Don’t be deceived by this thin volume of stories collected by Melodee Meyer, a fifth-degree black belt and co-owner of Santa Barbara’s Martial Arts Family Fitness. Many a slight martial artist is capable of delivering a powerful strike, and this collection likewise packs considerable inspiration.

The stories in Black Belt Power: Inspirational Stories by Extraordinary Martial Artists have universal application because the traits, habits, and attitudes common to accomplished martial artists are the same ones needed for achievement in other fields. The path to a black belt — or learning to play a musical instrument, speak a foreign language, become a gourmet cook, or solve mathematical equations — is consistent, mindful practice over time. The martial arts just happen to be an excellent vehicle for developing mental focus, presence, resiliency, and the ability to act in the face of fear or stress.

A common theme in these stories is how the practice of martial arts helped someone overcome a crisis — the death of a fiancée, an abusive partner, or debilitating social awkwardness. The confidence and personal agency gained through mastery of a discipline can be life-changing.

An irony of martial arts practice is that the more skilled one becomes, the less inclined one is to seek out physical confrontation. Call it the paradox of the peaceful warrior. Meyer — black belt, author, teacher, and coach — embodies this paradox.


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