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The Red Belt

The red belt challenge

The Red Belt Challenge has received a lot of media attention over the past few years, with many people interested in the way teenagers and adults give up facebook, social media AND simple things like junk food, alcohol and chocolate for twelve weeks!

This is an eight to twelve week program that can create & teach resilience to a student, a family, or a whole school. The Red Belt Challenge has been running for almost 20 years and is taught in Dojo’s (martial arts schools) all over the world.
The thing is, you don’t have to be doing martial arts to participate in the Red Belt Challenge.
You might be a rock climber, a runner, a piano player, a dog walker… anything at all. The idea is to use the challenge to improve yourself, and to get other people to do the challenge with you for moral support.

What IS “The Red Belt Challenge”

The idea of the Red Belt Challenge is to take away the chatter, noise and interference from the every day world, and have a kind of radio silence over your life for 12 weeks. Now, I know many will not last 12 weeks on the challenge first time, so I am going to suggest you run it for six to eight weeks, and maybe make it a fund raising thing at the same time. People could get sponsored for doing the challenge and raise money for your school or work, or a cause your school supports.

One of the ideas of the Red Belt Challenge that makes it so effective is group “punishment”
Every time someone badly breaks the challenge, all the people taking it have to do their penalty with them. It might be sit ups, push ups, a run around the school oval or a park near your work at lunchtime. You could do these things in your lunch hour, meeting once a week. Nobody gets humiliated for this – if a leader is told something in confidence, it stays in confidence and the leader just tells the group “we have to do 20 pushups” or whatever is appropriate.

You will need leaders for your challenge, to be able to work with smaller groups of people within the challenge and assist them with the things they are struggling with – a great opportunity for mentoring. Remember – the challenge is NOT about humiliation and shame. It is about supporting everyone doing the challenge to succeed, together.

No junk food or lollies, soft drinks, pizzas, KFC, sweets etc. (If in doubt, it’s probably junk food….)
no alcohol or other drugs (other than prescribed medication)
No violent video games, movies or music. If it’s violent or negative or exploitative, it’s out.
No pornography.
No swearing
Choose two things you would like to improve about yourself and work on them.
(could be not arguing as much or doing your homework as soon as you get it, improving fitness…)
Mobile phones to be handed in to parents or turned off EACH NIGHT from 7.30PM to 7.30AM
Meet once a week in school lunch hour to discuss challenge and do any group punishments
Training in self defense once a week – if you are not into martial arts you might meet with your yoga group, chamber ensemble, sewing club… and do that activity instead.

Some idea of appropriate times for the challenge are:

Kindy – no junk food or TV for one week
Primary – FOUR weeks
High School SIX weeks.
Serious contenders – TWELVE WEEKS.

The challenge isn’t about deprivation. It’s about mindfulness, a chance for “radio silence” from the many ways we distract ourselves from connecting with our real feelings & communicating with our families.

You might like to decide how many push ups something is worth, and what constitutes a major punishment. I like to take my students on a 3 kilometre run for a serious infraction.

People could sign up for the challenge and get sponsored by parents and friends, and you could encourage parents to do the challenge too. The rules of the challenge (the things you give up or cannot do) cannot be changed, or it is simply NOT the Red Belt Challenge. However, you might have other rules you would like to add to the program. It should not be less than eight weeks long for adults and should definitely always be done as a group exercise, with meetings once a week for progress and support.

You could give updates each week in the school newsletter and at assembly. People could get special awards if their parents let you know they have achieved something amazing during the challenge.

At the end of the challenge you could have a special awards ceremony, with a special pin or patch that students or participants would be able to wear on their uniform, or sew onto their school bag. Completing the red belt challenge is an honourable thing to have achieved.

You can sign up for the Red Belt Challenge and get Email updates while it is running. Have a think about what you might be able to achieve if you were to participate in our next one!


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