Martial arts is an all-encompassing discipline in which the teacher serves as a role model, guide, and leader. Black belt martial artists, especially the ones that teach, have a strong influence on the younger generation who admire and respect their teachers. In this way, martial artists are leaders who have the power to positively influence future leaders of our generation. Despite this fact, there is limited research on how martial arts training might contribute to the development of positive and effective leadership skills.
The purpose of this quantitative study was to determine if there were similarities and/or differences in the leadership styles of black belt martial artists. Kouzes and Posner's (2003) Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI-Self) was the instrument used to collect data on the participants' leadership practices. The LPI-Self is a self-report questionnaire that measures the frequency level of 5 leadership practices. The 5 leadership practices are: Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others to Act, and Encouraging the Heart.
The extent of these similarities and differences were also deduced on each of the 5 leadership practices rating scales according to Kouzes and Posner's standards. Differences in leadership practices based on gender, age, style of martial art, degree of black belt, and length of training were also analyzed. Differences between the demographics were assessed using ANOVA. The differences were considered statistically significant at a threshold of p < 0.05.
This study surveyed 145 black belt martial artists currently training and/or instructing in karate and/or taekwondo, in Los Angeles County. The findings of the study indicated that there were only slight or no differences in leadership practices of black belt martial artists compared to Kouzes and Posner's norms of the 5 key leadership practices. The study also revealed only small differences in leadership practices based on gender, age, style of martial art, degree of black belt, and length of training, as well.
These findings imply that incorporating a leadership development program as part of black belt training in order to increase positive leadership practices so as to train future black belt leaders, could be beneficial.