Get That Black Belt Attitude

Having the Right Mindset at any Rank


Your sister is annoying you.  You’ve door poorly on a math test.  You forgot to take out the recycling.  Now, you’re at Taekwondo and you have to do a difficult board break that you’ve never done before.

What’s an ATA student to do in the face of all of these challenges?  It’s like your instructor always tells you:  You have to have a black belt attitude!

            In Songahm Taekwondo, students learn character-building life skills such as respect and belief.  Practicing those life skills is easy when times are good—when your sister is fun to play with, your grades are good, and you’ve mastered that jump side kick.  But a black belt attitude is what you show even when the times are tough.

Master Adam O’Connor, a 6th Degree Black Belt and chief instructor of ATA Martial Arts in Bentonville, Ark. says, “Practicing those life skills all the time, even under pressure, and not just when someone is watching—that’s a black belt attitude.”  It’s something that can be difficult for kids and adults, so it’s important that we all find ways to keep it positive.


It’s a Choice

People with a black belt attitude are made, not born.  “You make conscious decisions every single day,” says O’Connor.  “We teach 4- and 5-year-olds how to make choices, but sometimes we forget that it’s just as important for adults.”  Teaching black belt attitude reminds all of us that our choices are important at every step—from whether we remember to take out the recycling to how hard we train for our next belt.  Our attitude at every moment determines our success today and the rest of our lives.

What are some choices that show a black belt attitude?  At school, you can make the choice to be a good friend.  “Stand up for someone who is being bullied,” says O’Connor.  “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Tell your friends you appreciate them.”  Parents and adults—these same efforts can be made at work, too!

At home, when you’ve been asked to do something, “You can choose to do right away, and with a smile,” O’Connor says.  Even better, when you see something that needs to be done, you can do it without having to be asked.  Chores like doing dishes or putting away groceries impact everyone in the family so helping out shows that you care.

O’Connor encourages students to say “I love cleaning my room!” when their parents ask them to do it.  “It may freak your parents out,” he laughs, but it also shows that you have the power to choose how you feel about chores and tasks.  

 “Every job has tasks that you don’t want to do,” he says.  “Even in class, sometimes we like to do one thing but not another.  But if you approach it with the right black belt attitude, you’ll get good at it and it may become your favorite part of the workout.”


It’s Your “Best You”

Remember this, says 8th Degree Black Belt, Chief Master Daniel Jorgensen.  “You’ll never be Michael Phelps or Michael Jordan…You may just be better! But you don’t have to be anyone else to be successful.  What you can do is be the best you possible.

 Personal victory is a concept that Eternal Grand Master wished to pass along through ATA, and it is at the heart of black belt attitude, says Jorgensen.  “It’s all about personal responsibility.  Focus on you instead of the situation.”

A person with real black belt attitude knows that you can only control yourself; not other people.  So, if you’re not where you want to be, look inside yourself for answers.  “What can you do?” Jorgensen asks.  “Can you come to class more often?  Train harder?”  Outside of class, consider what you do differently.  For example, if you have a conflict with someone, instead of wishing the other person didn’t create problems for you, think about how you can change the way you react instead.

You may even get a great and unexpected result from taking responsibility for yourself.  “It may open the door for the other person to change, too,” says Joregensen.


It’s Extra Effort

“When water is 211 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s hot,” says Master Darin Prazer, 5th Degree Black Belt from Evans, Georgia.  “But when it gets to 212, it’s boiling.  It creates steam, which can power a locomotive.  Go that extra degree!” 

The Prazers (Master Prazer and wife, Gena) encourage their students to put their black belt attitude to work every day in their ATA school.  “In our experience, children will rise to the occasion.  They learn that they can choose not to give up.”  Outside of martial arts, this may result in better perseverance at school to get into that honors program.  It can also mean a stronger relationship as husband and wife.  “We want our students to face obstacles instead of shutting down,” says Mrs. Prazer. 

This ability to put in the extra effort is especially important when life gets challenging.  We all have a black belt attitude when things go our way, but the secret is to not let that go when things go differently than planned.  If you don’t pass this belt testing, you may be disappointed.  But use your black belt attitude to improve where you need to and let it push you to success. 

Here’s a tip:  If you have a black belt attitude, you can’t ever really be defeated.  If you fail, you will use it as a lesson to gain an experience.  Remember, it’s okay to mess up, but it’s not okay to give up.  That’s what having a black belt attitude is all about!



Author: Jennifer Lawler (edited by Jenny Wolff)

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