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Mom I got a half stripe......

Was your child lucky enough to fail?

You might be wondering if you read that right?...........

We actually did intentionally fail most of our intermediate and advanced students last week.

I thought this might be a good time to address this unique aspect of our program.


You may have noticed a lot of students getting “half stripes” during this last belt stripe testing. Did your child get a half stripe? But…….let me back up a little because many of you are either new or still in the “beginner” stage of karate.

For our new families here is how it all works –

  1. Intent and Purpose: The objective of the belt stripe system is to safely and in a controlled manner, create struggle, hardship and failure for our students. As you have heard me say before “You want your child to live a good life but not an EASY life!” Many of the habits, attitudes and character traits like persistence, perseverance and strong work ethic can only be developed through hardship. Like a metal alloy tempered with extreme heat. When a child gets everything too easily and is protected from everything they are dependent, feel entitled and are weak.

  2. Basics of how it works: Our “training cycle” is the three months between belt promotions. During that period we belt stripe test every student three times so the testing is done about every month. This is the black stripe they receive.

  3. The two levels: There are two very different levels or phases of testing – the beginner and the intermediate/advanced stages.

  • Beginner stage: This is any student in their first year of training and any student under the age of six (our Little Dragons). The primary object for these new students is to develop two things: 1.) self confidence and self self esteem, and 2.) strong effort and positive attitude. Therefore the criteria we use for passing their belt stripe test at this beginner stage and earn a black stripe is NOT their technical or performance abilities. It is primarily their attitude and effort. So you might be very surprised to hear me say that their karate can be terrible but if they try their best and are fearless they pass. So here pretty much all the students earn a full black stripe.

  • Intermediate/Advanced stage: Things completely change when they earn their green belts and move up to the intermediate class (IBBT)! Now they can still earn a full black stripe but now they can also earn no stripe, a half a stripe, and the coveted red stripe. By now they should have developed a basic level of self confidence and self esteem. They have also developed the habit of strong effort and positive attitude. So now we can start teaching them something that is priceless – persisting and never giving up on hard things, being relentless and always getting up when they fail or get knocked down, and as a result being internally driven to be the very best they can be ALL THE TIME and at EVERYTHING THEY DO! We do this by safely and intentionally failing them often. Real life and the life they will face is full of mistakes, setbacks and failures.

  1. How we make them experience failure: We do two things to intentionally create a very hard but controlled environment and experience-

  • Intentionally failing in a safe way:This one is important and huge.We periodically have to raise our testing standards and expectations for two good reasons – 1.)As you might expect, this stress actually causes our student to get stronger and better so we have to up the standard for passing, and 2.) We need to make sure failing is more the norm than the exception.The reason why is because if we only failure one or two students it would be devastating to those two students and would soon destroy their confidence, attitude and effort.It would crush them instead of building them up.So I tell our instructor to intentionally fail and give half a stripe to at least 1/3 to 1/2 the class.(Know that this is very hard for our instructors to do!)So sometimes a student will fail when they actually did well.They will also think “Hey, I did better than that other student that passed!”Or, even better “I should have gotten that red stripe!”But, here is the invaluable life lesson – “Life is not fair!”So when some people encounter an unfair failure they complain, blame and quit.Do you know what highly successful people and kids do – they brush themselves off and immediately stand back up.Instead of quitting and beating themselves up they actually use the experience to get even stronger, driven and unstoppable.I am sure you have heard the story of Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players ever.He was cut from his freshman basketball team.That one failure drove him to never ever again not make the team.Most in that situation would have just given up.

  1. Parents failing: Here is the interesting thing we have learned – often this failure is harder on the parents than their kids! Here is why – you are not use to seeing your child fail or struggle. Most of our student are superstars at school, sports and home. Everything comes easy and everyone is praising them. When a student gets that half stripe they will hold it together until they get to their car then ball their eyes out. This may be hard for you to see but know this…….every time your child does this they get stronger!

We failed and gave a half a stripe to at least half the intermediate/advance students this last time.

I know it will be hard but consider yourself lucky if your child failed! They are getting the lesson!

‘Till next time!

Yours for Rock Solid (and tough unstoppable) Kids,


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