A group of special needs students had to break wooden blocks, spar, and fight some "extreme nerves" to work for their black belt in Taekwon-Do on Saturday.

The four have been part of Hawke's Bay International Taekwon-Do Federation since director Ben Evans started it in 2006. For them, receiving the black belt was "an achievement in of itself".

Mr Evans said he hoped the successful day would change people's perception of those with special needs.

"People will think they were just given [the black belt], but not those who were present."

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The students' hard work and effort were evident to the audience and judging panel - by the end of their gradings one student was "drenched in sweat", and another had broken every 20ml block of wood presented to him. They also had to spar, which Mr Evans said he had never been keen on.

"But they have to achieve those requirements, they can't be treated any differently. You want to make them work for it and have them achieve."

In July the students, with two others, will be representing New Zealand in the first ever special needs division at the International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships in England.