In this exclusive video, martial arts notables share how Black Belt magazine has built an industry, has educated the public about international styles and has served as an authoritative source to shape the career paths of future martial artists.

In this new martial arts history video, top martial artists and industry leaders share how the iconic Black Belt magazine changed not only the martial arts industry at large but also each of their paths along the way. Actor Michael Jai White, Olympic judoka Kayla Harrison, MMA fighter Tim Kennedy, self-defense expert Tim Larkin, wing chun grandmaster William Cheung, martial arts film director Isaac Florentine, tang soo do master C. S. Kim, cane master Mark Shuey, Deadliest Warrior co-host Geoff Desmoulin, sport-karate champion Steve "Nasty" Anderson, kyokushin karate shihan Brian Bastien, Olympic judoka and two-time Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee Pat Burris, and Century Martial Arts CEO Mike Dillard graciously offered their thoughts on the history and influence of the world’s leading martial arts magazine!

MARTIAL ARTS HISTORY VIDEO Michael Jai White, Kayla Harrison, Tim Kennedy, Tim Larkin, William Cheung, Isaac Florentine: How Black Belt Magazine Influenced Their Martial Paths

Another industry leader who's been a fan of (and helped shape) Black Belt magazine over many years is its executive editor, Robert W. Young. In his editorial for the magazine's 50th Anniversary issue, he extolled the community aspect of Black Belt and highlighted the publication's evolution. We present his editorial in slightly adapted form here:
I wasn’t around in 1961 when Mito Uyehara was solidifying his vision for Black Belt Vol. 1 No. 1, but it must have been an exhilarating time. Small as the martial arts in America were, I doubt he had any idea he was about to make history by launching Black Belt magazine — a publication that not only would survive for half a century but also would be the industry leader its entire life. By the time I entered the picture in 1993 as Black Belt's assistant editor, Uyehara had retired and moved to Hawaii. He’d drop in once or twice a year and chat with each member of the staff, but the subject of the conversations was never the genesis of Black Belt. He preferred to talk, with me at least, about his time with Bruce Lee and Koichi Tohei and how their arts, jeet kune do and aikido, had kept him fit and flexible over the decades. Why no discussions of Black Belt magazine’s rise to dominance? I can only surmise it’s because Black Belt had been the leader of the pack for so long it wasn’t even worth mentioning. What was worth a conversation — in fact, many over the years — was its recipe for success.

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Former Publisher Michael James frequently reminded me that Black Belt's mission was to cover all the arts, even those that don’t award black belts. He emphasized the need to focus on the positive — the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of training and not just self-defense and competition. That formula continues to guide us as we select and present content. Another strength of the magazine is one that seldom gets noticed by outsiders. Contributing editor Floyd Burk might be the person who unknowingly offers the most evidence of it. A typical voice mail from him goes like this: “So-and-so called to ask if we’d like to do a story about xyz. Do we want to cover that?” Note the use of the word “we.” And just so you don’t think it’s restricted to old hands, several of our newer columnists have done the same thing. For those who don’t know, these writers are not in-house, yet both feel compelled to use words like “we” and “us” when talking about Black Belt. They’re not alone. Dozens of writers and probably hundreds of readers have contacted us and used the same two pronouns. I believe it’s because Black Belt magazine is the glue that holds the martial arts community together. But it goes beyond that — Black Belt's readership is like one big extended family. It shows in the reactions we get when we set up a booth at a trade show. It shows in the phone calls and emails we get from people who are pleased with a story. It shows in the responses we get on Black Belt's Twitter and Facebook pages. There’s a well-known bit of wisdom that pays tribute to one’s predecessors for laying the foundation for one’s own success — Isaac Newton phrased it like this: “If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Black Belt continues to be the patriarch of the martial arts because its staff is privileged to stand on the shoulders of giants. That list of giants includes, of course, Uyehara and James, as well as former Assistant Publisher Geri Simon. It also includes two fallen friends: Albar Genesta, who worked wonders as the magazine’s art director from 1980 until the end of 1993, and Debbie Brown, his successor and the woman who defined the look of Black Belt magazine from 1994 until 2010. They are among the people who paved the way for Black Belt's current publisher, Cheryl Angelheart, to carry on the tradition while ensuring the magazine stays on top and for our creative director, Alexander Norouzi, to re-imagine the publication's user interface for the 21st century. I can think of no better people to be working with as Black Belt magazine begins its second 50-year run.
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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: or go to

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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