Why your child should get their Black Belt

Telling someone that you or your child has received their Black Belt is one of the few things that you can do and have the person’s undivided attention. Why is that? The answer lies within this text.

Few subjects command everyone’s attention like getting a Black Belt. It is for that reason that I believe that the Black Belt is the most recognized martial arts designation in the world.  You can tell someone, in any country, rich or poor, that you are a Black Belt and they will know what you are talking about and probably ask questions about your studies. On the other hand, tell someone that you received your Gold or Purple belt and you usually get, what’s that?

When parents began to look at martial arts facilities as serious facilities for learning academics enhancing concepts the flood gates were opened.

People have always looked at Black Belt holders with a kind of awe. Even the biggest and strongest men at a gathering step aside when a Black Belt enters the room. Again, Why is that? The short answer is because everyone instinctively knows that Black Belts are superior athletes and great fighters, but there is a lot more to it than that.  

At least two (maybe three) generations of children across the country have grown into adulthood since I received my first Black Belt in the late sixties. In those days the average person didn’t know what a Black Belt was. Generationally speaking, the ’80s and ’90s represent the boom in the children's martial arts industry. (Before then only adult military personnel were allowed to learn these exotic fighting skills, thus the name Martial Arts.)

 With the passage of time instructors of martial arts began to realize that there was a lucrative market with children, but in order to access it, they had to tone down the life and or death fighting programs.

 At first it was hit and miss trying to find catchphrases to stimulate parents to enroll their child into martial arts schools. Everything and it became clear that adult phraseology like getting fit, lose weight, etc. didn’t work.

 In the sixties, Sensei George Coffield (a Shotokan karate instructor) and head of the Tong Dojo in Brooklyn New York was having a lot of success getting kids into his school by mandating that they bring their report cards to class once they received them. The magic in this was that because children ( especially from fatherless homes) knew that their male instructor was monitoring them scholastically they were more inclined to try harder. This brought about improvement in grades.

 Because of articles on his success in “Black Belt “ and “Karate Illustrated” magazines other martial arts schools began to get on the report card bus. In the seventies, martial arts pioneer Jhoon Rhee (The Father of American  Tae Kwon Do and my most influential instructor ) joined forces with Nick Cokinas of Bethesda Maryland to open a chain of martial arts facilities that surrounded the D.C. Metro Area.

Cokinas owned the Art Linkletter “Rot and Tot” dance studios. (A chain of dance studios for kids that also surrounded the D.C. area.) It was Cokinas who persuaded Rhee to use words like discipline, confidence, esteem, academic excellence and more in his marketing.

 Cokinas was not a master of martial arts but he was a master of marketing and used a scientific method of placing different adds for each of Rhee’s locations to see which of them worked best. Academic Excellence won the day.

 The marketing proved so successful that Cokinas sold his schools and began working with Rhee exclusively in the martial arts industry. After several years of success, Cokinas broke off from Rhee and began to sell his formula to martial arts schools across America. He started the Educational Funding Company, a collection agency that placed interest rate payments on monthly tuition payments and attached itself to the financial payments of hundreds of studios across America for the benefit of receiving his marketing advice.

 With Cokinas’ scientific marketing parents of karateka across the country began to be educated on the academic benefits of children taking martial arts. Cokinas by using a GROUP MARKETING effort was able to get martial arts schools to band together and chip in so that they could afford the high cost of adds that were placed in T.V. Guides. (In those days a T.V. Guide was a way to find out what was playing on television that week.)

 Many Washington D.C. residents might remember the Jhoon Rhee Karate catchphrase of “Nobody bothers me”. That was one of Nick Cokinas’ brain child’s. It was advertising consolidations and catchphrases like that, that brought about an awareness of Martial Arts schools as serious businesses and not a part-time hobby that people did in their spare time.

When parents began to look at martial arts facilities as serious facilities for learning academics enhancing concepts the flood gates were opened.

 Once the flood gates were opened millions of children were ushered into martial arts schools by eager parents wanting his or her child to do better in school ( a fact that still holds true today).

 Though a lot of the kids in the early boom of martial arts stayed in it and trained to the level of Black Belt most did not and moved on to other things like soccer, baseball, swimming, and football.

 An interesting social development and side effect of this is that most of the childhood martial arts practitioners have now grown up and through personal experience understand the difficulties one must overcome to achieve the level and rank of Black Belt. Where parents of children taking martial art had been educated in the academic value of martial arts, children, on the other hand, were unwittingly being educated in skills that would prove indispensable in corporate America things like personal responsibility, perseverance, thinking positively, pride in a job well done, attention to details, and willingness to deal with difficult tasks for example.

 Today, martial arts alumni understand from firsthand experience that a Black Belt holder is not just a great fighter but someone who has staying power, organizational skills, understands how to acquire what they set their minds to, has strength of will, is a leader, won’t back down from a fight (physical or mental), is someone who prides themselves on being on the right side of moral issues that demand integrity, and respect for things that we hold dear like law and order.

 These trades are tremendous testaments to the character and are sought after by employers, coaches, the military and Ivy League schools across America. These people know that if they can get people who have a Black Belt supporting their efforts it will all but guarantee their organization's success!

 In today’s society, there is demand from people in management positions (the generation that has been exposed to martial arts) for people who have earned their Black Belt. To put it blankly, having a Black Belt is a great thing to have on your resume.

 May you have everything that you want and want everything that you have.