White Belt Over and Over Again

This year, 2020, marks my 40th year in the martial arts. For the first 15 years, I followed a pretty normal path in karate. My instructor told us right from the beginning that only one in 1000 people would actually make black belt. We studied relentlessly and didn't digress from our very traditional program. There were no children and I was the only female.

In the early years it was all about blocks, strikes, kicks, sparring and some kata. Then a strange thing happened. Our 3rd degree black belt head instructor started studying the sword art of kendo in his free time, as a new white belt. Shortly after that, there were weapons katas being introduced to our karate system.


About five years after that, our head instructor, now a 4th degree black belt head in karate and a 1st degree black belt head in kendo, started training in judo. Again, he voluntarily became a new white belt. It wasn't long after that, when our advanced rank students were becoming extremely skilled in self-defense, that that was also added to our curriculum and our testing.

Again, about five years later, our head instructor, a 5th degree black belt head in karate, 2nd degree in kendo and a 1st degree black belt head in judo, started training in jujitsu. The story goes on as expected. Our karate program benefited from his experience in jujitsu as well. We were all doing pins, hold downs and joint manipulation as part of our self-defense requirements.

I have yet to see how his latest adventure as a white belt – this time in iaido – will benefit us, but if I've learned anything in all these years, it's that cross-training in other arts has always improved my development in my primary art. This is a total reversal of how we began. In our early years in karate, we all thought it was the one true art. We scoffed at people who promoted more than one art in their school. Now we have learned that by offering all the different arts in one martial arts school, we are able to retain our black belt students longer.

They enjoy the opportunity to put on a white belt, over and over, to rediscover that passion for the martial arts that we all have when we first begin.

How will you perform at the moment of truth?

What's going to happen to you physically and emotionally in a real fight where you could be injured or killed? Will you defend yourself immediately, hesitate during the first few critical seconds of the fight, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you won't be able to move at all? The answer is - you won't know until you can say, "Been there, done that." However, there is a way to train for that fearful day.

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This week I've asked Robert Borisch to give me a birds eye view on his marketing strategy.

Robert is the head sensei and owner of Tri-City Judo a well-established commercial judo school in Kennewick, Washington. I am very impressed with his highly successful business. Unlike BJJ, TKD, karate, and krav maga, in judo we tend to teach in community centers, YMCA's, and other not for profit outlets. So when I find a for profit judo model that is growing by leaps and bounds, it intrigues me. Below are Robert's raw and uncensored comments spoken like a true commercial martial arts school entrepreneur / owner.

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The man who apparently launched a racist verbal attack on U.S. women's kata champion Sakura Kokumai earlier this month in a California park has been arrested following a physical assault on an elderly Korean-American couple in the same park Sunday. Michael Vivona is accused of punching a 79-year-old man and his 80-year-old wife without provocation.

Mynewsla.com reported that a group of people playing basketball in Grijalva Park at the time of the assault recognized Vivona from his previous harassment of Kokumai and surrounded him until a nearby police officer arrived to make an arrest. The incident with Kokumai, who is slated to represent the United States in this summer's Tokyo Olympics, gained widespread notice after she posted a video of it on social media in an effort to increase awareness about the growing threat of anti-Asian racism.