My top 3 areas of continued improvement in the Ultimate Black Belt Test

February 9, 2018

We’re officially 6 weeks into the Ultimate Black Belt Test, and I can honestly say that I am moving in the direction of the goals I set out to accomplish!  My thought process coming into this year was one of self-improvement and leading by example.  I want my test to represent the work I should be doing as a master teacher, and I want to serve my community in a meaningful way.  Though many of my goals are in their infant stages, others are well on their way to becoming something that I will be proud to share as an example of what can be accomplished when there is a desire to improve and a willingness to hold oneself accountable. 


Here are a few things I set out to do, and where I am at in the process:


1) Losing 100 pounds 


This is something I’ve wanted for a long time and have yet to accomplish.  Will I make it all the way to 100 pounds?  That’s not the ultimate goal; it’s more about being fit and healthy as an example to the people and community I serve than simply reaching a number on the scales.  I have always, and always will be, a large individual. I have, at times in my life, been capable of feats someone my size should not be able to do.  That said, fit for me is about how I feel.  


Like my other goals, this is not just about me.  It’s about the people around me.  It’s about the people who may be drawn to me because I’ve accomplished something they want to see themselves accomplish.  You’ve heard the saying “be the change you wish to see in the world,”  often attributed to Mohandas Gandhi.  That is leadership by example.  That is what I believe is a big part of our quest within the Ultimate Black Belt Test.


2)  Community outreach


This one has multiple components, but I want to share on the first three that I’ve been focusing on:  the Gresham Women’s Shelter, Gresham Family Center, and Gresham DHS.  Since the start of Dynamic Martial Arts, I’ve wanted to represent more than the kicking, punching, and forms that often comprise the work of the average martial arts school.  Though I have always taught classes with passion, integrity, and valuable life lessons, it was during my time with Aim High  that I realized that our reach could extend much further than our walls.


I’ve worked with the Gresham Women’s Shelter for about three months and was at their facility every Tuesday afternoon to meet and work with the women who frequented the shelter.  Many had no place to live, and others sought refuge from domestic abuse.  The stories of these women are real life.  The violence they have seen is part of their daily lives.  Though I am not trained in the kind of help that these ladies need, I am there to show that there are people in their community who care enough to take the time and be there for them.  What do I do there?  I keep the physical activity to the most basic of body language and communication so as not to trigger emotions or memories that may be fresh and possibly traumatizing.  I let them tell their stories and talk through how they might handle themselves should they be in a similar situation.  I listen.


My work with the Family Center has really only just begun.  There I actually lead a mini martial arts class where we move and cover the life skills lessons that may help kids and adults alike seek positive outcomes in their daily interactions.  This is in a part of town where it is common to see or hear about violence and abuse.  Just this past Tuesday, as I arrived, the staff was in their office comforting a mom whose son had just attempted suicide.  Fortunately, he was saved.  But how many around us are not so fortunate?  Being that close to something so far beyond what I see in my daily life is a powerful reminder that everyone around us is fighting a battle we will never know about.  I have added suicide prevention to the growing list of topics I would like to learn about and eventually be a resource for.  The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has FREE ONLINE COURSES that I plan on taking as a start to this piece of my own education.


Finally, I have made it a point to make sure the kids in the foster care system in my community have access to what I have to offer.  In November and December, I reached out to Gresham Child Welfare when I saw that they were looking for a local business that would host their giving tree.  I am proud to say that our growing community of amazing people filled my suv with gifts of toys, clothing, and learning supplies in time to be delivered for Christmas!  Since then, I have added a free class on Saturdays to any child in foster care in our community and have had 6 take me up on that offer.  Of course, I will keep working to reach more families, but that small group is just as sharp as any of my other classes.  My goal with this program is to provide consistency in their lives and be someone they can count on and look up to.  I firmly believe that not enough attention is paid to our youth and, far too often, we forget that they will be here long after we’re gone and will be the ones making important decisions for the next generation….WE HAVE TO TEACH THEM!  Our compassion, integrity, perseverance, empathy, and more will not come from an app, or from Netflix, or from the internet….it will come from all the positive interactions we have with them and the example we set.  I continue to be impressed by this group of kids and their resilience.


3)  My training


Sure, there are the requirements set by UBBT creator and coach, Tom Callos, but one must get past the numbers and look deeper at the intent.  It’s not about completing thousands of push-ups and sit-ups or sparring thousands of rounds or running, biking, or swimming.  It’s about consistency.  It’s about diligent practice.  It’s about developing a long-term attitude of continued improvement done in such a way that it sets an example that inspires those in my sphere of influence.  It’s not about me. It’s about how I affect change in others.


As an example to my community, I’ve posted my progress in my studio and added a place for others to add their progress so, we as a group, can see how much was contributed to this year’s test.  One major component to tracking stats has been wearing my FitBit every day.  This allows me to track steps, miles, calories burned, quality of sleep, and more.  Since I started wearing it on December 10th, 2017, I have logged 456,357 steps and regularly hit my goal of at least 10,000 steps a day.  Having this thing on my wrist is a constant reminder that every step counts. It has been inspirational to see my resting heart rate drop as I’ve increased my training.  Now, if I can just keep myself from obsessing over the numbers! 


Here’s a little more insight into Jeremy.  I have the tendency to not want to start something until I know exactly how it’s going to go.  This test and opening my own studio is all an exercise in me taking action without knowing exactly what the future holds.  It’s way outside my comfort zone.  But I believe this is where I’ll grow as a martial artist and a human being.  I believe, and I teach in my classes, that confidence is born of challenge, and the more challenges we can face, big or small, the more confidence we will bring to bear on the next challenge we face.


Step outside your comfort zone!  Happy training!


-KJN Jeremy


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