What Does It Take --- 2nd Degree Black Belt?

By Diane Ruth
Published on Feb 15th, 2012

Life is a Journey; and this is a reflection on my experience toward 2nd Degree Black Belt. It’s been a challenging year. I can discuss this in detail because one of my test requirements is to Blog about my training for 2nd Degree. I’ll talk about the specifics of my Blog later in this article. To summarize my process this past 11 months; I work full time for a Financial Institution. I spend 5 hours a week driving back and forth to work. My husband and I run a small Martial Arts club and we’re building a 1,400 square foot training facility, ourselves. I worked overtime for some vacation money then, went to Ireland for 9 days for our (training) vacation. We prepared for a big hurricane. Our daughter moved out. I worked at a 100 day marketing Blog test (called Virtual Learning Coach). My husband and I participated in a Tournament and our performance was posted (without our permission) to YouTube. We spent the holidays traveling 7 hours round trip visiting friends and family. Both my husband and I have had a few big health issues, along with the normal everyday life issues everyone deals with. Through all of this, I managed to spend over 800 hours focused on Kenpo.

Do the math

The 800 hours was unexpected, it’s an approximate figure. It may be higher. On weekends I can really obsess; sometimes spending up to 15 hours a day looking through resource material, planning, studying, and creating. Unfortunately, I did not track my hours so I can only estimate. On average I spend 6 hours physically training each week (at times as much as 9 hours), I spend over 2 hours a week teaching, I spend about 1 hour a week preparing lesson plans (in the beginning of the year it was 2 hours in planning), I spend at least 6 hours a week studying, and approximately 5.5 hours a week Blogging about Kenpo.

Blog About it!

My focus was to Blog daily about one term from Ed Parker’s Encyclopedia of Kenpo, one of Mr. Parker’s sayings from the Book “The Zen of Kenpo”, and to Blog about my daily training (whatever that entailed). Those of you who are technologically savvy may not understand some of my initial frustrations with this project. Being new to Blogging and not one to frequent Facebook, I found the whole process extremely difficult. Not only the idea of putting my words out there for the whole world to see, but the taxing act of Blogging. It originally took me 45-60 minutes to Blog each night. There were, and still are, plenty of technological issues for me. At the start of the project, I would Blog right before bed so I had trouble thinking (that was a big obstacleJ). After about 90 days, I started to get into the swing of things. It still takes me about 30 minutes to complete the posts each night. When this article is published it will be day 329 and I have published 985 Blog posts to date.

I found this project incredibly valuable for my development as a Martial Artist. I’ve learned much about Mr. Parker, Kenpo, the Martial Arts, Motion, Principles, combat, and myself. I stayed away from Mr. Parker’s analogies and I’ve had to limit the terms to 3-5 per page just to get through most of the alphabet and Encyclopedia. I might never have paid attention to more than half the terms I posted, if it were not for this Blog. The same can be said about Mr. Parker’s sayings. I try really hard not to repeat sayings in my Blog. This process forces me to think about what those sayings mean. Some of the meanings are more obvious than others. I try to make an emotional connection with each saying. I also try to post a non-Kenpo interpretation of the saying, when possible.


About a month ago I sat down fixated on my test. I figured out I spent approximately 500 hours on Kenpo in 2011. My husband says I’m obsessed with it. However, I believe you have to immerse yourself in a subject in order to be great at it. Think about anything you do and how much time it took for you to be good at it. How long did it take you to become a good driver? How long was it before you were good at your job; or at throwing a baseball, dancing, sports, video games, reading, math, etc…? No matter what you need to, or want to, learn you have to invest your time studying, practicing, and “just doing it”.


Evaluating progress is subjective and dependant on the evaluator’s expectations and perspective. We’re often particularly critical of our own progress. If any of us created a bar graph of every aspect of our life to see the progress, it would be amazing to see how far most of us have come. If you only looked at one piece of your life you would either see a significant progress, an insignificant progress or, across the board, a varied amount of progress. Of course, some bars would be higher than others. If I was using a bar graph to measure my progress for 2nd Degree, there would be some high points and some points of passable progress, depending on what was being measured. I feel I’ve progressed in every area across the board with some areas more so then others. Does my teacher feel the same way? Do my associates feel the same way? What about my contemporaries, students, or outsiders? I’m not sure. They may see more progress than I, or they may not see as much. In the final review, I must acknowledge my own sense of accomplishment as the “bar graph”, not what others may think. I’ve developed an intimate relationship with my reference materials, started several significant projects, grown a business with my husband, expanded my knowledge, corrected some bad habits, tackled some sophisticated material and overcome some coordination issues.

So, that’s a quick synopsis of my journey to 2nd Degree Black Belt. Every Black Belt’s journey will be “tailored” to them, and all, very different. If you’d like to check out my personal journey, just Google Diane’s Kenpo Blog or visit

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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