Achieving a Black Belt is a significant event in one’s life. It carries with it the power of transformation. It typically represents a high standard of skill development, discipline, perseverance and commitment. It is a statement of your character. When it comes time for one of my students to test for their Black Belt I want them to prepare for the proverbial Fire Walk. I’m not looking to put them in danger but I am looking to challenge them to something larger than life. I have seen many Black Belt promotions, with some stylized in a party atmosphere. There is a sense of excitement but it’s not soaked in adrenaline. They seem to miss an air of nervousness and anxiety of the trial and mission that lies ahead in a Black Belt test. I want the test to be unlike a typical day of training in class, I want it filled with the pressure of accomplishment or failure. I want it to feel like the culmination of all your hard work; the hours, days, weeks, months and years you have spent training is about to be put to test in this single moment. I want my students to experience a “right of passage”. I want them to earn the rank of Black Belt and become a member of the elite few that have passed the test. The journey to get there should have made them battle hard and battle scarred. The Black Belt test should not be presented as a “time served” moment and then handed a black belt, a certificate and a pat on the back. I want my students when testing for their Black Belt to” hit the wall”. I want to see what they do when they feel like they can’t go on. The student must do more than just fight off his opponents he must fight off the negative voice telling him to quit or give up. I want my student to go to the edge of his limits and expand. Be greater than what he thinks he is capable of, this is when the transformation takes place. The student realizes that his greatest strength is not from his physical power or flawless technique, but from somewhere deep down inside. Some call it Heart, others call it mental toughness and some call it Chi or Ki. Whatever the label it’s an inner strength that is a superior to your physical strength. The Black Belt test is not just a test of your fighting skills. It is much more than knowing how to defend and attack. The preparation leading up to your test should be a challenge in its own right. A challenge to your commitment, focus and ability to achieve one of the most difficult goals you could set for yourself. Jimmy Woo said “The art of Kung Fu lies not in victory or defeat but in the building of human character.” I believe he is telling all of us to take a deep look at our selves. Do you have a character that is worthy of a Black Belt? Do you have a warrior code you live by that will protect your honor? On the day of the Black Belt test I want the testing student to be in the best shape of his life. He needs to prepare not just his strength and endurance but his mind and spirit as well, for there is no other way to get through the test.