By day, I'm a mild mannered Information Technology (computers) person who manages the Enterprise Architecture Group for a large metropolitan bank. After work, especially on Thursdays and Saturdays, I turn into Sa Bum Nim Meredith - an equally mild mannered Karate instructor for a great metropolitan martial arts chain. I love the duality of the roles, one being primarily cerebral the other being most definitively physical.
I am also surprised at the number of times the knowledge, skill, and lessons from one of my lives transcends into the other. A couple of days ago I was a member of a three person panel presenting an overview of our jobs to a group of 50 new hires. The fellow next to me was a certified Six Sigma Black Belt; which means he was an expert in developing corporate systems to solve business problems. The Six Sigma program uses the martial arts rankings to identify the ascension levels of its practitioners. These Black Belts are highly trained to research business processes and to design better ones.
After he was introduced, the crowd of new hires oo'd and awed. Someone then asked If I too was a Black Belt. Hmm, how to answer? The natural response was to say, "Well, yes, but you see I'm an actual Black Belt, not some standard issue executive with a copy-cat designation." OK, well maybe that is a little harsh. Maybe I could have answered, "Well, actually I am a fourth degree Black Belt in the Korean Martial Art of Tang Soo Do." Hmm, that's a straight forward, honest answer that doesn't demean the fellow panelist.
Or does it? Think about it for a moment. The REASON the Six Sigma folks use the martial arts designation is because of the enormous credibility and skill these titles convey. They could have used Private, Lieutenant, Captain, and General. They could have used Acolyte, Seminarian, Priest, and Bishop. Or even Novice, Professional, and Master. They chose Green Belts, Black Belts, and Master Black Belts because these designations resonate across many venues, countries and cultures to mean proficiency and excellence.
In the context of the question being asked (new employees of a large financial services corporation, after hearing that one person was an expert in process engineering) - in this context, I decided that my martial arts history would have been a divergence and distraction from the context and purpose for the new employee orientation. It would also set up in the minds of everyone present a competitive comparison of the designations. Surely someone would have asked, "Could the Six Sigma Black Belt create a business process that the Tang Soo Do Black Belt couldn't kick his way out of? - Hardee har har!" Others might have felt that the process engineer's Black Belt achievement was less notable in the presence of a fourth degree Instructor.
In the end, I answered, "No, I'm not a Black Belt - my role in the company is different..." and proceeded to explain what an Enterprise Architect does, the unique and challenging opportunities I get to address, and how my job makes a difference. I am perfectly comfortable with people knowing my martial arts status, and equally comfortable with them not knowing. Consider this; I was asked to participate on the panel because (apparently) my job would be of interest to new employees. Why should I need more background than that to motivate, encourage, and welcome new employees to my company.