Welcome Blackbelts and Blackbelt candidates to your 2020 Blackbelt Retreat! I am not going to talk long, because this is your night to give your presentations and share your experiences, emotions and your story about your Blackbelt Leadership journey! But I am going to begin by telling you how very proud I am of each and every one of you, and tell you a few things that you may or may not already know.

First, allow me to remind you that it’s actually a small percentage of the American population that ever start at martial arts and, of these, an even smaller group that seriously sets their goal to become a Blackbelt. Of that group a smaller group of special people actually demonstrate the focus, perseverance, commitment and dedication that it takes to become a Blackbelt, and then a smaller elite group to continue on the quest, to advanced degrees of Blackbelt and even Master level like a few of your peers have. I am very excited that we are testing this weekend 8 Junior Blackbelts, 5 Probationary Blackbelts, Four Certified 1st Degrees and also 4 Second Degree Blackbelts, one to third and two for their 4th degree, which is the beginning of Master rank! We are all super proud of and excited for all of you!

And while such a small percentage of the American population will ever know the satisfaction, pride and excellence of these accomplishments, let me tell you something else you may not know. While it’s a small number that make it to the 2nd Degree Blackbelt and beyond, a very, very large majority of those that do, especially through our school, go on to amazing positions of leadership and success! Our graduates go on to be successful in college, the military, ministry and business and careers. It’s not surprising because so much of what we do here is dedicated towards developing in you the leadership success skills to be excellent in anything and everything you are ever called to do! As proud as I am of you for your accomplishments to this point in this dojo, I am even more excited about all of the great things that I know all of you will grow to do in our dojo and out of the dojo and into the world!

I would be remiss, by the way, not to acknowledge and thank the amazing Blackbelt Leaders that have stayed on to help me help prepare each and all of you for this. Please join me in special recognition of Shihan Harley Del Castillo, who’s not only a great Master Instructor that has sown into many of you, even this week, but his is also the creative genius behind the great audiovisual and print materials of KMMA; soon to be Shihan Diego Del Castillo- though he will be off to a cereer as an Army Officer soon, starting with Army Basic and Infantry School at Ft. Benning Georgia and then on to Reserve Officer Training Course at University of North Georgia, he’s done some amazing work in and on so many of you in the mean time; soon to be Shihan Carolyn Borton, a great leader of KMMA and who’s son Sensei Ben Borton is also a Sensei here; our Chief Instructor, the great Sensei Kyle Bierly who’s testing for his third degree and is a walking, talking testament to the Blackbelt Excellence we speak of; the great Sensei Sarah Church who is our Welcome Program and Home School Class Instructor; and Sensei Michelle and Mackenzie and Aden and all the rest of my instructor and assistant staff, stand up and be recognized too!

Finally, I want to talk to you about a few of the benefits that you have gained through your training and will continue to develop through this weekend and the next training evolution.


  • First are the obvious one, like Blackbelt fitness, speed, focus, power, accuracy and intensity, real world self defense skills; and even Blackbelt focus, discipline, perseverance, courtesy and respect, integrity, self control and leadership skills.
  • The second is less obvious but just as important, and shows itself in times of stress and testing. Just as in the many stress drills you have negotiated over the years of your training, and especially like you will in a Blackbelt test, life is full of trouble. You can tell the quality of your physical krav maga skills by the way you react under the stress of the drill. Well seasoned Blackbelts react calmly, effectively and efficiently under the worst of variables being attacked with grabs and holds and punches and kicks and sticks and knives and guns. You focus not on what’s happening to you, but what you can do about what’s happening to you. This skill of being undistracted by the circumstances, no matter how dire, and focusing on what you can control to improve your situation is one of the most important skills and attributes you will ever acquire. We can look around the world right now and tell through people’s behavior and leadership who has and who hasn’t. You will be in the group that has.
  • The third amazing benefit you have or will gain through this process is that you will become part of an amazing community. We are a Knighthood- a band of brothers and sisters who are forged in fire and bound together in a way reserved only to those who have sweat, bled and triumphed together. As proud as I am of each of your accomplishments to this point, this weekend and beyond, it is all of you that accomplish the most together. After this weekend, your family will have grown, and you will know that you always have brothers and sisters that will have your back. When the dragons and demons come, we will slay them together. Many of you already know what I’m talking about, and the rest of you soon will.


I am really excited to hear your stories now, and then to watch you add another chapter this weekend!

Congratulations and be great!

I will be followed by Sensei, soon to be Shihan, Diego Del Castillo! and Krav Maga Martial Arts have been empowering lives through the martial arts in the Tampa Bay area for 20 years!

Founded in 2000 by Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo, a 7th degree Black Belt and Sr. Master Instructor, Krav Maga Martial Arts and Karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need – specialized for their age group – for school excellence and later success in life.

Krav Maga Martial Arts Adult Krav Maga training is a complete adult self defense, fitness, and conditioning program for adults who want to learn real world self defense, lose weight, and/or get (and stay in shape).

If you have any questions about our program, or would like to go ahead redeem your 2 weeks FREE, you can call us anytime at 813-547-6368 or visit our Krav Maga Martial Arts website.

About Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo: Grandmaster Del Castillo is the founding Master Instructor of Krav Maga Martial Arts and has been empowering lives in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties since October of 2000. He is a 7th degree Blackbelt, MBA, author, mentor and success coach, a US Army Veteran and a proud father and grandfather. He is married to Ms. Barbara Del Castillo who helps him run the school. Grand Master Del Castillo began his training in the early 80’s and has high level blackbelts in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Premier Martial Arts and Krav Maga Martial Arts as well as experience in kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Jiujitsu. He has high level instructor certifications from BBSI, IKMF, and KMG and has been featured in numerous Martial Arts publications and also Success magazine. He was a competitive sport karate and American Kickboxing instructor until he enlisted in the US Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he won an Army Green to Gold scholarship and proceeded to ROTC and the University of Tampa. He was commisioned in 1992 and went on to serve in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division and then in several other posts in the US until he left military service to pursue his dream of creating KMMA in 2000.

The Krav MagaMartial Arts Headquarters is in Lutz, FL at 1900 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., 33549. Krav Maga Martial Arts serves Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, and surrounding areas.

Also, check us out on Fun4TampaKids & on