What I learned from my daughter’s black belt test

Uncategorized Mar 14, 2023

This past Saturday, my daughter, Zoe, got her black belt in mixed martial arts. It was a gruelling 6-hour test that was a culmination of thousands of hours of training over the past 8 years. 

There were kicks, dive rolls over bamboo (and humans), weapons-work, joint-lock, flips, sparring, jabs, crosses and uppercuts. There was philosophy, endurance, stamina, grace and flexibility. There was also a great deal of stress (especially for me). Of course, there was stress for Zoe too. Hers was prior to the test. Mine was during. 

I’d love to share with you a few things that I learned from the experience. 

Learning #1

Zoe created a kata (a routine of moves that was to represent her learnings over the course of her training). There were advanced components like a back extension (a backwards roll that pushes up into a handstand), an aerial (cartwheel with no hands) and a forward roll into a kip-up (kind of a half-forward roll that she sprung off her shoulders and onto her feet!). 

Although these skills were very impressive, the part that took my breath away was a moment in the middle when she paused and did an ultra-slow-motion kick that seemed to stretch out into eternity. It was such a beautiful juxtaposition with the great displays of strength and agility. 

It was a great reminder of the power of the pause. If you want balance, grace and flexibility in your life, pausing, breathing and going slowly is a powerful and necessary contrast to all the other things we can get caught up in. 


Learning #2

Part of the test included joint-lock which means using the momentum of an attacker and the limitations within the body’s joints to get out of any type of hold. Zoe is on the petite side but she is feisty and fierce. 

There were men twice her size coming at her and what I thought was so epic was her ability to stay calm. She trusted in her body which had gone through the motions thousands of times. She used her mind to stay focused. She dealt with one thing at a time.

A highlight was when she was working with the head Sensei. We’re not quite sure what happened but he went to throw her and somehow remained attached so she ended up rolling with him in a sort of backward somersault and launched him head over heels. They were both quite surprised and the crowd emitted a collective gasp of awe. 

What I learned is that when you stay in your own energy and go with the flow without taking on others’ energy, you end up staying calm, cool and collected. I now have a beautiful visual metaphor for what that looks like. (Sadly no one captured it on film, but I have endless access to the replay in my head.)


Learning #3

Another part of the (seemingly endless) test was the board-breaking component. It’s not a skill that is practised often at the dojo because it’s not a focus, so Zoe had almost no experience going into the test, which was the point. 

On her first attempt at a palm strike, the board stayed firmly intact. The instructor told her that her belt hadn’t moved which meant that she wasn’t accessing any of the power of her hips (which is apparently the whole point of board breaking). 

Her second attempt included hip power so the board didn’t stand a chance. Then, because breaking through one board was only the beginning, the next challenge was three strikes in a row. Zoe chose a palm strike, an elbow strike and an axe kick (where her foot came down like an axe to break the board in a downward motion). I’ve gotta say that I was filled with fear.

Fortunately, Zoe was very coachable and sliced through those boards like a hot knife through butter (although the boards made significantly more noise). There were many people watching and I loved the moment when after she broke the first board, a little kid yelled out, “That hurts!”

What I learned from the board breaking is that when you work with a mentor who has mastered what you’re trying to learn, the tiniest shift makes all the difference. No hip twist meant no board breaking. Once the power of the core was harnessed, Zoe got to experience her full power. 


Learning #4

As my kids have gotten older, I’ve had the opportunity to learn that I can’t go through their lives for them (as much as I’d like to). They have to have the experiences themselves in order to grow. 

I felt very nervous about the black belt test. I’ve seen other students break bones or push themselves to the point of tears/intense nausea/almost passing out. Of course, I didn’t want any of that for Zoe. 

And yet, I had no control over the outcome. All I could do was be there to support her and breathe through my fear. That’s one of the tough parts of parenting. If only I could do the hard parts for them. But then there wouldn’t be much point, would there?

This belt test was a valuable lesson in surrendering the outcome, releasing any semblance of control I might have thought I had and trusting that Zoe would have the perfect experience for whatever it was that she needed. 

I breathed and breathed and breathed some more. Because that’s all I could do. I stayed in my own energy and loved her through the whole thing. 

I’m happy to report that all her bones stayed intact and although she was tired, her body has been recovering swiftly. I couldn’t be more proud (and relieved).


Learning #5

One of the beautiful metaphors I’ve learned at the Tao of Peace is that a black belt is just another beginning. As a martial arts student continues to train and wear the black belt, it eventually frays and gradually turns white, which is the colour of a beginner’s belt. 

A beginner’s mindset has been something that I’ve strived to incorporate into my own life. I once learned that the three most dangerous words are: I know that. When you can approach situations with an open mind and an open heart, there is infinite opportunity for wisdom.

I could go on, but that’s probably good for now :) Thank you for sharing in the celebration. 

May you also have a week where you revel in the freedom of surrender, the joy of accomplishment, the satisfaction of completion and the willingness to start again.

With enduring love and agile courage,


>Creator of Courageous Self-Care

>Super Proud Mom

>Awarding myself a black belt by proxy

PS - This week’s Body Awake Yoga class will be at 9am Mountain/8am Pacific for an hour-ish. If you’re registered in the community, you’ll receive a reminder email with the zoom link prior to class. Not yet a member? Click here to join at no cost.


1/4 Year Review is coming up

On Saturday, March 18, I’m hosting a 90-minute workshop-style call, where you’ll get practical experience in honouring what has already happened so far this year, and then we’ll set some intentions for the next quarter of 2023 so that you know what to do next. 

You can expect to leave the call with: 

  • Increased clarity (so you can make plans that align with your values and thus feel more fulfilled)
  • More energy (because we’ll be doing fun things like dancing and celebrating)
  • A sense of refreshment (because we’ll be taking a break from all the go-go-GO!)
  • The realization that you’ve had more success than you gave yourself credit for

You’ll also feel so organized and proud of yourself for taking action towards the life you really want to be living.

The Details

Date: Saturday March 18

Time: 8am Pacific/ 9am Mountain/ 11am Eastern

Duration: 90 wonderful minutes

Cost: $47 Canadian 

How to Join: click here to register 

I’m really excited to share the powerful process with you (if it’s a fit, of course). If you’re like “Um, no” then you can trust it’s not for you right now, which is also a-okay.