The first issue of Black Belt was published in 1961 by a Japanese-American who, not surprisingly, practiced martial arts (primarily aikido, kendo, judo and jeet kune do). Based in Southern California, Mito Uyehara envisioned a national magazine that would help spread the Asian martial arts, the benefits of which he knew very well, to the American public.
Black Belt, first issue, 1961
The second issue didn't hit newsstands until almost a year after the first, but it was an obvious improvement with better coverage, more pages and a trim size that was twice as large.
Black Belt, second issue, January 1962
As the years passed, the magazine adopted a monthly publication schedule and then added color inside. Along the way, it broke new ground by featuring a woman on the cover for the first time in 1964.
Black Belt, first woman on the cover, November-December 1964
In 1968 Black Belt featured an African-American martial artist on the cover for the first time. His name is Thomas LaPuppet.
Black Belt, August 1968
The editors even put Bruce Lee on that coveted front page before he was a superstar. It was 1967, and his name was not deemed to be enough of a selling point to be placed next to his photo. Instead, the cover line read "Green Hornet's Kato: Does He Really Practice Kung Fu?"
Black Belt, October 1967
The year after Bruce Lee appeared on the cover, the editors unveiled the Black Belt Hall of Fame. In the ensuing decades, the company published books, made videos, hosted events and launched spin-off magazines — including Karate Illustrated, Martial Arts Training, FightSport and Self-Defense for Women.
Later, when the world went digital, Black Belt expanded onto the Web, started an e-newsletter, launched a series of online martial arts courses and built a strong following on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Black Belt's 40th anniversary issue, July 2001
Fast-forward to the present: Black Belt is sporting an ultramodern redesign, a significant paper upgrade and unexpected growth under its new owner, Century Martial Arts.
Mito Uyehara surely would agree that the humble publication he created in 1961 has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
— Robert W. Young, editor, Black Belt
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