Decoding High Performance Culture


My path has been a series of summits—from unknowingly donning the label of a C Player to aspiring to conquer the peaks as an A player. It took over a decade of training before stumbling upon the concept of high-performance culture, reshaping not only my perspective but also introducing the notion of climbing through different summits. Now, as a seasoned black belt in Virginia Beach, facing the ascent again at 46, I’ve come to realize that each conquered summit opens the door to another, perpetuating the cycle of growth.

The Different Player Types

Reflecting on my journey, I now understand the spectrum of martial arts proficiency as a series of summits. Progressing from the days of being unaware of being a high performer to wanting to join the ranks of the A players, each summit has been a transformative experience. It’s not just about reaching the top; it’s about the continuous pursuit of excellence.

A Players – High Performers

A Players are the high performers who consistently surpass expectations and significantly contribute to the success of the academy. These individuals showcase exceptional skills, unwavering dedication, and a deep understanding of martial arts principles. They become the standard bearers of excellence, inspiring others through their mastery.

B Players – Solid Contributors

B Players in martial arts are the solid contributors who meet expectations and form the backbone of the training environment. While they may not shine as brightly as A Players, they play a crucial role in the day-to-day activity, contributing to a positive and supportive atmosphere that fosters growth for everyone.

C Players – Struggling Individuals

C Players in martial arts are individuals who may be struggling to meeting expectations, requiring additional support or development. This category includes those who are relatively new to martial arts or are facing challenges in grasping certain techniques or personal hurdles. Recognizing C Players is an opportunity for instructors and the martial arts community to provide the necessary guidance and support to help them progress.

High Potentials – Emerging Talent

High Potentials in martial arts are performers identified as having the potential to become A Players with further development and investment. These are the promising individuals who exhibit raw talent, dedication, and a willingness to learn. Identifying and nurturing high potentials is essential for ensuring a continuous influx of skilled martial artists who can contribute significantly to the academy’s culture in the future.

Laggards – Consistent Underperformers

Laggards in martial arts are consistent underperformers who may not align well with the goals of the academy. While martial arts is inclusive and supportive, individuals falling into this category may struggle to adapt or show persistent disinterest. In such cases, it becomes important for instructors and the community to understand the underlying reasons and explore whether additional support or a different approach is needed.

Climbing Summits in Middle Age: A New Perspective

As a martial artist at 46, my age at the time of this post, I’ve observed that climbing these summits in middle age brings a unique perspective. Unlike the burning desire and invulnerability often associated with younger practitioners in their 20s, my climb is driven by a different motivation—enjoyment of life. The characteristics of youth, such as invincibility or burning desire, are left behind, replaced by a deep appreciation for the art and a desire to savor every moment of the journey…at least from where I stand.

In this spectrum between 20 and 50 years old, the younger practitioners may be fueled by intense ambition, while those in middle age find fulfillment in the journey itself. It’s not about competing with the fervor of youth but about embracing the wisdom and experience that come with age. Each climb becomes a celebration of life, a testament to the enduring passion for martial arts that evolves and matures, much like the practitioners themselves.


My martial arts journey, transitioning from an unwitting novice to aspiring to be a seasoned practitioner, unfolds as a journey of conquering summits. As I enter the ascent once again, I invite others to join in exploring the summits of high-performance culture in martial arts—a path marked by continuous growth and collective success on the training mat.