The idea of a black-belted martial artist is one of those rare things that permeates the culture but remains, in many respects, opaque. It's hard to find someone who doesn't have at least some recognition of the term, but easy enough to find a few who might have only a vague idea of what it means.
Only around three to five per cent of martial arts students across the globe ultimately earn a black belt, which requires between three and six years of study in a particular discipline.
Kaizen Ryu, the discipline that instructor Peter Kirkwood founded 30 years ago at Maitland, is a term that roughly translates to "school of constant improvement". Gaining a belt in his class is as much a badge of expertise as the end of basic training, at once the last and first rung on the ladder.
"Whether it's at home, with family, at school or work, or in karate, to achieve, we have to be constantly improving," he said, "That's the good thing, I think, about martial arts; it's a lifetime of learning. It's different from cricket, football, or soccer, which are the same sport if you start at three and go through to represent Australia. Martial arts is constantly evolving.
"There is always something new to learn."
Mr Kirkwood has been training and teaching for 38 years. At 64, he says he has the best job in the world, one dedicated to his craft. On Saturday, seven of his students - Elizabeth Ferraro, Piper Kirkwood, Ella Henderson, Kim Milligan, Grace Fatches, Sarina Attard and Imogen Kirman - will undertake a day of exams to attain their black belts.
It's the first time seven women will take the grade in his gym on the same day, one of whom is his daughter, Piper, who has been practising since she was three years old.
"I love going to work," Mr Kirkwood said, beaming with a teacher's pride, "But I get more out of it than I put in. To see these women on the weekend will be very satisfying.
"It's probably going to be a bit emotional, especially to see your daughter,
"I'm going to be one proud instructor watching these seven women go for their black belt."
The exams at the weekend, held at the Maitland Federation Centre, involve a series of demonstrations in the morning in which student must show their capabilities by mastering their discipline before a presentation of the belts in the afternoon.
While martial arts is predominantly known for its instruction on self-defence and fighting acumen, Mr Kirkwood said there is a reason the headlines never scream of black belt violence, martial arts bullies and karate crime sprees.
"It changes your whole aspect," Mr Kirkwood said, "We talk about the eight ethics of the samurai - loyalty and courage, self-control, benevolence, politeness, justice, honesty and rectitude - you don't get bullies coming in to become super bullies. That just doesn't happen.
"If you're there long enough, you realise fighting really isn't the answer; it's about having confidence ... that's what makes you not want to fight.
"Everybody who gains a black belt has that respect for the belt."
The grading process begins at 9.30am on Saturday, completion of which, Mr Kirkwood explained, represents the end of basic training for his students and the beginning of advanced learning and discipline.
"It's incredible that we have this number of women going for the belt," he said, "It's a huge achievement ... They have to prove that they remember everything from the day they started to now.
"You've got this ability and this level of knowledge that you'll carry with you for the rest of your life. And it's very empowering."