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    The UBBT Blog

    Welcome to The Ultimate Black Belt Test Project 2014 / 2015. The UBBT is a black belt testing program like none other in the world. The project is a labratory for new test design ideas --and the test subjects are the participants. What can you (is the question) bring to your own "test" that is MORE than simply the physical practice of your art, (whatever style or art you practice)?

    The UBBT is about taking the martial arts, your practice, out of the dojo and into the world. Can you design a test that is everything a test is today --and then add to it elements such as dietary issues, meditation and spiritual training, environmental self-defense concerns, anger management education, peace education, and rape culture education, community activism, and any number of other elements that might make this test, your test, one that is not only profoundly important and transformative for yourself, but that helps us show others in the martial arts community any number of ways that they can make their own practice more relevent-to-today, meaningful, and exciting?

    Welcome to the UBBT. Can you make your own test serve as an example of "how it should be done?" It's very likely that more than a million people will view the UBBT journals in the coming 24 months. The UBBT is a stage that you may step up on and REPRESENT what you know and are working on, for yourself, and to the benefit of others.

    For information, call me. I'm Tom Callos, my phone number is 530-903-0286 (California time).


    On Quitting the Ultimate Black Belt Test

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test has a No Quitting Policy

    There are things we should indeed quit, without a second thought, like smoking for example.

    But the Ultimate Black Belt Test, being that most of the people who participate are "high ranking" black belts (and thus, we presume, imbued with more self-discipline than your average Schmo), has an absolute requirement that no matter what, with the exception of death (the participant), is quitting of the program allowed. 

    If quitting is even a remote possibility, for you, when the project gets tough, lonely, confusing, empty, difficult, torturous, stifling, obtuse, and or void of all possible value, substance, and meaning --then don't join. You see, the process is supposed to be one of the most difficult things you ever put yourself thru --and in the spirit of that --every single thing that makes you want to stop, want to disconnect, and want to give up --are the very things that become your "test." 

    You see, this is a "test" specifically meant for everyone but you. It's meant for your students, as if you genuinely spend a year working on yourself, at the highest levels, physically, mentally, spiritually, socially, and so on ---If you play "team" as you could if you put yourself to it --you won't be telling them how to "do it," you'll be showing them. You'll show them too, what to do when one hits the wall, as you will most certainly hit the wall (and more than once). It's also for your community, to show them we're not, really, all talk, crafty ads, and full of claims of expertise. 

    Tell all your students what you intend to do, about the test you're putting yourself thru --then actually do it --and see what happens to your school, your students, and their belief, trust, and admiration of you and your work. 

    Is that easy? No, it might be one of the most challenging things you ever do.

    You see, this is a "test" for the entire international martial arts community, as a lot of people all over the world will be watching ---and ---if you're able to set a fantastic example of personal transformation (as in no bullshit, but genuine growth), you just might "launch 1000 other ships" for people who see you do it and get inspired to do it (or something like it) too. If you're able to conjure up some real genius or magic, you stand a chance to influence lots and lots of other people. If you generate ideas, tackle great subjects, and do for others, well...people will see it --and they may model the same behaviors or adopt similar practices for themselves and/or their students. 

    And, if you truly struggle, that is, with your weight, your ability to write and make films, with your commitment, with your self-discipline, motivation, and drive, if you struggle to make something out of this big fat nothing --and better yet, if you fail to get what you hoped to get, but adjust and turn whatever you DO get into something powerful and important, well hell, the good you stand to do for others, other people who also struggle, could be, literally, immeasurable. 

    No, for this particular program, at this place and time, and for all it's supposed to represent, there is no quitting. None. Zip. Never. 

    There is adjustment, there is re-starting, there is fall on your fricking face, there is struggle and pain and confusion and everything that comes along with things you set out to do that seem impossible, but there's no quitting. 

    Go ahead, let it be hard, as it reveals what we're made of, under our facade. 

    I think it's best if we just start the whole damn thing that way.


    The Ultimate Black Belt Test Project, 2014 / 2015. A Thing of The Spirit?

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test Project is, for me anyway, evolving (what isn't?). I've been deeply inspired by it, bored out of my mind with it, proud of participants, ashamed, discouraged, lifted --you know, all the emotions. But, what's come of it, for me, this year, is the idea that the project is about bringing ideas / things to the martial arts community that don't get much attention or exposure anywhere else.

    What if, in this particular arena, humanitarianism and community cultivation were the most important aspects of the work? Yes, of course, we want the process to cultivate the physical aspects we're looking for in a great black belt ----but what else? What evidence can we cultivate / create that shows we are here for other things, too? 

    Can people who put themselves thru this process be recognized for cerebral contribution, such as the sound development of educational programs to benefit the martial arts community, at large? Diabetes education? Anatomy and physiology? Anger management, hyper-masculinity, rape education, dietary self-defense? Where, otherwise, are we asking for this kind of participation from our black belts? Non-commercial contributions? 

    Yes, give me a test where the physical training is a given, but not enough, not nearly enough. Let's have a movement to make real the spirit of the training --and for it to manifest itself in evidence, in projects that reflect the wisdom we desire to cultivate ----and let's have this project stand for both cultivating a broader definition of "black belt excellence" and for offering equal recognition for the benefits of rigorous spiritual and intellectual and social efforts.

    I'm all for earning a black belt in the most rigorous, profound, meaningful, and authentic ways, smart ways that don't haze or cripple, but that empower. Perhaps the UBBT is that; is becoming that; the work to ask more of our black belts, everywhere, so that we design and re-design our role in our communities and in the world. 

    The UBBT 2006's graduation certificate was an image (thank you artist and UBBT member Patti Oji) of Ray Neill helping us build that first house in Alabama. I used it as our certificate because, to me, this was the part of the black belt test that best exhibited the essence of what I wanted from the project. To hell with yet another jump side kick, a set of broken boards, the knife disarm, or the medal won in a tournament ---show me what we're about. That's what I was/am thinking.


    Black Belt Test Thinking. 500 versus 10. How to Build a Very Fine Test

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test 2014 / 2015 is beginning, for me, perhaps for you too. 

    1 Innovative concept originated and/or embraced by the project:

    Tests that last month and months, maybe years, so that the story of the evolution of the participant is more accurately described and depicted. If test day used to include 10 rounds of fighting, for example -what would be the benefit and/or statement of doing 5 rounds a day for 100 days of a year? Many already do it, but the benefit of taking, for example, a young person thru that process allows the teacher to put the emphasis where it belongs --and the observer, wondering (perhaps) what it takes to earn a black belt, might understand more clearly the spirit of the work. 

    And the spirit of the work is: 

    For the most part, whatever it is that you desire to do or be, it most often comes thru the development and cultivation of your daily practice. What you practice, will be what you become good at. The value of fighting 500 rounds to earn new rank isn't in the skills the athlete develops as a fighter, but in the practice of creating big things thru many small and consistent efforts.

    The outcome, for me the teacher, isn't in teaching the young man or women to fight; the world hardly needs yet another fighter ---it's in teaching someone how to intelligently apply themselves to something they want to become good at (or better than "good").

    It's as simple as saying / writing: A requirement for earning the black belt is 500 rounds of sparring or grappling or, for those who can't fight due to medical issues, 500 rounds on the bags / mitts. 

    On "test day" they can still do their exhibition for the audience come to watch their graduation, but the test day isn't the deciding factor in their journey, but the story of what they learned and the skills they acquired while logging enough reps to actually make a difference. 

    "What did you do to earn that black belt?"
    "One requirement was 500 rounds of (mindful) sparring."
    "I know."

    A small twist in the story of black belt testing, but a big advance, I believe, in how a young person might approach their understanding of what makes a great black belt.


    The mindset required for The Ultimate Black Belt Test

    The mindset required for The Ultimate Black Belt Test:

    First off, this is a very uncommon (strange even) program. I won't see you, most likely, but once or twice during any given year. There are people using the project, participating, for several years now, that I've not met, yet --and might never. To play in this project you're doing so realizing I don't teach you "martial arts." The training part is purely up to you.

    Second, all the help I give you is on-line and, for the most part, all you get is an idea, a place to show us --and the world --what you do, and a team of people you ABSOLUTELY must make contact with. You get to custom design your participation, our site gives you a stage to perform on, and I'll watch and comment if and when I think it's needed. I give you my phone number, you'll know how to reach me --and I'm here to support you, but I cannot --and will not --try to force you to train, journal, participate, or produce anything of merit. You must, obviously, be highly self-motivated. 

    I don't award people black belt rank in the Ultimate Black Belt Test. People earn rank, on rare occasion, in this program for commitment and talent above and beyond the call of duty --and for humanitarian acts, social engagement, concept design, and for showing us something over the full length of engagement that inspires us and shows all of us one more example of how it can be done --and done with honor, effort, and style.

    I will ask you to engage yourself in things that, most likely, nobody else in the international martial arts community talks about, does, or even thinks about. Things like diabetes education, anger management education, environmental activism, rape culture education, project-based leadership training, and all sorts of other concepts that might stretch your brain and abilities to a place where you're as confused and organizationally challenged as anyone with a brain might be. That's what I call "good." Due to where I live and where you live, I can't kick your arse or stretch you with physical training, so I'm going to do what I can to force you into places you might not normally go --or might never investigate if not for my asking you to engage. 

    The UBBT is only you. It's not me. It's not this simple post. It's not our website. If you will set some sane but challenging goals, physical, mental, social, spiritual, and emotional growth goals --and then go at them every day / week for an extended period of time, and do so with the goal of inspiring people who look over what you're doing, and you actually DO what you set out to do, you will, I believe, "get your money's worth," from your involvement. 

    If you stop the training. If you don't engage the team. If you don't lead, if you look to me to do for you what only you can do yourself, If you don't do the acts of kindness, do the meditation, DO the training, engage and show up for the projects, or seek to see the work thru, good or bad, up or down, to the end ---you're going to, you know, feel like you wasted your money --and you may have, that is unless you simply are the kind of black belt who eats difficult situations for breakfast. If that's the case, well, I have an idea for you...

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test is nothing, it's on the web, which is, these days, just about less than nothing. For the UBBT to be something, you have to treat it like the ultimate black belt test, yours. You have to appreciate too (and this is, I think, the hardest part) that it's not about you. The "test" is about what you bring to the table that inspires others, thru your own efforts. That's when it's a win-win. 

    I don't care if it inspires you this year or a decade from now. This is part of my on-going test --and let me tell you my friend, it ain't easy to get people you've never met to step up and make some magic; but then, most of these folks are black belts, so some of them you can't seem to shake, even when you try. I like those kinda folks.


    My Ultimate Black Belt Test Failures

    My failures in The Ultimate Black Belt Test Projects

    This photo, a self-portrait taken during the whole Lloyd Irvin rape culture fiasco-of-shame, is also reflective of the attitude I have, every so often, about things I try that fall on their face. 

    Take, for example, The Ultimate Black Belt Test. Creating and executing this project over the last decade has yielded some great memories --and I do believe a lot of schools have borrowed ideas they found useful from the events --and for that my colleagues and I should be honored and grateful. 

    I should mention too, that I'm personally in a lot better shape and far more experienced as an organizer and teacher as a result of these projects, than I believe I would have been without them. Win-win.

    But oh man have I failed. I've had a hundred people just drop out of the projects --without notice. I failed to inspire them to stick to their goals, to serve the martial arts community as we initially intended --and I've failed to be able to hold some of the projects together at all. I've failed in so many ways --that I don't care to list them all here. 

    And here I am going at it again for 2014/2015. It's my goal, this time thru, to get better, that is with leading the project, even if only incrementally. I see these projects as self-imposed requirements for my yet-to-be taken 7th degree black belt test (whether it ever comes or not). Being that there's no curriculum for the kind of "test" I hold in my head, I'm taking it upon myself to make it up as I go. 

    I'll have to take the good stuff with the bad --and risk, again, the chance that I'll fail, once again, to do work that makes a difference in the martial arts community. One of the critics of my work during the fiasco mentioned above described the UBBT as my "fake black belt test." Yes, that's what it is --unless, of course, the project lives up to some of its potential and the team actually does something with the time between now and the current project's end. That is, for the most part, why I feel compelled to step up to the plate, again. If you don't swing the bat, how will you ever hit a home run (or even a base hit)?


    The Ultimate Black Belt Test Project, 2014 / 2015

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test Project 2014 / 2015

    If I were training a group of elite athletes, martial artists, for any event, whether competition, a demo team, or a rank test, I would --as a senior coach --require a bit more from them that just the crazy training schedule it takes to be a world-class performer.

    It wouldn't matter to me if my teacher had or hadn't required these things from me, it wouldn't matter to me if there was not one single documented record of any of "the founders" doing it, I would have my students doing some sort of collective community service.

    I'd start the "tradition," if one didn't already exist. I wouldn't allow myself (or thus I'm entrusted to "teach") to forget the importance, the value, of using one's life as a tool to help others --and in 1000 different ways. I do believe that people I work with will remember many things from the time we spent together, as will I, and hopefully they'll mostly be good memories --but, in when it is all said and done, I'm working now with the intent that what they will remember is that it's not about one's own personal achievements, one's tournament record, or what rank one is ---it is only about how you take what you have learned off of the mat and put it to work in the world, to the benefit of others. 

    That's what the UBBT is to be about. Whether the project is made up of 5 people, 50, or 500 ---the desired result it to encourage and build tangible examples of how this idea can be made real. And then more real. And then one that is adopted by many others due to it's goodness and value. 

    The UBBT 2014 / 2015 will be a transparent process. Everything we try, everything we work on, everything we do (or don't do) will be made public. You can ignore it; you can scoff at it; you can watch and borrow anything you see of value; or you can participate ---either way, it's on.

    Want info? Tom Callos at tomcallos at g mail dot com, ask me privately here on FB, or call me at 530-903-0286.



    Martial Arts Business: Things I Practice That Affect My Black Belt Test, My School, and My Life


    In The Ultimate Black Belt Test, I / we address the preperation for and the taking of a kind of black belt test that is transforming --as in life-changing. Not because a black belt test has to be --or should be, but because it could be.

    And the truth be told, waking up, making food, caring for loved ones, walking to the store, taking a swim, reading, and just about any act we engage in could be life-changing, if only we decided we were going to make it that way.

    Click to read more ...


    Martial Arts Business: A Black Belt Test Meant to Recreate The Process

    Facts About the Ultimate Black Belt Test:

    Cost: $1200 for the UBBT 2012, Plus $500 in an escrow account with Member’s Solutions.
    Complete the test, get the $500 back. Quit without completion, lose it.

    Length of UBBT 2012 Test: From the moment you enroll until you graduate --final graduation ceremony to be conducted in Greensboro, Alabama April of 2013 at our yearly House Build for Charity there. Last date to enroll, Jan.

    Click to read more ...


    Martial Arts Business: The ULTIMATE Martial Arts School Marketing Strategy

    If you invent and/or discover or create something new and wonderful and needed, like Jonas Salk's discovery of a vaccine for polio for example, there's no denying the beauty of it. 


    There's no question of its value.

    Click to read more ...


    Sensei Chris Feldt, a Testimonial for His Ultimate Black Belt Test Experience

    "Tom, the test has had a dramatic change on me, my school, my family and friends....yes, the tentacles of the UBBT reach into all of my relationships......I believe I am a better school owner, teacher, father, husband, brother and son for being a part of these tests.  I may not have reached the financial success that I want to be at the moment, but the foundation has been laid and with hard work and dedication, I feel certain I will get there!
    While I completed nearly all of my test requirements on team 6 and I am on track for most on team 8, I realize I have the POTENTIAL to do so much better.  That is one of the discoveries I have made about the UBBT....the quest for mastery is an evolutionary process, that does not stop with a new year.  It is a life quest and one that I  plan to be engaged in for the rest of my life!  Thank you for showing me the way!"
    Read Chris' blog here.



    How to Have Martial Arts School "Success," Using Your Black Belt Test

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test (UBBT) is a personal improvement program (explained in a previous post), but it’s also a business development program.
    Here’s why: When it comes to long term “business” success in a martial arts school, there are details involved --and then there’s the SPIRIT of the thing. The details are the shoes, socks, underwear,

    Click to read more ...


    How to Begin the Ultimate Black Belt Test (UBBT 2012)

    It takes me a good deal of concentration, these days, to write about “How to Start and Do” The Ultimate Black Belt Test (UBBT), as it’s not an easy thing to describe and explain.
    First, the UBBT is a self-improvement program --and it’s almost entirely up to the participants in the program to decide what kind of “self-improvement” their efforts will encompass. I’m open-minded about it; but I’m looking for honesty, integrity, and an extraordinary --sustained --effort.

    What I’m looking for is an effort, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially that defines the process of black belt test preparation and testing for anyone and everyone in the international martial arts community --and beyond.

    That means we (any and all instructors, of any style and system, any where in the world) should be able to look at you and your “test,” and say something like, “Now here is a fine example of someone who took their black belt testing process to an entirely new place. If you could do even half of what this person did, you would have one landmark, stellar, extraordinary black belt test.”

    Now I understand that you might not, yet, know how to design a black belt test like the one I’m describing, but I do know that part of your “test” is to learn what this means, to learn how to design black belt tests that transcend the mundane and the expected. I don’t know how long it will take you to “get” what I’m suggesting here, but I do know that it’s a major part of what I want you to get out of the project.

    I also know that when you really challenge yourself with living as a role model for the entire international martial arts community, you will be forced to do things, for yourself and others, that will forever alter and improve who you are as a person, as a teacher, and as a martial artist. There’s no way to get around it; if you go deep, if you really live it, if you genuinely embrace the philosophy, not superficially, but with heart and soul, YOU are going to benefit --and so will everyone around you.

    And, honestly, from a teacher’s perspective, I can’t say whether this process will ever be over (I think not), but it’s everything I have learned, that I know, and that I am, myself, working on. It’s the only real gift and/or instruction I can give you that I really know has value. Everything else we discuss after this is just some part of the foundation used to support the concept of living as an example.

    The best way, I think, to “get started” with this is to compare it to something like a birth or a death. Nothing is ever the same for parents when a child is born  --and nothing is ever the same when someone you love is no longer physically present; at least that’s been my own experience. From that day on (marked by a birth or death), I have changed --and/or been changed.

    If you could decide at a level somewhere close to a birth or death experience that you were going to use your next black belt test to do some of the deepest, most genuine, most needed “life-work” on yourself that you’ve ever done, well...that would be “the ultimate,” yes?

    So, decide. Decide to ignore this note. Decide to go it alone. Decide to make it your new strategy and practice. But DECIDE. And when you really decide, when you’re at the end of the diving board and you’ve bent your knees, leaned forward, and there is absolutely no turning back; THAT is when you know what commitment is. If and when you wake up and decide to dedicate a year + to designing and living a black belt test that changes your own life, the lives of your family members, the lives of your friends, the lives of your students, their families, your community, and quite possibly thousands of people you will never meet ---well, then you will be engaged in the kind of test I am putting myself through. That’s what I envision as “The Ultimate Black Belt Test.”

    You may, if you’re ready, begin now.



    Martial Arts Business: The Ultimate Black Belt Test 2012

    The Ultimate Black Belt Test (UBBT) is one of many projects I’ve initiated to inspire martial arts school owners and instructors to re-think and re-design their work, their business goals (what they want to achieve as business people), their curriculum, and their lifestyle --in ways that dramatically improve the quality of their lives and the lives of the people in their sphere of influence.

    It’s re-thinking who we are, what we’re here for, and how we’re going about the work, that empowers us to make change in our own lives --and thus can inspire others to make changes too. If they see us (martial arts teachers) benefiting from our personal changes, students might believe that they too can change, alter, and improve their own lives. In fact, the goal is to actually SHOW them how it’s done.

    The UBBT is like a big tree. One of the UBBT’s branches include The Environmental Self-Defense Movement, a rather formal name to an informal process we’re all working to implement where we tie environmental issues to personal and social self-defense. For me and many of the team, that’s a no-brainer. How we go about this, perfectly, is still in development, but whatever the process I personally like the kind of thinking that says self-defense is more (far more) than the block, kick, or punch. My friend Julia Butterfly Hill, a legendary environmental activist, calls one-use plastic bottles (like store bought water bottles) “Weapons of mass destruction.” I believe that to be true --and feel that we can’t intelligently talk about self-defense in this day and age without addressing what we consume and what it means for the world.

    Another branch of the UBBT movement is The 100. Well, The 100 is actually a tree of it’s own, with 100 plus branches all growing in different directions, including projects like Projabi (experiential community-based leadership training for young people), The Dietary Self-Defense Project, a movement to bring diabetes and heart disease education into standard martial arts training, bully education and community activism, The Teen Suicide Education Project, and all sorts of other smart --and very different --martial arts education programs executed by a special team of my “students” and peers who have taken it upon themselves to be a huge part of the solution to what is, today, ailing and near-crippling the “martial arts industry” (what’s hurting the “industry” is high pressure health club sales tactics, an emphasis on lots of sizzle, but very little educational “steak,” and an incessant push to mega-monetize every program into some kind of millionaire making money-machine).

    While all of this is wonderfully overwhelming and incredibly (I think) ambitious and noble, the trunk of the UBBT tree is made up of personal, family, school, and community SIMPLICITY and CHANGE. The UBBT is about adding more to your life, by doing less and being more focused, and making what you do more meaningful. The voluntary simplicity movement has this great saying that describes the spirit of the movement (I paraphrase): To live a life that is outwardly simple, but inwardly rich. That’s the UBBT.

    The UBBT is about daily actions, intent, mission and purpose --and it’s ALL ABOUT living as an example of what it is to pursue mastery through the practice of the martial arts lifestyle --if mastery is the deep spiritual quest for meaning beyond consuming, what we own, how we look, what watch we wear, what car we drive, or how much money our schools can rake through the front door.

    The UBBT is actually my “business plan” for martial arts school owners. The plan is to get your own stuff together, in a big, big way. That’s what drives your business. Being master teachers who can take the work out of the dojo and into the world, that’s what we sell. The rest is just technique, fighting, sport, and the things that can be aped by just about anyone. Show me the teacher on a quest to look deeply at how he or she lives, who is engaged in his or her community, and who lives each day like it’s their black belt test --and I’ll show you a teacher worth studying with. This is our business.

    The UBBT 2012 is accepting participants. It’s not for the mild or faint of heart or the opportunist. The UBBT is hard, deep, difficult work, which pursued with self-discipline and commitment, has the makings in it of one wonderful, empowering, brilliant, educational, value-enhancing experience. What makes the UBBT, like anything, is the participant and his or her willingness to step out of the comfort zone.



    New UBBT (Ultimate Black Belt Test) 2012 Requirements and Curriculum

    To The UBBT 2012 Team:

    When I talk, think, or implement around the UBBT, I'm working on your black belt test too. 

     You do, after all, want your test to be a big deal, Yes?

    You do want better-than-average, if not spectacular results from your efforts, yes?

     You would like it if your test made you and your students and your school a legendary force in your community, yes?

    Then I'm working on your test --while I work on mine. 


    NEW CURRICULUM for The UBBT 2012

    I want every tester to come out of the project in the best shape of his or her life (which requires careful attention to intensity of training -and rest/recoup time, diet, habits, and attitude). That's a given.

    I want every participant to have above average, if not masterful, martial arts skills (consistent, intentional, mindful practice). Skill is a given.

    I want every tester to come out of the project with a very practical education, absorbed experientially, in what a black belt test could (and should) be. That your experience would cause you to look deeply at the experiences you help craft for others, is a given.

     What I want that's new, is I want every participant to take personal responsibility for planning, executing, and maintaining a bully education website/information/resource center in his or her community --and an outreach-education program. You've 16 months, give or take, to create something that's an exact reflection of your knowledge, your ability to manage, your understanding of the issues, and your ability to work with others -----oh, yeah --and your ability to create something that genuinely SERVES your community now --and for the future. 


    I want every participant to plan, launch, and maintain a Dietary Self-Defense program, using filmed "diet chronicles" as a base for an educational program (and collective base of food-workers, educators, and activists in each member's community --as well as what we're cultivating in the international martial arts community). I want XX amount of UBBT participants / graduates who live as living examples of a smarter, more sustainable, healthier diet. 

    I want every participant to assemble a PROJECT PORTFOLIO (using the activities of students) of 16 Environemental Self-Defense Projects --and to use this work as a basis for an intelligent ENVIRONMENTAL SELF-DEFENSE program in each member's community. Members should OWN this verbiage by test end. 

    And in the end, I want the members of the UBBT 2012, to rally the most comprehensive group effort to bring smart, relevant, cohesive, intelligent, and useful new curriculum to the martial arts world since Kano's introduction of "judo."

    This will require individual effort, group effort, and martial arts community effort --in and out of the membership of the UBBT/100. 


    ...and now, finally, we are crafting black belt goals and curriculum worth its weight in salt. 


    Tom Callos


    The Ultimate Black Belt Test 2012. For Immediate Release

    The ninth version of The Ultimate Black Belt Test, called the UBBT 2012, will be officially beginning January 1, 2012. The project will be limited to 40 participants, each training and testing for new black belt rank from second-degree to seventh-degree black belt over a minimum time period of 16 months.

    Each member of the UBBT 2012 will plan and execute a custom designed training program meant to produce extraordinary fitness, cultivate a career breakthrough in education and curriculum design, and initiate an aggressive community involvement program in each of their own communities. Martial arts business and curriculum consultant Tom Callos will acts as the team’s coordinator and coach.

    “The new black belt test isn’t one of individual physical or technical skill only,” says Callos, “it’s a test of how much one can positively affect the people in his or her sphere of influence. Can a high ranking black belt, through the process she goes through during black belt test training, dramatically affect the quality of life of her family, coworkers, and classmates? Can a tester affect his community through his personal journey? The UBBT 2012 is an experiment in how --and how much --a tester can take his or her martial arts out of the dojo and put it to work in the world.”

    UBBT 2012 members will, as a part of their training, complete 50,000 push-ups, 50,000 crunches, 1000 repetitions of a single martial arts kata, 1000 rounds of sparring, and walk, run, swim, and/or bike 1000 miles during the duration of the test. Participants will carry a personal video camera for the year and will record every meal they eat as a part of the UBBT’s Mindful Eating Self-Defense Project.

    Returning UBBT member Gary Engels of Woodruff, WI, who will be using the UBBT 2012 to test for his fourth degree black belt, says the testing process has, literally, changed his life. “The UBBT has, experientially, taught me how to practice my martial arts in a way that has strengthened my relationship, made me a better father, teacher, leader, and citizen. It takes a lot of self-discipline to do the program right, but like most things, you get back what you put in.”

    For more information on the UBBT 2012, visit The UBBT 2012 is a project of



    The Alabama Project 2011 Wrap-Up

    Alabama Project Update / Wrap Up
    In 2002 I read about a teacher, Samuel Mockbee, who was doing extraordinary things with --and through --his students. This interested me, as I too wanted to be a teacher who could do extraordinary things with --and through --his students.

    Click to read more ...



    The Ultimate Black Belt Test's Stacia Kelly has her new book, a collaboration; NINE MONTHS IN, NINE MONTHS OUT coming out shortly! Yeah Stacia! 

    See Stacia Kelly here:


    See the book here: 


    The Anger Cam Video Project, Dan and Kim Rominski Take Black Belt Action 

    This is a video diary project about ANGER and ANGER MANAGEMENT. It's spear headed by Dan and Kim Rominski, both members of The One Hundred and graduates of The Ultimate Black Belt Test. 

    See the project here

    This is what's known as a WOW.


    The Year of The Maestro and Michael Lipkin: Black Belt Test Thinking and Mastery WOW

     Wow to Michael Lipkin! Thank you, Michael, for sitting in front of a camera and putting your thoughts about mastery down for all of us to marvel at, to listen to, and to learn from. I've been looking for, talking about, living around, and exploring "what is mastery?" for most of my life --and so I believe I can recognize a masterpiece when I see one. Bravo! 

    Meet Michel Lipkin, who I didn't know before seeing this video, but who is now a giant bleep on the radar screen of my attention. 


    Julia Butterfly Hill, an Environmentalist with a Black Belt Spirit

    Tom Callos, Julia Butterfly Hill

    I pay attention to what Julia Butterfly Hill is doing, because I consider her a remarkable spirit --and a Sensei worth listening to. She speaks from the heart --and she has a kind of courage and conviction that inspires me. As a martial arts teacher I have to pay attention to balance, as without it there is no worthwhile defense. That's balance as in both feet on the ground, and balance between martial and art, between hard and soft, and between internal and external. 

    What Julia brings to the table is the opposite of what I might find in the ring, as she's not a fighter like, Oh say, BJ Penn, but she is definitely a fighter. She fights injustice -she speaks her mind without fear, and she represents an awareness that I recognize as an essential element to mastery. 

    I'm grateful, no, make that lucky, to call Julia a friend, even though what she actually is --is a hero. She's someone who I look to when I need a reminder of what it is to be a black belt, a great one. Julia reminds me how to speak, how to stand tall, how to appreciate and give value, and how to use mission to make a difference. 

    I'm a better martial artist, and a better human being, because of the example she sets. 

    In 2011, I intend to convince Julia to spend a little time helping me craft an environmental self-defense program for the martial arts world. It will be something that we can introduce our young students to --and let them hear, straight from the author of One Makes a Difference, how to do just that.

    Read an interview with Julia in E-Magazine here