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The Parallels of Martial Arts Training and Leadership Development

The Blog



The Parallels of Martial Arts Training and Leadership Development

Scott Alexander

As a fifth degree Black Belt and a Master Instructor with the Golden Knights Karate, I firmly believe that there are many lessons to be learned from martial arts to challenge people and organizations to maximize their impact.

This concept evolved for me as I became more dedicated to my practice in the martial arts and progressed from student to teacher. Along my path to become an instructor (sensei), my responsibilities changed from me being a martial artist to bringing my students along the path of becoming a Black Belt. An important part of the Black Belt test is the student essay, where candidates are asked to write a paper on “What does it mean to be a Black Belt?”

Profound Words of Wisdom from My Students

While I had worked with my students for years and thought I knew them well, I was impressed at their profound and diverse answers and the wisdom that accompanied them.

Here are a few impressive snippets from the Black Belt essays from my students:

“Being a Black Belt does not mean that I am perfect, but that I have the discipline to do what is right. I set an example to those I know and meet by doing so.  I work hard, try my best, and take responsibility for my actions.”
“By the time one reaches the stage of Black Belt, they should have achieved a state of emotional preparedness...They should display confidence in their abilities, but not to the point of arrogance. A Black Belt knows their limits and strives to overcome them through practice.”
“One of the most important things about being a Black Belt is making the best of every situation. When in a bad situation, a Black Belt would not hesitate to do whatever is right…it is a status that you have to work hard to earn, and once you earn it, you have to live by it. A Black Belt should be an inspiration to all people.”

Now, go back and re-read those quotes and substitute the word “Leader” for the words “Black Belt”.

And that’s when it hit me…all the years that I had been working with my students to develop them into Black Belts, something less obvious, but just as profound, had been happening simultaneously: they were training to be leaders in the truest sense of the word.

Everything my students were learning inside the martial arts training studio (dojo) should and did cross over into the real world.

And hence, the concept of Black Belt Leadership and my resulting book, “Lead Like a Black Belt, Transform Your Leadership Style,” was born.

Are you looking to transform your leadership style? Whether you are a parent stepping into a volunteer coaching position, an employee stepping into a leadership position at work or a seasoned leader who is looking to break through the next level, we can all benefit from enhancing our leadership ability.

Visit or email: to share your leadership comments, questions or suggestions.


Scott Alexander is a published author, a coach to entrepreneurs and senior executives, an accomplished speaker, and a strategy/leadership