On a wall at White Tiger Martial Arts exclaims a bold statement: "We Are Not Just a Black Belt School - We Are THE Black Belt School."


But it's more than a boast; it's an affirmation any member of the dojo who works diligently can attain their ultimate goal, according to owner Brandon Hastings.


"We use 'black belt' as a metaphor. It's positive self-expectancy. 'I can do better.'"


While White Tiger, which is located on the Mesa on I Avenue near Danbury, offers karate instruction for all ages, several teen-agers credit Hastings and his studio for redirecting their lives.


"I was always a trouble-maker," said Josh. "I got lots of referals, maybe 17 or 18."


But he came to White Tiger and his school life eventually got better, although his karate skills progressed slowly. "It's definitely helped me to control my discipline."


The key, according to Hastings, is "not to make our kids perfect." Rather, he creates an atmosphere where karate students natural gravitate toward better decision-making.


"Here we teach the kids that they want to be good not that they have to," he said. "We teach our kids discipline, structure and respect well before any karate instruction."


Started at age 6


Karate gave Hastings direction and disclipline at an even earlier age. He started martial arts when he was 6. At 12, Hastings, who grew up in Apple Valley, began studying under Master Steve Amaro and his brother Master Gilbert Amaro.


Although he began competing at the age of 8, he lost every event he entered - until he earned his black belt at the age of 14. Then victories came easily.


"I actually believed in myself. Once I won, I didn't stop."


Afterward, Hastings won six national karate championships in a row. Then he became the national kickboxing champ.


In recent years he competed in Chuck Norris' World Combat League with the L.A. Stars, which went 6-0 as a team with Hastings possessing a perfect 4-0 record. Additionally, he has had two cage fights this year for Joe Stevenson's team and has a 2-0 record.


"I use my karate a lot. I'm a striker. My whole goal is to stay on my feet and punch."


White Tiger Martial Arts is open to boys and girls ages 3 and up through adult.


"Martial arts is for anybody," Hastings said. "You're never too old."


Progress is based on the individual.


"What is the difference between a white belt and black belt?" Hastings asks rhetorically. "Time."


White Tiger Martial Arts is located at 8104 I Ave., Unit A. For more information, call 947-0069.