How Long Does It Take to Get a Black Belt? – Testing at NWSMA

We often get the question, “How long does it take to get a black belt?”

The answer is, “There is no answer.” Let us explain our testing philosophy.

At Northwest School of Martial Arts, our goal is to train quality martial artists. We don’t want to set up our students for failure if they end up in a self-defense situation.

Sempai Jasmine doing a combination break.
Sempai Jasmine doing a combination break.


A lot factors into a street altercation. Stuff like reflexes, ability to accurately target, awareness of surroundings, speed and power, level of instinctual response. The ability to think clearly and evaluate the situation under stress.

As students train with us, we like to see visible improvement at each and every belt rank, both in technique and in character/attitude. Each student will progress at her/his own rate.

We don’t have regularly scheduled tests, and we don’t depend on test fees to prop up our business. We test students when we feel they are ready.

So, how long does it really take to get a black belt? Real answer: highly individual.

Sempai David and Sempai Jasmine doing Matsuhiga no Sai in the demo.
Sempai David and Sempai Jasmine doing Matsuhiga no Sai in the demo.

Getting a black belt at NWSMA can take anywhere from 5-10 years. It varies depending on the student’s beginning age, mental maturity, and raw physical ability (existing coordination and motor skills, for example).

Students who come to class irregularly progress more slowly than those who attend regularly. In-class effort matters. Practice outside of class makes a difference too.

So if a student hangs out at one belt rank for a while, that’s okay. We need parents to understand why it’s okay, and help your student understand why it’s okay.

On the long road to black belt.
Each student develops at his/her own pace–that’s part of the beauty of martial arts.

Repetition–we’re talking numbers in the thousands and tens of thousands–is what it takes to have truly instinctual self-defense skills. And, while they’re hanging out at that belt rank, they’re still getting full-body exercise and fun drills that work on real skills, like reflexes, focus, and getting along with others.

We try not to get so caught up in belts, stripes, and ranks. Instead, we want you to think about building skills and true personal growth.

Indomitable spirit, perseverance, and dedication to your art: never giving up will get you to black belt.

When you get there, you’ll know you’ve really earned yourself something meaningful.

black belt
Just a black belt with her broken board!