They say that a black belt is a white belt who never quit.

The black belt is a milestone life achievement that every black belt can be proud of. The belt is recognition of the years of hard work and self-discipline that forged the white belt into a black belt. It speaks not only of your achievement, but of your character—the black belt mindset that kept you working towards your goal when others quit.

But the martial arts journey doesn’t end at black belt.

If a black belt is a white belt who never quit, what is a Master?

A Master is a black belt who never quit.

This has been an extraordinarily challenging year. 2020 began as all new years begin, full of hope and promise. At West Coast World Martial Arts, we entered the new year looking ahead to our Mastery test, a black belt test we hold once every four years in our continued journey on the road to Mastery. But a global pandemic emerged early in the year, and what followed—business and school shutdowns, shelter in place rules, social distancing, and mask requirements—are familiar to all of us by now.

The challenge West Coast World Martial Arts faced was enormous—how would our students be able to continue their martial arts journey when Covid safety rules for the protection of our students prevented them from entering the school? And how would we hold our Mastery test in June?

A black belt is a white belt who never quit. A Master is a black belt who never quit.

We never quit.

If Covid presented us with unprecedented challenges, we would rise to meet and overcome those challenges. Time and time again, Great Grandmaster Ernie Reyes Sr. would remind us to never, ever quit. This indomitable martial arts spirit was not only how we would rise to beat Covid and come out stronger on the other end, it was the essence of the Legacy of Mastery Great Grandmaster Reyes was bequeathing to all of us.

So we never quit. If our students couldn’t come to the school to train, we would find another way. And we did find another way, moving our classes to online training through Zoom. It was a resounding success. In a world where students and parents alike were sheltering in place, wondering if things would ever return to normal, our students continued to train, continued to improve, continued their journey on the road to Mastery, from the safety of their homes. Over and over again, we heard from our students and parents how much they appreciated the Zoom classes.

That wasn’t the only challenge we faced, however. Over 500 West Coast World Martial Artists had been preparing for their black belt Mastery test, and now Covid social distancing requirements made it impossible to bring everyone together for the test. How could we hold a test under these conditions?

Quitting wasn’t an option. Waiting until “someday” wasn’t an option.

So with the indomitable spirit of martial arts mastery, combined with the creative and innovative genius and pool of talent behind the most successful martial arts team in the world, we found another way: The world’s first-ever virtual black belt Mastery test.

Across the country, 559 West Coast World Martial Arts students completed the final portion of their black belt Mastery test in the last week of June. And leading the way, our two founders, Great Grandmaster Ernie Reyes Sr. and Great Grandmaster Tony Thompson, tested for their 10th degree black belts, the final test of their journey in Pursuit of Mastery.

A 10th degree black belt is the highest achievement possible in the martial arts, and one that few ever reach. It represents a lifetime of leadership, dedication, and mastery, and recognition of that lifetime of hard work and achievement by one’s own peers. And by leading their students across the country to the next level on their own journey to Mastery, our Great Grandmasters taught this and future generations of black belts that a Master is a black belt who never quit, despite sometimes enormous challenges, and that with that indomitable spirit of martial arts mastery, we can meet and beat any challenge, in life, and on the journey to Mastery.

Congratulations to our Great Grandmasters Ernie Reyes Sr. and Tony Thompson on attaining their 10th degree black belts, and to all of our West Coast World Martial Arts black belts who took the next step forward on their own journey to Mastery!


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