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Burn with Kearns: Always a white belt – always a beginner – Kevin Kearns




by Kevin Kearns, contributing writer on fitness and exercise

From the very beginning, those words resonated deep within me, echoing the challenges and triumphs of my journey. Growing up amidst relentless bullying and the loss of my father at a tender age of 12, I found solace and purpose in my first steps into the world of self-defense. It was the fall of 1979 when I entered eighth grade and stepped into United Studios for Kenpo Karate. My singular ambition: to attain the revered black belt. They said it could take five years or more, but I was determined to achieve it before high school graduation. Daily training, thrice-weekly classes, and frequent semi-private sessions filled my schedule. Sundays were no exception, devoted to workouts and martial arts practice.

When the day of the black belt test arrived, anticipation pulsed through me. At 16 and a half, nerves and excitement rendered breakfast impossible. The test felt interminable, stretching for what seemed like eight hours or more. But finally, I emerged victorious, clutching the prized black belt. Yet, my instructors, Charlie, Matera, and Paul Taylor, had a humbling lesson in store. “Kevin,” they said with smiles, “remember, you’re always a novice.”

Perplexed, I pondered their words. Wasn’t the black belt the pinnacle? Yet, over the next four decades of self-defense, martial arts, and conditioning, I’ve come to understand their wisdom. There’s always room to grow, to learn anew. Recently, I shared this ethos with 100 students at the Boys & Girls Club in Pawtucket, RI, emphasizing the importance of perPetual learning.

Whenever I delve into a new fitness regimen or martial art, I insist on starting from scratch. Why? Because the day we cease to learn is the day we stagnate. Whether in our careers or relationships, maintaining a beginner’s mindset fosters growth and awareness. As Michael Jordan aptly put it, success hinges on skill set, mindset, and seizing opportunities. And, as my dear friend and martial artist, Professor Scott O’Keeffe, often says, the only disparity between adults and children is employment status.

So, I urge you: confront those challenges that make you quiver in your boots and stir butterflies in your stomach. Growth demands discomfort; it’s the essence of our human potential. While a dog remains a dog and a tree remains a tree, we, as humans, possess boundless potential. Embrace it with vision, passion, and perseverance.

Coach Kearns


Read ALL articles by Kevin Kearns – here: BURN WITH KEARNS

Both of Coach Kearns’ books may be purchased on For more information about Coach Kevin Kearns, including scheduling speaking engagements and classes (both online and in person), please contact him at 508-404-8503 or [email protected] of “There’s Light In The Tunnel” How to Survive and Thrive with Depression  – “Always Picked Last“ A guide to navigating bullies on Amazon and Audible

Coach Kevin Kearns has been coaching in the world of fitness, nutrition, and tactical self defense for over 3 decades. As the former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pro Fighters, and ranked in the Top 5 in the UFC , he is no stranger to the the importance of proper nutrition and proper mindset programming. He has long advocated to all his clients – athletes or the general population – about the importance of programming mind, body and spirit. Coach Kevin Kearns BS FMS CPT – Former conditioning coach to 15 UFC Pros Ranked in Top 5 by the UFC Personal Fitness Coach, Author, Columnist, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Wellness Consultant, Youth Wellness Program Provider, Certification Specialist, Personal Self Defense, and Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Specialist.

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