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Trailblazer: Dave Kovar

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Dave Kovar is an 8th degree Black Belt and still growing and has Black Belt ranks in 10 unique martial art styles. Heis also a trailblazing instructor on the most comprehensive martial arts platform in history—Black Belt+.

*Due to editorial limitations, parts of this interview may have been abbreviated.

Black Belt+: You inspired so many, who or what inspired you?

Dave: There have been a lot of people that have inspired and continue to inspire me to be my best. Probably at the top of the list would be my father, Len Kovar, Grandmaster Jhoone Rhee, and Grandmaster Ernie Reyes. Each of them really understood the concept of “leading by example.”

Black Belt+: Black Belt+ was started to help students outside the dojo, what are your expert tips on training solo or remotely?

Dave: The challenge is not in the knowing that you should practice, it’s in the doing. What Black-Belt+ is doing is making it easier for people to practice on their own. A lot of people think they need an hour or two on a regular basis to get better. That might be ideal, but the reality of it is, short consistent workouts will go a long way. My father always said, “a little of something is better than a lot of nothing.” If we can get in the habit of practicing even a few minutes a day, over time, that adds up and good things will happen.

Black Belt+: Oftentimes in our training we hit a wall, what’s your advice for students who lack motivation or want to quit?

Dave: I think it’s important to explain to students ahead of time that there’s a good chance that they will want to quit at some point in the training. That way when it happens, they’re not surprised. The next step is to remind them early on in their training that the only way to develop perseverance is to keep doing something when you want to quit. Also, it’s been my experience that we almost always seem to plateau in our training just before we have a breakthrough.

Black Belt+: Traditionally many martial artists start with one style, when do you recommend the best time to branch out and learn other styles?

Dave: My original instructor, Hanshi Bruce Jucknick, had us cross training back in the early 70s when not a lot of people were doing that, so I’ve always had an affinity to multi-style training. With that said, I have nothing but respect for someone that sticks with one art for decades, as long as they still continue to practice that art. We teach our students a concept called “Breadcrumbs and Jellybeans.” The idea is that it’s important to become good at one art, that’s the breadcrumbs. And then it’s nice to experiment with others, that’s the jellybeans. Bruce Lee that said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” .

Black Belt+: What are some changes or developments in your art over the years?

Dave: What I’ve seen not only my martial arts training, but also in others, is a blending of styles. There was a time when you could tell what style someone was by the way they stood, or by the way they kicked. It is way harder to tell now because we’ve all learned from each other. For me, it’s about continuously embracing the concept of “Shoshin,” meaning “beginner’s mind.” I try to stay open and receptive to new ideas and concepts, while remaining true to the core principles that I know to be effective.

Black Belt+: Today, what is the emphasis of your teaching? Dave: In my videos on Black Belt+, I focus on a variety of drills and concepts designed to keep training enjoyable and to help practitioners to have a versatile skillset. When I was younger, my teaching emphasis was always about becoming a better fighter or developing cleaner technique. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s great to aspire to. But as I age, I am more focused on health, fitness and conflict avoidance. Bottom line is that most of us are not going to die in a back-alley knife fight. Research shows us that bigger risks are heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. If we are truly teaching self-defense, then living a healthy lifestyle should be the foundation of that.

-- Check out all of Dave Kovar’s instructional videos on Black Belt+. Download and subscribe directly from Black Belt Magazine at Or download in the App Store or Google Play.

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