MATA’s Solution for Orphaned Black Belts

Joe Lewis Promotes John Graden to 7th

Joe Lewis Promotes John Graden to 7th Degree Black Belt

The Black Belt is the most well-known symbol of the martial arts. We all know that people perceive that the higher your Black Belt rank is the more accomplished you are.
However, many dedicated black belts like me were orphaned at some point in their career and left without an instructor to advance them in rank.

As I describe in my book, I was devastated when my instructor Walt Bone died in a plane crash in 1982. In 1983, Mike Anderson (Founder of the PKA, WAKO, Professional Karate magazine, and this thing called semi-contact karate) stepped in and promoted me.

Then Joe Lewis moved in with Mike in 1984. We became close friends and training partners. Over the course of the next 14 years, Joe Lewis promoted me through the ranks all the way to 8th in 2007.

Rank in martial arts is important. While there are no real standards, there is confidence in rank.

  1. Your students have more confidence in you because they see that you are still in the game.
  2. You have more confidence because you are advancing in the ranks of your profession.
  3. Regardless of the profession, advancement is always better than stagnation.

This is why I’ve created the MATA Rank Advancement Program. As the MATA Certification program has grown, graduates have been asking me if they could advance in rank under the MATA organization.

To be clear, MATA Certification is the first step to rank advancement. We’re not considering anyone who has not completed the MATA Certification course.

The requirements for the MATA Rank Advancement are not style oriented but are weighted on important technical skills and teaching ability.


Life as an Orphan Black Belt

Life as an Orphan Black Belt

If you’d like to learn more about getting rank through MATA, send us an email with your questions and background.

How to Advance in Rank as a Black Belt without an Instructor or Style Organization

I was orphaned as a black belt when my instructor died in a plane crash in 1982. I was a 3rd dan. I was lucky though. I was adopted by the great Joe Lewis who promoted me to 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th degree before his untimely death in 2012.

Most orphaned black belts are not so lucky. Their instructors either leave the arts or they have a falling out. Some get disenchanted with the organization they came up in and strike out on their own only to find it can be tough being a solo act.

One of the more frequent questions I get is, “How can I advance in rank with MATA?”

There are two ways to accomplish this and more if you’re creative. I’ll break down the details later, but essentially there are two options. Long-distance or in person. Long-distance means that you video yourself and submit the videos for my review. What you video will depend on a number of factors, but the point is that upon successful completion, we’ll mail you a certificate of rank.

The other option is to bring me in to test and promote you personally. This presents the opportunity to host seminars and build excitement around your promotion. For instance, you could promote a bully seminar, a kickboxing seminar, a self-defense seminar, and have me as a guest at your school belt exam where a portion of the day will be spent on your promotion/exam.