend doing it before Black Belt.

You’re Not Special

The formal aspects of being a Black Belt sometimes gives students the impression that you’re above them. During rolls they move out of your way and address you by a new title after you’ve been promoted.

Don’t let this go to your head.

I Don’t Know Everything

People expect Black Belts to know the art as a whole. Trust me, we don’t know everything and it’s perfectly fine to admit it. A few students have come to me with a question about a certain guard or sweep, I’m quite honest about not knowing and will then guiding them to who at the academy would know.

The Student

I found it more difficult to be a normal student. Most of my time was spent teaching and when I did show up to learn, often times I ended up being asked to teach an impromptu class of some kind.

The Role Model

Whether you want to be one or not, you’re a role model. Students are both listening to your words and watching how you conduct yourself. I’ve had students that I hadn’t previously spoken to, tell me that they began to emulate something that I was doing simply from watching me roll one random night.

Don’t forget what it was like coming up.

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