"There are three types of people in the world," the teacher tells the students in his karate class. "Those who make things happen, those who watch what's happening, and those who don't even know what's happening. Which category would you like to be in when you grow up?"
"Number one!," responds the class.
"But," says the teacher, "to make things happen, you must learn as much as you can while you're young. What is more important -- the ability to kick and punch or the power of your mind?"
"The power of your mind!" responds the class.
It's a scenario that is acted out regularly at American Black Belt Academy. The teacher is a Black Belt Champion stressing academic achievement through martial arts training.
In order to succeed in school, a student must WANT TO, and motivation can come through many sources -- sports, dancing class, a hobby like stamp collecting, and even something as peripheral as karate. Anything that excites a child's interest may serve to help motivate him or her.
It is important to remember that, whether picking a piano teacher, a scout group or a karate school, parents must choose carefully to make sure they are getting what they bargain for.
The extra emphasis on academic achievement is stressed at American Black Belt Academy. To qualify for advanced belt exams, students must meet increasingly higher academic criteria. To obtain the coveted Black Belt, the candidate must have become an honor student.
Americans in particular regard the Black Belt (which normally takes about three years to earn) as a status symbol. American Black Belt Academy students have conquered shyness, low self-esteem and underachievement to win it.
Consider the story of young Jeff Colon: When he enrolled in Jhoon Rhee's school in Washington D.C. a few years ago, his best grades were C's. On the road to Black Belt, his grades rose to straight A's. He went on to win a scholarship to Yale.
Another student, Gilbert, a sophomore at Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Va., says "I started training when I was 9. I was a C student, since getting involved, I've become an A student."
"Teenagers today," says Jhoon Rhee, one of the fathers of American Karate, "face many problems and are tempted to indulge in bad habits like using drugs, drinking, smoking and fighting. They often lack adequate discipline and guidance … but … educate children early, and they will be able to stand on their own two feet. They'll be more self sufficient."
Two adults who say they reached success through the martial arts are film stars Chuck Norris, former world middleweight karate champion and Joe Lewis, former world heavyweight champion. Both began their studies of the martial arts while in the military. Each says the experience gave him the confidence to reach for the other accomplishments.
Jack Anderson, the Washington bureau chief for Parade, who himself studied karate says he has seen improvement in motivation of his children through karate. His five sons - and one of his four daughters - are, or have been students, also. One son, Randy, 22, has appeared in karate films.
Rep. Toby Roth (R. Wis.) says "Karate teaches, especially to young people, that through dedicated, systematic and intense work, all their goals in life are possible. And I believe that's a tremendous philosophy to instill in the young."
Parents tell us that their children have reached higher plateaus in school than they had dared to dream. They have ceased to 'watch what happens' and have become the person who 'makes' things happen.
Growing in stature has several meanings. At American Black Belt Academy, children are growing in every aspect of life. Help your child grow in life and success … not just size.
Excerpts reprinted from Parade Magazine with permission.
ABBA Main Page