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Black Belt Behaviour: The Most Important Character Traits Kids Learn Through Martial Arts

In the Girls Who Fight Kids MMA & Self Defense program, girls are rewarded for skill progression through earning new stripes and belts. Character development, however, is recognized by a special pink stripe, which is awarded once girls have received ten stars on their attendance card for demonstrating Black Belt Behaviour.

the character traits that martial arts helps kids develop

What is Black Belt Behaviour?

There are many positive character traits that kids develop through martial arts training: patience, perseverance, humility, etc. At Girls Who Fight, we narrowed down the list to the five traits we believe to be the most important to accompany their physical skills, aiding success in self defense as well as all other life pursuits. When girls demonstrate each of these four virtues in a class, they're given a gold star on their attendance card. Once they have received ten gold stars they are awarded a special pink stripe on their belt.

1. Courage

“Without courage, wisdom bears no fruit” - Baltasar Gracian

Courage is the root of character, because it’s what allows you to put all other virtues into action. Intelligence, righteousness, leadership and ambition can only flourish when one has the courage to act on them, even when it would be easier not to.

Courage is strength in the face of fear. In a world where weakness is encouraged, excuses are plentiful, and the “easy route” is the most common route, girls need courage to stay true to themselves and strive for greatness. Courage is required to stand up to bullies and physically defend yourself, to act on your instincts, to resist poisonous peer pressure, to say no when you mean no, and to make healthy decisions about who you surround yourself with.

At GWF, courage looks like raising your hand to answer a question, volunteering to go first or demonstrate a technique, happily practicing with others that are physically bigger or stronger than you, and being the girl who starts conversations with new students.

2. Discipline

Discipline is dutifully executing the habits that serve you and your goals, even when you don’t feel like it. Discipline is having the self-control to follow through on your goals and all of the steps that it takes to achieve them, without giving up, taking short cuts, or settling for a lower standard. Discipline is what separates the good from the great.

Discipline is required for excellence in any area of one's life, particularly health and fitness, academic and career achievement, and skill acquisition. Girls need self-discipline and personal responsibility to reach their greatest potential and make their dreams come true.

At GWF, discipline looks like coming prepared for class with all your equipment. Wearing your uniform in every class with your belt tied properly. It means consistency with attendance, and always giving your best effort during training.

3. Respectfulness

Respectfulness is showing consideration and politeness to others. The golden rule is to always treat others how you wish to be treated. Respect is critical in martial arts. It’s what allows us to practice serious techniques without hurting each other physically or emotionally. It’s what allows us to experience pushing our skills to the max and still be friends with each other. Respectfulness combats the ego, ensuring that students treat a white belt in the same way that they treat a black belt, understanding that rank does not equal worthiness.

Being respectful to others also teaches girls to expect respect from others. That they should never be treated as lesser than simply because they are newer, younger, or for any other reason.

At GWF, respect looks like listening when other students or instructors are speaking, making friends with the new students, being a good sport when they lose and humble when they win, understanding that there is always something to learn from others, and being encouraging, helpful, and kind to all.

4. Focus

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” — Bruce Lee

Girls (and women) have never been more bombarded by distractions than they are today. The attention economy and unhealthy lifestyles are eroding children’s ability to focus as demonstrated by the rising number of ADD and ADHD diagnoses each year. Focus is required for clear and accurate thinking: for learning, decision making, and problem solving. Focus has the power to accelerate one's progress past the restraints of time. Given the same amount of training, the person with double the focus will excel twice as fast. Focus is the differentiator between stagnation and acceleration.

Martial arts help girls learn to focus their attention on the task at hand. Training provides a positive space free from external pressures and problems, where they can focus their minds and bodies on skill development.

At GWF, focus looks like paying attention to the current activity, not comparing yourself or looking around at what others are doing, listening to instructions, and not wasting time or complaining.

5. Positive Attitude

“Your attitude determines your altitude.”

Last but certainly not least is the power of having a positive attitude in any circumstance. A positive attitude allows one to find a lesson in every loss, an opportunity in every crisis, and a beginning in every end. It is essential in difficult pursuits. There will be obstacles and failures, but a positive attitude propels you to march forward with an indomitable spirit. To never give up, never back down, never lose faith, and most importantly— to always see yourself as the victor of your life, not the victim.

At GWF, a positive attitude looks like being a good sport when you lose, not being judgemental towards yourself or others, speaking positively about yourself and not belittling or putting yourself down, and understanding that there is always something to be learned and that you only fail when you stop trying.

“With courage, I have strength in the face of fear.
With discipline, I pursue excellence in everything I do.
With respect, I treat others how I wish to be treated.
With focus, I become better, faster, and stronger each day.
With a positive attitude and indomitable spirit, nothing can stop me from achieving my dreams!"

With courage, discipline, focus, respect for self and others, and a positive attitude there is nothing that a girl cannot accomplish. And with the fighting skills, street-smarts, and confidence that girls develop in our program, there is no one that can stand in their way.

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Written by Gemma Sheehan, founder of

Girls Who Fight. Our mission is to help women and girls lead safe and confident lives.

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Durga Saptashati NGO in Dwarka, Delhi, is the brainchild of a visionary and empathetic leader, Sandhya Singh. Saptashati Foundation is a trusted charity organisation in Delhi working for the empowerment of women (from all walks of life), deprived children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. We are confident that giving a voice to the marginalised will create a more equal and just society. Our approaches are mainly grassroots initiatives because our founder, Sandhya Singh, strongly believes in the lasting impact of working from the ground up.


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