UMA Lakeville: J. Pat Burleson, W.M.A.R.A Certified

If you are studying the Martial Arts, especially Karate, and the names Jhoon Rhee and J. Pat Burleson don’t ring a bell, then you have some homework to do. I’m not asking you to learn every single detail about their lives, but you should understand who they are and that they are a huge part of America’s Karate history. I’ll give you the basics. 

10th Degree Black Belt Grand Master Jhoon Rhee began training in Tae Kwon Do as a teenager in South Korea. He moved to Texas in the 1950’s where he eventually started teaching his art. Jhoon Rhee holds the title of “Father of American Tae Kwon Do” because before his arrival to the United States, Tae Kwon Do had yet to be established in America. By the early 1960’s, Grand Master Rhee’s teachings were gaining attention, and his student base was growing. One of his students, and in fact his second black belt ever, is 10th Degree Black Belt Grand Master J. Pat Burleson. Grand Master Burleson has played a major role in the growth and development of Karate in America. His list of accomplishments as a Martial Artist is too long to list, as well as the number of students he has trained. 

I feel honored and privileged to be a student as well as an instructor with Ultimate Martial Arts. Our school has a direct lineage that goes back to the teachings of Grand Master Burleson and subsequently Grand Master Jhoon Rhee, himself. Grand Master Burleson holds a very high standard for his students, which is why I am extremely honored to be able to say that Ultimate Martial Arts-Lakeville is one of the very first schools in Minnesota to be J. Pat Burleson and World Martial Arts Ranking Association, W.M.A.R.A Certified. We are now recognized world wide by the most prestegious Marital Arts Association in the world which was founded by the early pioneers of American Marial Arts. 

We will continue to work hard in order to hold the rigorous standards that are expected by a great Martial Artist like Grand Master Burleson, and if you happen to be reading this, Grand Master Burleson, we hope to make you proud.  Check out the W.M.A.R.A  (World Martial Arts Ranking Association) if you are curious and wish to learn more!

Ultimate Martial Arts is hosting an event on Saturday, June 25 at 10:30 am at our Lakeville location to recognize our Approval from Grand Master J. Pat Burleson as an Accredited World Martial Arts Association (WMARA) School. We welcome Special Guest,  Master John Olson to present the certificate and lead the Dedication and unveiling of  our new Black Belt Wall.  Open to Public, EVERYONE is INVITED! 

The Willingness to Change


Studying the Martial Arts has many great benefits. The obvious one is that Martial Arts teaches you self-defense skills so you can protect yourself if you are ever attacked, but there are a lot more lessons to be learned. In this blog, I’m going to talk about ‘Change’.

If you want to advance in Karate, you not only have to learn the techniques, defenses, and forms, but you also need to get better at them over time. When you think of a black belt, you probably visualize someone who can utilize their Martial Arts skills with very high precision and accuracy, and someone who is also extremely knowledgeable in the art as a whole. Getting to that level does not happen overnight. It requires a lot of time, patience, perseverance, and the willingness to change.

The question you may be asking is, “Change what?” The answer is, “Whatever is needed to improve.” A lot of people think that in order to get good at something, you just have to do it a lot. Now, I’m not going to disagree with that thought process, but the real question is, are you doing it the right way to begin with? Repetition will make you comfortable at a skill, but if you learned that skill the wrong way, you are going to become really good at doing something incorrectly. If that’s the case, it would probably be easier to start over from the beginning, and learn that particular skill all over again.

But, what about skills you have learned correctly? Why would you need to change anything? The short answer is, because there is always something to improve. It could be something as simple as doing it faster, but even that requires making the effort to change the speed in which you execute that technique.

The hard part for a lot of people is that they don’t like change. They get comfortable in their ways, and become quite content. I always think about that stereotypical grouchy old man who hates everything because “it’s not the way it used to be.” In karate, if you aren’t willing to make changes in your techniques and even your attitude about them, you are going to get stuck, while all of those who are making changes progress and move up the ranks.

If you want to advance, you need to improve. If you want to improve, you need to remember what I tell my students,

“Improvement requires change”



The Importance of Setting Goals

In my last blog entry, I wrote about staying focused on the big picture while training in the Martial Arts. It’s important to remember why you joined in the first place, and even though we don’t want you to train exclusively for the rewards, you will be rewarded for your efforts. In Karate, your reward is promotion to a new belt rank, but I like to think of the belt ranks more like checkpoints along Your Journey to Black Belt. For many, earning their Black Belt is the big picture, or their ultimate goal. Nobody joins Karate because they want to be a Blue Belt. I’ve seen students stop training at every single belt rank below Black Belt, but nobody starts with the intent of quitting before Black.

So, how can you achieve your long term goal of becoming a Black Belt? Start with a time frame. You can’t be vague and simply say, “As soon as possible,” or “Eventually.” Give yourself an exact deadline that is within a realistic amount of time. Having a deadline puts a sense of urgency to your goals that will really keep you motivated to continue working toward it. For example, about three years ago, I started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). Once I realized that I really enjoyed it, I set a long term goal for myself to become a Blue Belt in BJJ before being promoted to Fifth Degree Black Belt in Karate. I had three years left before I was eligible for my Karate promotion, and knowing about how long it takes, on average, to get to Blue Belt in BJJ, I knew it was possible. I did the math and figured out the last possible chance I would have to earn my Blue Belt in BJJ before my Karate promotion. I had the time frame figured out, so I set a deadline for my long term goal. I then I had to start setting my short term goals.

Long term goals in the Martial Arts often take years to accomplish, so the short term goals keep things interesting. At Ultimate Martial Arts, it takes on average four years to earn your Black Belt in Karate, so setting short term goals for each one of the twelve Under Belts (any belt below the rank of Black) makes that four year journey go by much quicker. In order to give yourself an exact deadline for those short term goals, you may need to talk to your instructor to get all the info on a realistic timeline between each belt level.

The last thing, and in my opinion the most important, thing to remember about any goal you set for yourself (Karate related or not) is that simply having an aspiration is not a guarantee for success. You are going to hit roadblocks along the way. If that happens, don’t beat yourself up or feel like you have failed. If you don’t achieve your goal by the date you set, that’s okay. Reassess where you’re at, and set a new goal date. I can almost guarantee you that something unexpected will happen. Don’t let it stop you. Work through the problem and you will be back on track to earning your Black Belt before you know it. Always remember,

Every Black Belt is just a White Belt that never gave up!

The Big Picture

As I type this, I’m sitting in a quiet office in a Karate school. How I got to this moment is a very long story. I’m not going to get in to it, but I will say that my journey started over 22 years ago. I know a lot of Martial Artists that have been training for much longer than me, but I think 22 years is a long time by most everyone’s standards. Looking back on it really helps me see the big picture, but what is the big picture?

The big picture is what you want your training to mean. Why did you join, or perhaps are thinking about joining, karate? A common answer is to learn self-defense. Other responses I’ve gotten are: wanting to get physically fit, using it to help relieve stress, and the most common one from parents (for their kids) is to learn respect and discipline. The big picture has nothing to do with belt rank. Your belt color is a reward. It’s like and actor winning an Academy Award for a film they made. It’s something they are all honored to receive, but winning an award is not the reason they became actors in the first place.

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind (whatever that is for you) because it’s easy to become blinded by the reward. For example, I had a student who was getting close to fulfilling all of the requirements in order to promote to his next belt. After class one day, I started talking to him about what he needed to do in order to graduate by the end of the week. He looked at me and said that he didn’t feel ready, and wanted to wait until he was better at his techniques. He chose to wait because he was thinking about the big picture. He didn’t let the temptation of getting a new belt distract him from remembering why he joined karate in the first place. He didn’t just want to be a Black Belt. He wanted to be the most skilled Black Belt he could be, even if that meant taking more time to get there.

The truth is we, as Americans, are impatient. The multi colored belt system was basically invented in America, so that we can be rewarded for our efforts more often. But, take it from me (and my 22 years of training), it’s not about the short term. I don’t look back at myself and think about how good I was between Purple and Blue Belt, or how quickly I got my first stripe as a Red Belt, because in the big picture, it doesn’t matter. Stay focused on why you joined in the first place. Train for those reasons, and not the short term rewards

Kids vs Adults: Size Matters

We are getting ready for our Ultimate Martial Arts Spring Advanced Belt Graduation. It’s an exciting day. All of the graduating students have put in hundreds of hours of work to achieve their personal goals of becoming a Brown, Advanced Brown, or Black Belt. They all have developed into strong and focused Martial Artists, and they have all developed their skills to help keep themselves safe in a hand to hand defense situation. However, there is a truth that everyone must understand when it comes to fighting. Size matters.

Karate is a one of the best activities for kids to participate in. It teaches them about respect and discipline, it keeps them physically active, and most importantly, it helps them learn how to defend themselves if they are ever attacked in real life. If a bully at school were to start a fight with another kid their same age and size, the advantage goes to the one who has the most training in hand to hand combat, but if one of those kids is much larger in size, the truth is (even if the smaller one has defense training) the advantage goes to whoever is bigger.

There is a reason there are weight classes in competitive fighting, such as boxing, wresting, MMA, and UFC. I’m not saying that a little guy can’t win, but the bigger guy has a size advantage. Larger bodies can take a harder hit, and they also tend to be able to hit harder in return. Let’s look at this from the extremes. If I, a man of relatively average size, were to get kicked or punched by one of my seven year old students as hard as they could hit me, it may not be pleasant, but it probably won’t knock me down for the count. Now imagine that scenario going the other way. That’s a very unpleasant thought (Note: No kids were harmed in the writing of this blog).

The point I’m getting at is that a junior Black Belt, despite learning all of the same skills, and having gone through all of the same testing as an adult Black Belt, would not realistically be able to win a fight against someone who has a significant size advantage over them. However, “winning” in a fight is very different from “defending” yourself from an attacker. Self-defense is doing anything you can to keep yourself safe from someone who is trying to harm you. Statistically, people who fight back when being attacked have a much better chance of walking away from the situation unharmed. If you do nothing, your odds plummet. The practice of Karate gives one the skills and confidence to handle themselves in a real life attack. Not the ability to “win a fight.”

So kids, understand that while earning your Black Belt is an amazing accomplishment, it does not give you super powers. There will be a day where you develop into your strong, full grown adult bodies, but for now you still have a lot of growing to do. You may have tremendous skills as a martial artist, but size is still an advantage.

Photo Credit:  L. Gergen