The Youngest Black Belt I Ever Taught: Mekhi’s Story


A “540” is a 540-degree jumping spin kick. When I ask them to, most students never even try to do one. It’s too hard, they say.  

But Mekhi is not most students. The first time I showed him the 540, he got right to work trying to learn it. He threw himself all over the mat, but repeatedly got back up and tried again. Before long, he pulled off a successful 540.  

Since I have been running my own schools, Mekhi Franklin is still the youngest black belt I have ever taught.  

For someone to become the youngest black belt I ever taught, they would have had to come up through our Tigers program. Most Tigers start at age 5. Following the normal path, they will typically about nine when they reach “Go-Ma”, or Child Level Black Belt. 

But, Mekhi is not most students. He entered the Tigers program around his third birthday. I knew immediately that he was special. Mekhi was unafraid to try or practice anything. He had boundless energy. He was full of spunk. And a whole lot more.  

There are two levels to the Tigers program, Tigers 1 and Tigers 2. Most students need to go through Tigers 1 twice before advancing.  

But, Mekhi is not most students. He was laser-focused and breezed through Tigers 1 on his first try. He got through Tigers 2 very quickly as well, and was ready to advance to the child-level black belt program. At this point, Mekhi still hadn’t even reached his fourth birthday.  

By the time he started training with me in the child-level program, he had not only mastered both levels of the Tigers program, but he had a jump on the child program curriculum as well.  

As I said before, most students don’t even start Tae Kwon-Do until around age six. But I also said that Mekhi isn’t most students. By age six, Mekhi Franklin was a black belt. The youngest I ever taught.  

I would like to take credit for everything that led him to black belt, but I can’t. I opened the doors, but Mehki walked through them. I led him to the water, but Mehki drank it. I showed him things above his level, and Mekhi rose to the challenge. Every time. 

Mekhi’s mother deserves credit as well. She has always been extremely supportive of Mekhi’s training. In addition to the regular curriculum, Mekhi’s mother had him taking private lessons with me; something he still does to this day. She kept him focused and the results bore out, not just with his Tae Kwon-Do, but in school as well. I routinely have students show me report cards and homework. Mekhi’s are always top notch. 

When we talk about young black belts, some people get the mistaken impression that we’re “giving the belts away.” The reason that we have three levels of black belt is so that it is achievable for a child, a teenager, and an adult. It also keeps our curriculum separate, clean, and intact. The belts mean something. 

But, nothing is ever given to students. As nothing was ever given to Mekhi. He wasn’t coasted through the program, or coddled because he was so young. He went through the same curriculum that everyone else does. He just stayed focused, put in the work, and pushed himself to become better. 

The difference is that most students go through it when they’re twice as old as Mekhi was. 
But, Mekhi is not most students.


Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!


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