The UBBT is a redesign of the process of training to be a black belt —and taking a “black belt test.” It’s 365 better ideas about what a test should look and feel like, what it should mean to the participant, his or her family, and a community.
It’s a shout out to martial arts instructors awarding black belts to people with just 18 to 24 months of practice, to awarding the rank to 9-year-olds, to people who wear the belt, but don’t represent a fraction of what we (the “martial arts industry”) say being a black belt is about.
The UBBT is a movement, a protest, an example, and a new kind of thinking about the martial arts and its purpose in today’s world. It is an alternative path from the one far too many schools have found themselves on. It’s “option B.” It’s a rejection of the influence of the almighty dollar, of the dance studio sales mentality, of the school that’s been coached to see the “black belt club” as a power-tool for increasing revenue, of getting more “cash payments,” and of monetizing a students desire to “be a black belt.”
The UBBT rejects the dominant paradigm. It embraces flexibility, creativity, sustained effort, authenticity, and whatever it is that is most difficult, that is most challenging, and that is nearly impossible.
The Ultimate Black Belt Test is not about the members of the Ultimate Black Belt Test; the UBBT is about the family members of the participants. It’s about the people in the sphere of influence of the people in the UBBT. It’s about how the test affects the community, the international martial arts community, and the world. Any other description of what the Ultimate Black Belt Test is about wouldn’t, couldn’t, represent “the ultimate” idea of what a test could and should be about.
In the Ultimate Black Belt Test every failure IS the test. Whatever is most difficult for the tester IS the test. The impossible, the improbable, the difficult to understand, the painful, the arduous, the problem —IS the test. Whatever makes you afraid IS the test. Whatever would make you quit, throw up your hands in defeat, THAT is the test. Anything else would not be the ultimate, would it?
The UBBT is frustrating, nearly impossible to complete, lonely, difficult to follow and define, and in the end you will hardly be acknowledged for completing it; this is, I am absolutely certain, what makes the test a rewarding, memorable, and potentially life-changing experience.