At Elite TOMA, students are consistently reminded to strive to be a “Black Belt Leader.” They look to older students and mentors who have achieved that rank for examples of form and technique. Stripes and stars adorn their uniforms as a symbol of progress toward that goal. At each belt test, students who have shown the Black Belt attitude at home and school are honored with medals. But what exactly is a Black Belt?
The simplest and most obvious answer is that it is the highest color belt. It is earned by those who persevere through challenges and show mastery of martial arts skills. It is worn by students who have passed a difficult test. It is a symbol of a very difficult personal journey designed to purge weakness.
Yet, we also call the person a Black Belt. Beyond the physical article of clothing, one becomes a Black Belt. Young children who look at instructors admire someone who can do amazing things like very high kicks or fly across the mat to break a stack of boards. But they don’t often recognize the influence of an undercurrent of respect by and for instructors. Students are explicitly taught how to show respect, but at every class there are powerful examples of what a true Black Belt Leader looks like.
Students at Elite TOMA are taught by Black Belts. That example of respect, perseverance, and mental strength is a bar they strive to reach. Young children want to earn their Black Belt because it looks cool and fun. But through the instruction at TOMA, students become leaders and role models. They transform into the example of a Black Belt Leader to whom young children will look for cool moves and quiet strength of character.