Ultimate Black Belt Test

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The UBBT Curriculum July 7, 2008

The UBBT Curriculum, revised Sept. 29, 2008

The way the UBBT works is that every participant customizes his or her curriculum with the help of the team’s coach.

Someday, ALL black belt tests will be customized to offer the most personal and relevant challenges to testers.

The following curriculum is meant to serve as a guideline for testers, but also for the international martial arts community. A number of the UBBT’s requirements have never been applied to martial arts testing before, but as a result of this program many are now being adopted by schools around the world.

The purpose of the UBBT is to transform the individual, to re-shape how and what martial arts schools teach, and to redirect the martial arts industry with better methods and objectives.

Three Brand NEW Curriculum Requirements

for the UBBT SIX

The I am Project.

Coach Tom Callos has designed a DIRECTED writing and thinking program for all UBBT 6 members for their year of participation. Past teams have simply kept a weekly diary of their thoughts and progress during the test. Team 6 will have a bi-weekly writing assignment based on 24 positive affirmations. The goal of this requirement is to not only expand the participant’s vocabulary, but to look deeply at the words and ideas that bring about a “master’s level” of thinking and action.

The Anger Management Education Course

It takes less than 20 hours of study to be registered as a Anger Management Educator. All UBBT Six members will be required to go through the first 1/2 of the Anger Management Teacher Training Course (Designed by Anger Expert Dr. Tony Fiore and Coach Tom Callos) as a requirement for the test.

The cost for the course is included in the UBBT’s tuition. Go to www. angercoachonline.com to learn more about this ingenious and valuable on-line training course.

The 1000 Community Projects PROJECT

It is one thing to do a black belt test and excel at it. That in itself is an accomplishment. However, it is something else all together to combine forces with everyone on your team and do something that has never been attempted in the history of the martial arts; and that’s what this new requirement is about.

Our goal is to achieve, by test end, 1000 recorded community-based projects (recorded using the UBBT-inspired school management tool, THE DIGITAL DOJO, included with UBBT Six Membership) -achieved only through our students and members of our individual communities / network.

That’s 1000 projects total, recorded in the team’s PROJECT PORTFOLIO, for the entire team.

For the teacher of the martial arts, this challenge requires management skills, communication skills, and it asks the teacher, quite literally, to take his or her martial arts “out of the dojo and into the world.”

For project specifics, check with Coach Tom Callos.

The NO Quitting Requirement

Whether you succeed or fail at the UBBT and/or any martial arts testing process, there is one thing a master teacher and/or a genuine practitioner of the martial arts never does: Quit.

When people joins the UBBT, I (Tom Callos) give them the most serious talk about their commitment. I explain to them how difficult this project is, and I make them offer their word that they will not quit, that they will not disconnect or disappear, under ANY circumstances. Once you commit yourself, you COMMIT yourself –and a UBBT member becomes a very public example of what a black belt is supposed to be made of. You may encounter obstacles, you may have to re-design how you proceed, you may “fall down 7,” but you must always get back up, dust yourself off, and proceed. You will, inevitably, face an injury. You will find that your time is stretched. You will get tired. You will suffer financial setbacks. You will feel a sense of disconnection and isolation.

However, this test and the entire UBBT Project is about the qualities that studying and practicing the martial arts supposedly develop in its practitioners.

You may not be “Bruce Lee” when it comes to raw physical talent, you may be past your prime, or WAY past your prime, or you may be a novice –but if you join the UBBT there is one area where you must -and can -shine like a star…and that is in your ability to persevere.

In the Ultimate Black Belt Test I should be to able to TELL the entire world, “Look to these people as examples of what the martial arts are about. They will not all succeed, many of them will fail to achieve what they set out to do, but watch them do their work with extraordinary self-discipline, with consistent effort, with uncommon courage and focus, and look at how they DO what they said they would do –despite the obstacles. THAT, my friends, is –at its core –what we have to offer the world through martial arts training. That IS the ultimate form of self-defense.”

There is no quitting in the UBBT. You don’t quit –for yourself, for your students, for your classmates, for the 1000’s of people who look at this program for inspiration, for all the men and women who came before us, people who literally wore themselves out teaching their beloved arts, and for the martial arts world.

1000 Push Ups and Crunches

In honor of martial arts Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, who for 25 years (and still, in his 70’s) does 1000 push-ups a day to demonstrate self-discipline to his students, the UBBT does 50,000 push-ups and 50,000 crunches in 13 months.

That’s just 125 push-ups and 125 abdominal exercises a day (or if injured, an equivalent exercise). If Grandmaster Rhee can do 1000, we can do 125.

This activity is, most of all, to demonstrate -physically -how little things add up to be big accomplishments.

1000 Repetitions of a Single Form

Each UBBT participant picks a single “kata” (form) and performs 1000 repetitions (minimum) over the course of 13 months. That’s 2.5 reps a day for 395 days.

1000 Rounds of Sparring

Lay it on the line -get on the mat and put your skills to the test. 1000 rounds of sparring equals 2.5 rounds of any form of sparring a day for 395 days. Boxing, kickboxing, BJJ, judo, whatever it is, put in the rounds.

1000 Mile Walk/Run/Swim and/or Bike

UBBT Team5 Member, Andy Mandell, is (at the time I’m writing this) on the last 600 miles of a 10,000 mile walk around the perimeter of the United States for Diabetes Education (see our Diabetes Education program “MADDCAP” at http://www.defeatdiabetes.org/).

In honor of Andy’s work -and in tribute to fitness and slowing life down, the UBBT team walks, runs, bikes, or swims 1000 miles over the 13 month test -or 2.5 miles a day for a year.

This idea also pays homage to The Slow Food Movement.

Diabetes Education Course

UBBT members must go thruogh the course on Diabetes Education for Martial Arts Instructors produced by DEFEAT DIABETES (www.defeatdiabetes.org).

Attending the 3 UBBT Events

The UBBT members meet 3 times during the test. Each event is a seminar/convention – but in a style congruent with the UBBT program.

The 1st UBBT Event will be in March of 2009 in Greensboro, Alabama. The UBBT meets with housing activist Pam Dorr, members of the Rural Studio, and members of Project M, to engage in a building/design project. This year we will be re-building a one-room schoolhouse, a Rosenwald School.

See a short slide-show film about the UBBT’s Alabama Project 2008, here

Meet Pam Dorr in this film, made for the Hallmark Channel, by UBBT Alumni Nancy Walzog

The 2ndUBBT project is a 4 day eco-adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail outside of Lake Tahoe, California. That even takes place in the last week of July.

Here’s a promotional video for the eco-adventure from 2008

Here is another.

The 3rdUBBT event is the graduation ceremony, where the UBBT always includes a community service event. For the UBBT 6 we will be meeting in San Rafael, California at the first martial arts school in the nation to earn a GREEN certification. This event will take place in the 3rd week of February, 2010.

See a video here, created by Karen Valentine, of part of her husband, Mike Valentine’s UBBT 3 Final Test Performance (at Dave Kovar’s School, Sac., CA, 2007). Mike is a two-time UBBT Alumni, Karen is a graduate of Team 2. They will be the hosts in San Rafeal, CA. at www.practicalmartialarts.net

100 Hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Mat

Time – or Equivalent

Each participant in the UBBT must complete 100 hours of Jiu-Jitsu mat time (approximately 2 hours per week). Ideally, each candidate would earn a blue belt or equivalent in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or equivalent. The UBBT Grappling Coaches are David Meyer of Sausilito, CA, BJ Penn of Hilo, Hawaii, and Cassio Werneck of Sacramento, CA -but candidates may use anyone (and there are a 1000 great instructors around the world) for instruction and ranking.

20 Hours with a Pro Boxing or Kick-Boxing Coach

Each UBBT participant who hasn’t boxed as amateur or pro, must complete 20 hours of instruction with a pro-boxing or Muay Thai-boxing coach.

1 Reality-Based Self-Defense Course

Each candidate must have training (no minimum time requirements) in a reality-based self-defense training program.

Self-defense advisor to the UBBT is Bill Kipp.

Tom Patire, Bill Kipp, Peyton Quinn, Geoff Thompson, and Tony Blauer all run programs acceptable for this requirement.

5 Public Testing Performances

Participants perform their final physical test performance (demo) in front of 5 separate audiences, prior to the final UBBT event.

Complete the Full Body-For-Life Program (or equivalent)

Members of the UBBT must go through the Body for Life Program or an equivalent. If we’re going to teach fitness, we must live and look fit. Team members must also shoot before and after pictures.

15 Minutes of Daily Meditation

Members must seek out a master of meditation, either in person or thru video or audio, and learn how to meditate properly -then, each participant must meditate 15 minutes a day for one year. Many martial artists include some form of meditation at the beginning or end of their classes, but very few have ever been taught how to meditate.

For help with meditation, visit the Nashville Mindfulness Center run by UBBT Graduate Skip Ewing.

Custom Written Test Requirements

Each member of the UBBT must customize his or her own requirements and submit them in writing to the team coach (and post them in their journal). All black belt tests should be customized to challenge the participant in a way that reflects his ro her strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions.

Weekly On-Line UBBT Journal Entries

Every UBBT participant is required to make a weekly journal entry on the UBBT web site.

A journal entry should be approximately 100 words long and chronicle the personal journey of each participant as he or she lives with the UBBT experience.

Journal entries will be open to the public and may be used in articles or book projects relating to the UBBT.

The Making and Posting of One Film

UBBT members must make and post a film about their experience -or something that relates to their experience as martial artists. Topics are negotiable. We have an Academy Award winning filmmaker as an advisor to the film -as well as a number of competent amateurs to help the novice.

Here are three examples:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Achieving and Documenting 10 Personal Victories

The idea that a black belt (or any student) would attach personal issues to his or her test is, well…perfect. Achieving 10 personal victories as a test requirement means that the STUDENT gets to choose what is important to him. She integrates her own goals, outside of the realm of kicking and punching, into her test -and not only personalizes the test, but makes the process all the more meaningful and fulfilling.

Team Info List and 25 Contacts

I think that one of the most important parts of a black belt test is how the student interacts with his or her team (Ernie Reyes, Sr. has always made “team” an integral part of his tests -and what I remember most about my tests, now that I look back, were the friendships and experiences I had with my classmates).

As a member of the UBBT, each participant is required to have a phone/e-mail list of all other team members – and make a minimum of 25 (team total) contacts with fellow teammates over the course of the test.

Two Anonymous Acts of Kindness to Minimum of Two Teammates

Each teammate is required to do something kind -and anonymous -for two fellow teammates over the duration of the test. Each anonymous event is reported to the team coach.

1000 Acts of Kindness

2.5 acts of kindness a day equals 1000 acts in 12 months. All participants are required to perform and log 1000 acts of kindness. Note: How many times have I heard someone say, “What do acts of kindness have to do with the martial arts?”

My friends, acts of kindness might be the ultimate form of self-defense. If you don’t see the connection between kindness and the martial arts, then you’re probably very young, you haven’t read the masters, and it’s very likely that you don’t have children.

Perhaps the point is that the two ARE NOT related? My suggestion, document 1000 acts of kindness and let me know what you experience.

For the martial arts teacher, well -there are always things you will do for your students that you wouldn’t do for yourself. Actually “documenting” 1000 acts of kindness offers young students a 1000 ways they can improve the quality of their own thinking.

50,000 Acts of Kindness through Students and Community

A UBBT participant must practice leadership skills in such a way as to inspire students and members of his or her community to engage in the acts of kindness program. This is the ultimate form of martial arts school promotion -and impossible to accomplish for anyone not committed to the program in the most extraordinary way.

Right 3 Wrongs

Each member of the program must “make right” three wrongs they have done in their life. The event to “right” is completely up to the tester.

Testing for a black belt should be an experience that requires more than simply a test of physical endurance. This requirement asks the participant to heal and mend issues and/or events from the past that, under different circumstances, he or she would have handled differently.

Mend 3 Relationships Gone Bad

Every UBBT tester must mend 3 relationships during the

test that have been damaged by one or both of the parties


Profile 10 Living Heroes

Each UBBT participant muct search out and profile (in-person interviews are not required) 10 LIVING HEROES (first 10 may not include relatives and/or war heroes).

Here are two examples from UBBT alumnia:

Example 1

Example 2

Environmental Clean Up Project

One of the major themes of the work of Team Coach Tom Callos and many of the UBBT’s Alumni -is the idea that “self-defense” is more than kicks and punches, grappling and reality-based scenario training (and all of that). The new definition of “self-defense” is everything that causes harm and or kills someone. It’s attitude, diet, relationship issues, money management, and yes, environmental issues.

Everyone in the UBBT does an environmental cleanup project with students and/or community. It’s not just the responsibility of martial arts teachers -but of every citizen, martial artist or not.

Here’s a video from a school (with 3 ubbt alumni in it), that uses environmental issues as a major theme within its curriculum. This is also the first school in the nation to adopt my concept of environmental issues woven into a school’s curriculum. It Mike and Karen Valentine of San Rafael, CA.

Example Video

Memorize Quote

Memorize One Lengthy (100 words or more) Quote, Poem, or Piece that is meaningful to You. The quote “Mastery” is an example of a suitable piece -and participants may choose that one -or one that speaks to them. “Mastery” can be found in the UBBT’s member’s only website.

Seek Out a Master

Each candidate will be required to seek out one master (of any discipline in or out of the martial arts), conduct and interview and, if possible, study with him or her.

Empathy Training

Empathy Training is, for the martial arts community anyway, a UBBT curriculum-component creation. Having empathy for people with less -or who are gifted with something that makes them see, feel, or otherwise engage the world in a unique way -is a fine form of emotional and intellectual self-defense.

The day in a wheelchair is in honor of three martial artists, 2 of which were students of mine that through no fault of their own now live and function in wheelchairs. Jay Pak and Patrick Flanagan -here’s to you!

1 Day Blind, 1 Day Mute, and One Day in a Wheelchair

Reading Requirements

Each UBBT participant reads a dozen books during the test.

Here’s a suggested reading list from Coach Tom Callos and other team members (partial):

Turning Fear Into Power, by Bill Kipp (UBBT graduate)

Radical Simplicity, by Jim Merkel

The Art of Peace, by Uieshiba

Three Budo Masters, by john Stevens

That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek, by Cheri Huber

NOW, the Art of Being Truly Present

The New Nuclear Danger, by Dr. Helen Caldicott (one of my living heroes)

How to Make the World a Better Place, by Jeffrey Hollender

How to Change the World, by Borstein (thanks Charles Chi)

The Kids Guide to Service Projects, by Lewis

Rural Studio, Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency

It’s Easy Being Green, by Crissy Trask

Practicing Peace in Times of War, by Pema Chodron

One Can Make a Difference, by Julia Butterfly Hill

Anything written by Thich Nhat Hahn

Unstuck, a Tool for Yourself, Your Team, and Your World, by Yamashita and Spataro

A larger reading list is stored on the UBBT’s Member’s Only Website.

Optional Requirements

In the martial arts tests of the future (or right now in the UBBT), student will have optional testing components they can voluntarily add to their tests, just like someone choosing their courses for college can choose elective classes based on their personal interests.

The Video Diary Challenge

Along with the UBBT’s written journaling requirement, participants accepting this challenge produce a video diary

once a month (minimum) for 12 months.

The Vegetarian Challenge

Go vegetarian (no meat or no dairy/animal products) for 3, 6,or 12 months.

The “Buy Nothing New” Challenge

This optional challenge follows suit with San Francisco’s THE COMPACT (http://sfcompact.blogspot.com) which

practices the idea of not buying anything new for 12 months (except for food, underwear, medical supplies, etc.).

The 24 Pictures Challenge

Record your physical transformation. Take a picture of yourself, shirt-off, twice a month for one year -to show the

changes your physique goes through. After the 12th month, you assemble the shots into a movie/slide-show. See

this video as an example of a photo time-lapse montage.

The White Belt Challenge

Start a new style of martial arts, as a white belt.