What is The Ultimate Black Belt Test? Foundation Requirements.
I came up with the idea for The Ultimate Black Belt Test in 2004 --in part, from being a longtime student of Master Ernie Reyes, Sr. of West Coast Martial Arts in San Jose, California. Master Reyes heads the martial arts performance troupe known as The West Coast Demo Team, which I was fortunate to be a part of, and in general he was / is a master of creating team, of putting together really interesting projects for his students to be involved in, and of taking the study and practice of the martial arts, as he would say it, "To the next level."
Having worked as a consultant to the martial arts community for several decades, I knew that martial arts leaders with Master Reyes' creativity, consistency, and ingenuity were, well...the exception rather than the rule. I'd also orchestrated, been a part of --or observed --hundreds of student tests over the years, black belt tests included, and was (and still am) absolutely certain that we could do the work better than we were doing.
The Ultimate Black Belt Test (UBBT) is an experiment, a laboratory of ideas, practices, tactics, methods, and processes that are most often a giant departure from the dominant paradigm --or common practices --of testing in the international martial arts community; at least not until we began this project. In 2004 our UBBT website, where testers made weekly journal entries of their activities and participation, received over a million views, so many of our ideas and methods have been borrowed by schools and martial arts instructors already --and worldwide.
The UBBT is primarily for the owners and/or head instructors of established (or soon to be established) martial arts schools. The process best helps the leader of a school as it allows them to set goals that not only help them get and stay in better shape --and learn, try, and design new things, but it can inspire a teacher's students to take their own training more seriously.
Furthermore, every school owner is burdened with the duty of communicating the schools benefits to his or her community. The UBBT gives the owner a solid year to SHOW and tell what he or she does to stay sharp, what he or she believes in and is working on, and essentially --what the school is about.
The UBBT is a 12 month test, where every single day is meant to be approached as one part of the entire test. The UBBT is customized to every participant, so as to challenge the tester with things that test their skills, stretch their abilities, and that mean something to the participant.
The basic Ultimate Black Belt Test Requirements are:
Every tester is required to publicly post a journal entry, in writing or video, every single week of the test. For those hoping to earn new rank from the project, missing 1 post, unless otherwise arranged, disqualifies the participant from earning rank, although it doesn't require that members leave the training. Each journal entry is a practice in expressing the intent, practices, and purpose of whatever the participant is working on.
50,000 ab excercises
1000 rounds of sparring
1000 reps of a single form (kata)
1000 mile walk, run, swim, and/or bike.
Every member must study a grappling art for the year of the test.
Every member who has not studied boxing must do 10 hours of lessons with a professional coach.
Note: Every one of the requirements may be altered, substituted with some other exercise regime, and/or omitted with permission of the UBBT Team Coach.
Every member of the UBBT must conceive, organize, and execute (at least) one WOW project, something that represents thought, insight, organization, and management skills. The WOW project must be good for the tester, the tester's students, the community, and the international martial arts community. What makes a project a WOW is up to the intelligence, creativity, and sense of mission and purpose of the tester. WOW projects are presented to the Team Coach before execution and/or discussed and cultivated thru collaboration with the UBBT Team Coach.
Every UBBT participant must study with a legitimate meditation teacher (f they haven't already) --and practice 10 minutes --minimum --of mindful meditation for the 1 year period of the UBBT.
Mending Relationships and Fixing Wrongs
Every member of the UBBT will strive to mend 3 relationships that have gone bad --and fix 3 wrongs they have done to others.
Every UBBT participant will be required to, if needed, radically alter their diet --and rid it of unhealthy and toxic junk foods. Every tester should document this process, including what practices they are adopting, what foods they are eliminating and/or adding to their diet, and why.
Diet and self-defense are inextricably connected, yet few martial arts teachers practice and/or coach their students in issues of food, diet, and nutrition. This requirement of cleaning up the instructors diet is step number 1 in the process of educating martial arts teachers to bring issues of food and diet into their schools.
Profiling 10 Living Heroes
Every UBBT tester will be required to choose and then profile, on-line, a list of their 10 living heroes. This is an exploration of what a hero is and what heroes do in and for the world. I believe that who one hangs out with is a form of self-defense, as the people we surround ourselves with can have such a dramatic affect on our goals, thinking, vision, ambitions, and sense of purpose.
The most interesting, if not incredible result of this UBBT requirement came about when UBBT participant Skip Ewing, a martial artist and songwriter, wrote each of the people he put on his living hero list, one of which was the celebrated poet Maya Angelou. Shortly after writing his thank you letters to his list, he received a call from Ms. Angelou --and thru that conversation ended up going with his daughter to Ms. Angelou's home and staying several days with her as they wrote song lyrics together. WOW.
The Achievement of 10 Personal Victories
Each UBBT participant will challenged to define and pursue achievement of 10 "personal" victories; a personal victory is made up of something that has meaning to the testing candidate --and is often something the tester has wanted to achieve, but for whatever reasons has not yet done. Losing weight, competing in the World Championships, spending more time with loved ones, writing that book, learning a new art --every personal victory is a chance to use one's black belt test to further their own personal ambitions, thus integrating the martial arts with the rest of one's life.
Acts of Kindness and Compassion
Ultimate Black Belt Test participants will be required to be involved with the documentation of 1000 acts of kindness and compassion performed by the tester him or herself --and people in the participant's sphere of influence (family, students, friends, community).
UBBT participant Brian Williams has exceeded a million acts of kindness in his work with his non-profit www.thinkkindness.org. Kindness and compassion for others may be the ultimate form of self-defense --and every UBBT participant is expected to become an ambassador of kindness and compassion in his or her on community and beyond.
The most important requirement of The Ultimate Black Belt Test is that one sticks to their test, regardless of the obstacles, hardships, and difficulties that will arise along the way. There is always a way to continue, regardless of the challenge; this is a fundamental element of "success" in any endeavor --and a high ranking black belt should be a living, breathing example of perseverance. You start, you play full out, you fall on your face, you get up and continue on. To join the UBBT you give your word that you will do all of the above AND show up for whatever events are scheduled; so it is your word that will be tested.