The Fully Qualified Instructor

By Dennis Lawson
Published on Jan 22nd, 2013

Black Belt Pledge --- I hold that my time and my skill are the assets of my profession, assets which grow in value as I progress in the Art, until as, as a Third Degree Black Belt, I stand as a fully qualified instructor. It shall also be my responsibility to protect any student from ravenous individuals who would try to take advantage of personal weakness to divest the gullible into unprofitable paths, to preserve the sacred things, God, family, country, and Association, I pledge my all.

I tested for my 3rd Degree in July of 1990. It was the last time I was to see Ed Parker, the Father of American Karate, alive. From just before Christmas that year, after his passing, I set myself a goal to find out what the phrase, “fully qualified instructor” really meant. I stopped competing. I would not concern myself with any external aspect of the Art (trophies, further progression in rank, etc.), until I understood.

I spent lots of time “getting my stuff”. Refining technique extensions, Long Form 7, working with blades, etc., took much of my time. I worked on projects, whether Formulations, revisions of terminology, groundwork, or publishing articles, I stayed busy working on the Art physically and conceptually.

I worked on the International Karate Championships. I did everything from center referee to truck loader, T-shirt folder, Stage Director, even Master of Ceremonies. I built a successful Karate business in New Orleans. I taught seminars at Gatherings and other venues throughout the U.S. I taught seminars in Europe and worked on the European Championships. I got “out of shape” and “in shape” again. I organized testing boards, functioned as an organization’s representative. I tested long-time students for black belt.

Still, I couldn’t find my answer. What is a fully qualified instructor? Is it someone who knows all “the stuff”? Are you “fully qualified” because you can teach seminars, or because you’re a Karate businessman, or you look O.K. in a tuxedo and don’t bite your tongue when you face a crowd and speak into a microphone? Now, 23 years later, the question is still relevant. What is it that makes a Black Belt a “fully qualified instructor”? I’d enjoy hearing other points of view on this question. As always, I can be contacted at

"If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven't done anything today."
— Lou Holtz: Retired football coach, author, motivational speaker

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Dennis Lawson

Dennis Lawson has trained for 4 decades in Ed Parker's Kenpo. During his varied career, Mr. Lawson has been an IKKA Regional Director for Region #3, has acted as Master of Ceremonies for the International Karate Championships, and has published numerous articles in publications for the International Kenpo Karate Association, The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC), and Kenpo 2000.

Mr. Lawson has had the opportunity to study other Martial Arts and holds advanced rank in Aikido and Takemusu Aiki Budo. Dennis taught, competed in, and promoted events in the New Orleans area for 20 years. Among his list of favorite achievements is choreographing and performing Kenpo for the Dance Council of New Orleans. His academic background in psychology and love of music allow Dennis to offer a unique and entertaining approach to tailoring "the Art" to the individual. Dennis has taught seminars in Ireland, Jersey Channel Islands, The Netherlands, Portugal, and throughout the United States.

Dennis holds a Sixth Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker's Kenpo and was awarded the title “Professor” under the auspices of The Martial Arts Learning Community (TheMALC). Mr. Lawson was inducted into the International Black Belt Hall of Fame as Master Instructor of the Year for 2006.

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