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Richard Wilkinson

Part 3 - Black Belt Character...

Well, here it is the final part of the character traits we establish in our students on their journey to black belt.  Thanks to all that shared and liked and posted comments on facebook!  Enjoy!

Leadership – IAMA Value # 13
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – Anon.
The above quote is what our leadership is all about.  The first part of IAMA leadership is caring about people. 
1.       Care
2.       Be the Example (Don’t tell people what to do, show them)
3.       Demand Excellence from yourself first and others second (Because I demand it out of myself, I have the right to  
          demand it out of you)
4.       Be Courageous (it’s ok to be scared, but don’t let it stop you)

Brief Explanation –

The single most important part of leadership training at Impact America Martial Arts is caring.  Our guiding principle is ‘No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care’.  To be a strong leader you have to care about the people that follow you.  You have to care about their successes.  You have to care about their development.  You have to care about them as a person.  You have to care about their potential.  You have to care about helping understand excellence.  Basically, to lead someone, you have to care about the entire person.

The second part to leadership at Impact America is to always BE THE EXAMPLE.  Leaders must be able to perform techniques and exercises.  Leaders wear full uniforms all the time.  Leaders offer help and volunteer to the school AND to other students.  We give our knowledge AND our time.  We are always ready to help others.  We are always respectful and we ALWAYS do our very best.  We don’t believe in ‘bad days’.  Leaders are always positive and look on the bright side.  These are some of the traits we train the leaders (black belts) of Impact America to possess. 

Demanding excellence in you in all aspects of life is another guiding principle.  Our philosophy is ‘Because I demand excellence of myself, I have the right to demand it from you (the student)’.  This is a very important part of black belt character at Impact America Martial Arts.  Although students learn about what excellence is from an early rank, they truly start to grasp the concept when they start getting close to black belt.  Our definition of excellence is ‘the practice of making no mistakes’.
Leaders must be courageous in order to be in front of people AND to stand up for themselves.  Students experience courage at every belt promotion.  Everyone gets nervous and maybe a little scared.  They experience ‘butterflies’ in their stomach.  Yet, students are required to get up in front of people and perform to the best of their ability.  Later, as the students get close to black belt, they may be required to lead the warm up portion of a class or perform at a demonstration or judge a ring at a tournament.  We constantly place students in uncomfortable situations so that they can practice being courageous.  We intentionally get things wrong to test whether or not students will speak up for themselves or their class.
Excellence – IAMA Value #14
Excellence at Impact America Martial Arts is defined as ‘the practice of making no mistakes.  Do we discourage mistakes? Of course we don’t.  In order to KNOW what a mistake is, one must first make a mistake.  Then we step in and point it out.  Talking back to leaders, not coming to class prepared for all aspects of class as well as expecting to promote to a new belt rank without practice are all mistakes.  Black belts at IAMA all follow the same path to earn a black belt.  We let the students make mistakes, point out the mistake and then make sure the student understands why they shouldn’t make mistakes (usually with extra work).  By the time a student earns a black belt, they have the ability to plan ahead and have a general dislike for making mistakes.  Over time even grades in school are improved because of the focus we have of excellence.  
Problem Solving – IAMA Value #15
Sparring is a great teacher.  When a student gets kicked in the stomach, there’s a problem.  So what IS THE problem?  Did you see the attack coming at you or where your eyes closed?  Where were your hands?  Did you turn your back?  Why didn’t you see?  Why didn’t you block it?  Why were your hands not in the correct position?

At red belt level, students are required to break real wood boards.  If the board doesn’t break, why didn’t it break?  What was THE problem?  Did you perform the technique correctly?  Did you hit it without fear?  Why didn’t you hit the board as hard as you could?

Patterns teach students about problem solving as well.  If you don’t earn a stripe for patterns, what was the problem?  Were you taught the pattern?  Did you practice at home?  Did you perform the fundamentals of the pattern correctly?  Did you listen to the teacher and then adapt to the instruction?

Impact America Martial Arts trains students to ask the right questions and then be deftly honest to get the right answer.  What they normally find is that THEY are responsible for the problem and THEY are responsible for fixing the problem…which leads us to IAMA Value #16.
Personal Responsibility – IAMA Value #16
Personal responsibility and accountability are also incredibly important to the character of black belts.  Impact America teaches that ‘whatever happens is your fault’.  When you are hit, it is your fault.  When you fail, it is your fault.  When you succeed, it is your fault.  When you win, it is your fault.

We want responsibility to fall squarely on the shoulders of the black belt.  We do not want them to blame circumstances on others.  We want them to look inside themselves and seek out what they could have done to fix their circumstances or change the situation.  We detest blaming others.

By the time a student earns a black belt, they understand that success and failure is dependent on their own actions and decisions.  In order to teach this value, we MUST maintain standards.  At white belt, we teach the standards but don’t require them to rise to those standards.  As a student progress, we require the student to perform higher and harder standards. 

Impact America’s process for developing personal responsibility is: 1. Educate them about the performance standards 2. Slowly and methodically require a higher performance standard as they progress through the ranks. 3. Make sure they know what is expected so that if they don’t earn or stripe or move forward in rank, they understand that it is their fault.  (They were taught the requirements and made a conscious decision not to perform what was expected.)
“If it is to be, it’s up to me’ anon.

Team Building – IAMA Value #17
Team building isn’t normally associated with martial arts.  Martial arts have always been sold as an ‘individual sport’.  However, I would argue that teams are formed constantly.  The instructor forms a team with the parent of the student in order to find out what the student needs.  The student forms a team with other students to help each other move forward or earn games in class.  The black belts form a team with lower ranking students to help them move forward in rank.

At Impact America Martial Arts, we set up every class with a team focus.  We set a goal at the beginning of class.  If all the students accomplish the goal, we reward the entire class with a game or some other award.  We instill in our students that in order for the class to succeed, they must each do their part.

We start this process at white belt and continue all the way to black belt.  The goals, of course, get harder as students progress through the ranks.   By the time a student earns a black belt, they understand that  a team is made up of a group of individuals.  Each individual is required to do their personal best in order for the team to succeed.
Be Professional / Know Your Stuff – IAMA Value #18
The final character trait of black belt is to be professional… which translates into ‘knowing your material’.  Impact America Martial Arts requires that for a student to earn a black belt, they must be able to perform every pattern below black belt as well as the black belt patterns.  Black belts must be able to spar with confidence knowing that they can handle whatever is thrown at them.  Black belts understand leadership and have shown, over time, each one of these character traits and demonstrated time and time again that the outlined character traits are part of their character.  Black belts are required to show EVERYTHING.  They MUST know their stuff.
Final Thoughts
There are other benefits to martial arts training.  They are actually too numerous to cover in this blog.  Most of the other benefits are by products of the training of the above character traits.

All of the character traits that we establish in our students are traits that ALL parents want for their kids.  Impact America Martial Arts believes that what we do is important and incredibly valuable.  We teach life skills / character first and martial arts…second.  However, our martial arts are very strong as a result of the character we teach. 
“There is something to be said about hard physical training.  It is almost impossible to separate a strong character from hard physical training.”  Mr. Wilkinson
Just the act of performing hard work takes character.  Doing good work takes character.  Showing up every day takes character.  Impact America Martial Arts embraces this concept. 
“Character is King’- Mr. Wilkinson’s mom
If ANY of this is what you want for you child, get involved.  You won't regret it.  Click the link below and try it out for 2 weeks.  You even get a free uniform.  Watch how we work with the kids and how we interact.  The best way to find out about our program is to try it out.  You can also call us to get information 972-758-5425 or email us at
OR....get our free smartphone app.  Just search for us on google play or itunes.

1901 Preston Park Blvd.
Plano, TX 75093
April 23, 2014