At the very bottom of the martial arts tree is a white belt. That’s me. And off to training I go. As awkward and as uncomfortable as I was feeling, I trained the house down for three months, every morning and every night. At the end of the first three months my head instructor said “Pete, I think you’re ready to go for your first grading.” I walked into a room and onto the mats. There is a grand master sitting in front of me with a row of black belts on either side of him. I walk in, bang! And it’s show time!

My first ever grading and I demonstrated my kicks, my blocks, my punches and my newly acquired (yet still very much sub-standard) fighting and self-defence skills. After much sweating and anxiety I passed the grading and received a yellow belt with a single white stripe at each end. And it was a seriously proud moment in my life.

I went home and did what every mature 36 year-old father of three kids does when he passes his first ever martial arts grading. I of course stood at the front door with the belt high over my head. I did the big countdown, three, two, one, and I kicked the front door open and burst inside of my house, playing airplanes with this yellow belt high over my head, running around the house. I had no idea what my wife and my children must have been thinking other than their husband/father had completely lost his marbles.

I was in the game. I had woken up from the dream as an 8 year-old boy and had made the start – the courage to get into the game. I was a yellow belt with a single white stripe at each end. Tick the box, goal achieved. The next goal was a yellow belt with two stripes and then maybe three.

New stripes on belts and new belt colors tied around my waist are tangible evidence of continual improvement. They are the feedback markers along the way. They are a cause for celebration. The day I got my blue belt was one such cause. I know nothing about fashion but I can tell you for certain that when that blue belt went around my white uniform, wow, blue looked so much smarter than yellow. And while I’ve got this stiff new blue belt around my waist, I know that I am already better today than I was yesterday but still a long way to bringing my black belt to life.