Graham Smyth: Black Belt Requirements

  1. What are my goals upon having reached my black belt for my future training and learning?


In addition to advancing my knowledge and skill in Tae Kwon Do, I’m also very interested in better learning how to teach and mentor our newer and younger students. My time spent at Mercer Island Martial Arts over the course of my life has been invaluable, in the sense that I’ve learned lessons there that I believe I could not have learned anywhere else. The martial artists who trained me had a major role in my upbringing, and the person that I grew up to be. I want to become a better instructor because martial arts is more than just a sport or a hobby to me; it’s a way that I choose to live my life, and something that makes my life better than it ever could be without it. I want to preserve that experience, and hand it down to the next generation of students in whichever capacity I am able to do so.

               I also want to continue to train my body, and press on in my journey to lose some excess weight, build up the stamina that I used to have, and keep my blood pressure down and under control. Since returning to martial arts, I’ve made great strides towards all of these goals, but I’ve still got plenty of work in front of me. This has been the most effective physical exercise I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s because I enjoy it.


  1. What Kind of Black Belt Will I Be?


I will be a humble black belt. I recognize that, while this is a great accomplishment that I’ve spent most of my life working towards, it is just the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of a far greater journey. I will strive to remember that coaching and improvement can come from all sorts of places, and one can learn lessons from the most wizened master as well as the youngest neophyte. Everybody has a lesson that they can teach me, and I want to keep my mind open enough to hear it all.


As a black belt, I will seek to grow. Every day, I will try to find ways to improve, as I do now; not just as a martial artist, but as a person, as a son, as an employee, and as a teacher. I recognize that there will always be room to grow, and become more than I was.


As a black belt, I will be patient, both with myself and with my students. I will remember that not all things come easily, and the things worth earning seldom do. While I may become discouraged, I will persist. While it may take me longer than most, I will persevere.


  1. Recommendation from two people


My first recommendation comes from my father, without whom I would never have discovered this passion, nor returned to it after so great an absence. My father has always had great faith in me, particularly when I did not have great faith in myself. He has been there to offer advice, comfort, and comradery throughout my journey through martial arts and beyond.


My second recommendation comes from June Zalewska, my sister. Without June, I would likely never have returned to this place. Though only nine years old, she possesses wisdom and cunning beyond her years, and the uncanny ability to help me be a greater person than I am. It was through her love of martial arts that I came back to my old passion, and I am honored to have her blessing to take this test.  

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