L-R: Lisa Perkins, 1st Dan, Sally Gleaves, owner of Worcestershire Martial Arts, 5th Dan


It’s often said that having a good attitude counts for far more than your ability in martial arts, but why is that the case? Any martial arts student is expected to live by the tenets and, although we might not be aware of it, even from white belt we are ambassadors for the martial arts community - that means that our attitude and actions, both in and outside of the dojang, can have an impact on our peers and on the martial arts community as a whole.


Having a good attitude is even more important when you reach the position to be able to take your dan grading. Black belts are seen as role models and are expected to lead by good example.


But what constitutes ‘having a good attitude’ in terms of how we should behave outside of the dojang, and how you should prepare for your first dan grading?


Preparing for your dan grading


Sally Gleaves, 5th degree black belt and owner of Worcestershire Martial Arts, explains what she is looking for in students who wish to dan grade: “For me, a student being ready to dan grade isn’t just about how well they can recall or perform the syllabus, obviously this has to be to a high standard, but for those with learning difficulties or disabilities, performance of the syllabus will be on a sliding scale according to ability.


"However, something that everyone can achieve is dedication and commitment to their training, a good attitude in and out of class, the ability to be a fantastic role model and mental toughness in the face of failure, setbacks and low points in their training.


"Basically if they have been a coachable student from white belt, by the time they are reaching their dan grading they should be outwardly displaying the attitude and character traits that are required to become a black belt”.


We all have different strengths and abilities. Lisa Perkins, 1st degree black belt, says that one of her favourite things about training in Taekwon-do is that it’s a personal journey that’s based around the individual: “One of the things I love about Taekwon-do is that you do not have to be the best… it’s all based around you. It’s not based around what someone else can do, it’s what you can do. I love the fact that they do it that way. It’s your training, your progress, the way you see yourself”.


However, Lisa emphasises the importance of putting a high level of effort into your dan grading, whatever your ability: “When you’re in your black belt grading, you have to show the examiners you’re putting the effort in… you could be against somebody who is technically flawless but has a bad attitude. They’re there just to gain a black belt, that’s the only thing they want, not the prestige of having the black belt and working for the black belt. Some people can sail through and get to the black belt grading but they can fail it as well due to attitude”.


Amy Pullen, 1st degree black belt, says that both the physical and mental challenges of her dan grading were a lot harder than in her previous colour belt gradings: “Colour belt grades are a lot easier. You’re graded by people you know, whereas going to Cambridge and being graded by someone that you’ve never met before is a lot more scary. There’s a lot more pressure as you’re travelling a lot further to do it so [there’s the feeling that] you’ve got to get it… in a way it pressures you more, but it also empowers you more to do it. It’s definitely a lot different. I found the 1st dan grading a lot harder than all the colour belts. [The panel] ask you a lot of intricate questions, they put you under a lot more pressure as in they ask you theory in front of everybody and [each member of the panel is] asking one question while everybody else is watching… it’s also a lot harder physically, you do a lot more and it’s a lot more intense”.


As black belts are seen as role models, your attitude over your martial arts journey so far and willingness to get involved with the community will also be considered if you wish to dan grade.


“The other thing we look at is the preparation the student has put into their previous and current gradings and their own personal development,” Sally explains, “for example [the student] offers to teach elements of the class/support lower grades, attendance at competitions, events and seminars. Readiness to help the school progress and becoming an ambassador, for not only the school, but the martial art. Dedication to learning the theory and asking questions about things they are not sure about. If potential dan grade candidates are not asking questions and working on their more in-depth knowledge or personal progression, we will be questioning what kind of black belt they will become and this will determine if we allow them to grade or not”.


Do you have the right attitude outside of the dojang?


It’s expected of all students, not just those going for dan grade, to practise regularly outside of the dojang and to learn their theory. Most students consider the theory to be the least exciting part of learning a martial art; however, learning and understanding the theory is vital to be able to teach. Additionally, part of the theory that you are expected to learn to grade to black tag and black belt states the attitude that students aspiring to dan grade should embody.


Part of the meaning of the colour black is that it states “the wearer’s imperviousness to darkness and fear”, but what does this actually mean in the context of how a prospective dan grade student is expected to behave outside of the dojang?


Jamie Haden, 2nd degree black belt, interprets the meaning as: “Having the courage to stand up for what’s right in the world and not let negativity get to you no matter how much it’s there in everyday life. I interpret it as avoiding all the bad things for you such as drug addiction etc; it could be shoved in your face, but standing up and saying no is what could be interpreted as imperviousness to darkness and fear”.


It’s seldom said that doing the right thing was ‘easy’ and, in some cases, opposing peer pressure and sticking up for your values can bring conflict. Facing conflict and peer pressure can be scary, whether you are a white belt or a black belt. Becoming a black belt does not mean that you are expected to live without ‘experiencing fear’; rather, you should develop the confidence during the journey from white belt to black belt to not let fear prevent you from making the right decision or sticking to your values. Black belts cannot be bribed, swayed, threatened or bullied into doing something that they know is wrong.


How do black belts deal with conflict?


There’s a common misconception that martial artists will deal with any sort of conflict in an overly aggressive manner. The majority of the general population are aware of what martial arts are, but are not familiar with the values of the art; therefore, people tend to believe that it’s all about fighting. But how do black belts really deal with conflict?


“Avoid conflict if possible, but if you must deal with it, then do so with indomitable spirit and integrity,” Jamie says, “the situation could always be difficult, but don’t let it get to you! And never be afraid to ask for help. With that in mind, break it down into smaller more manageable chunks to help lower the difficulty if possible”.


In reality, martial arts teach that self-defence is always the last resort, and there is far more emphasis placed on de-escalating the situation, or avoiding a risky situation in the first place, than most people would think.


Training in Taekwon-do can improve self-confidence, and the importance of respecting others is emphasised from day one. The combination of self-confidence and the intrinsic value of respecting others can help people to deal with conflict in a positive manner, while still sticking up for their values and beliefs.


Jamie says that training in Taekwon-do has helped him to deal with conflict more effectively: “[Before training in Taekwon-do] I would always try and avoid conflict if possible, but I would completely blank away if it was in front of me”.


“I think I am definitely more conscious dealing with conflict now,” Lisa says. She describes often feeling frustrated with difficult situations in her life before she started Taekwon-do, but says that taking up the martial art has helped her to deal with conflict: “When I started Taekwon-do, I learnt different methods of dealing with it. For me, Taekwon-do was an outlet, it’s my way of dealing with things. Conflict-wise, I don’t tend to dwell on [bad experiences] as much. I think I’m a lot calmer than I was when I started Taekwon-do”.


Amy says that when approaching arguments or disagreements, it’s important to treat the other person with respect and to try to think about their point of view as well: “You’ve got to see it from the other person’s point of view as well and how they view the situation. You’ll have valid points… but they also will have done [what they did] for a reason, so you’ve got to look at their side and points too”.


Making the decision on whether you feel ready to take your dan grading can be a difficult one. While you can examine your own behaviour and attitude in and outside of the dojang to help you make the decision, Lisa suggests that you’ll instinctively know when the time is right.


“I think you do have to be confident going for black belt,” Lisa says. “That’s something that you know yourself - there’s no point going for it if you have that doubt”.


By Georgie Bull

Updated: Nov 27



Amy Pullen, 1st degree black belt, has been training in Taekwon-do at Worcestershire Martial Arts for the majority of her life. Amy, now 12, started in the young kids classes - Tinykwon-do (previously Little Ninjas) - at age 5, then moved up to mixed adults and kids classes when she was 8.


Training in traditional martial arts offers many positive benefits for kids, from developing confidence, instilling discipline and contributing to a healthy lifestyle. In this blog post, Amy describes how training in Taekwon-do from a young age has shaped her childhood.




It was originally a joint decision between Amy and her mum, Jo, for Amy to start training in Taekwon-do. Jo says, “I think it was parent influence to start with; she wanted to try something that children can have fun in, is a sporting activity, social and useful for future self-defence.” However, she says that Amy wanted to go herself after a while: “When she went on to Taekwon-do we didn’t force her, she wanted to do it. We handed the reins over and it’s all down to Amy.”

What have you gained from training in Taekwon-do?


Amy says, “It’s made me more confident, I know how to defend myself so I’m not scared as in that point. I’ve also felt a lot more confident in more social situations than I would have done.”


Jo has seen changes in Amy since she started Taekwon-do, particularly a growth in confidence: “When she was very young and she first started she wasn’t a very confident person. I think it’s taught her to come out of her shell a lot and be confident. As a parent, being able to see your child progress from being shy to be able to teach a class of all ages… it’s really nice watching her grow. It has influenced her throughout her life.”


Amy adds, “I think I’ve become a lot more disciplined in my life... I’m better at studying from it as well, from having to revise the theory.”


Amy says that working on her confidence has been the most challenging aspect of her training: “I’ve gone through a lot of confidence issues... other than that it’s just been going up the belts.”


Do you think that training in Taekwon-do can help to diffuse ‘bullying culture’ in schools?


Amy says, “Definitely. It’s not learning to fight, it’s learning to defend yourself… it’s also mental discipline and you learn that bullying isn’t right.”


One of the core values (though not a tenet) of Taekwon-do is treating others with respect both in and outside of the dojang. The culture of respect in Taekwon-do, particularly respect for teachers, can instill good values in kids that can carry over to school and home life.


Amy explains, “It’s not that you’re just told what to do [in class], you follow and respect your seniors and instructors.”


A respectful attitude can also be beneficial for dealing with arguments and disagreements in a positive way. As kids approach the teenage years, their interests, views and opinions can change rapidly as they try to work out ‘who they are’, which sometimes leads to ‘clashes’ with others. One thing that stands out about Amy is her mature attitude to dealing with conflict - a maturity that is not always seen in adults!


Amy says, “I don’t have many disagreements… other than my friends bickering - at [our] age you’re going to bicker.” She says that approaching disagreements with a respectful mindset and trying to see the situation “from the other person’s point of view” can help to diffuse arguments. This is a great attitude that she can eventually take into employment.


What attitude do you think people can take outside of the dojang back into their everyday lives?


“All the tenets,” Amy says, “courtesy - they should be polite to everybody, treat everybody nicely.” She lives by the tenets in her everyday life, and says that these values are the most important thing to take away from training in a traditional martial art: “[Students] have got to follow the tenets. If you don’t follow them, there’s not much point as they are the basis of Taekwon-do. It’s not just the physical discipline, it is a mental discipline you have to be respectful to everybody else as well… I think they should carry on how they are in [the dojang], respectful and [observing] the tenets.”


Amy is currently focusing on training for her 2nd dan but has had some experience teaching classes, including the mandatory 10 hours for her 1st dan grading.


How has teaching helped you to develop?


Amy says, “I feel more able to help someone else learn something from teaching the classes, [such as] teaching someone else a maths problem. It’s definitely easier. I feel like it’s easier to talk someone [through it] from being here and [teaching].”


How do you get into a competition mindset?


Amy says, “You can’t think that you’re going to lose. If you go in thinking you’re not going to do well there, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to go in thinking you’re going to try your hardest and just put it all out on the table... why did you drive here to not put it all out on the table for 60 seconds?”


What’s your favourite thing about Taekwon-do?


Amy says she enjoys the patterns the most, as she likes the structure, and that the atmosphere of Worcestershire Martial Arts has contributed to her continued training too: “It’s like a little family,” she says, “it’s not like you’re just being taught, you have social interaction too.”


Amy sees herself training in Taekwon-do for a long time, and she hopes to do more teaching as well.


By Georgie Bull

Updated: Oct 28

Our biggest medal tally this year, 32 medals was won by #TeamWMA at the LTSI English Open Championships on the 6th October 2019! We were also awarded the Best School trophy due to the collective winnings of our team!


🥇9 Gold

🥈11 Silver

🥉12 Bronze



Sally Gleaves - Patterns

Luke Holland-Bowyer - Patterns

Rois Perkins - Sparring & Special Technique

Valentin Vizitiu - Sparring

Robert Vizitiu - Sparring

Macey-Jane Semini - Patterns

Holly Hulston - Patterns & Sparring



Adam Monks - Patterns

Amy Pullen - Team Patterns

Kieran Hodgson - Team Patterns

Greta Greiciute - Team Patterns

Kirsty Denslow - Sparring, Individual Patterns & Team Patterns

Junko Steptoe - Sparring

Macey-Jane Semini - Sparring

Gianluca Fudger - Patterns

Holly Hulston - Team Patterns




Jamie Haden - Sparring

Luke Holland-Bowyer - Sparring

Kieran Hodgson - Sparring

Greta Greiciute - Patterns

Finley Jones - Sparring & Team Patterns

Macey-Jane Semini - Team Patterns

Rois Perkins - Team Patterns

Mike Fudger - Patterns

Zaria Fudger - Team Patterns

Robert Vizitiu - Team Pattners

Pippa Jones - Sparring


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Mr Adam Monks and Ms Gleaves being awarded the Best School trophy