Started training: September 2006
Tested for red belt: September 2, 2011 at age 17
I can still remember my first class. I was at WendyÕs across from the old dojo when I discovered Sortor Karate. My Mom and I went to investigate, and next thing I knew I was out on the mats looking awkward. I remember not being able to point my foot for a roundhouse kick. My feet would cramp, and my toes would go in different directions. Then it finally happened, I had logged in the time and preformed the magic number of reps, and bam! Pointing my foot on roundhouse kick became automatic. I was pretty exited about that until I had to go back to square one with side kicks. My first rank test was also a memorable experience, not knowing what to expect, and all. I stayed up all night with a friend the night before. Bad Idea! Needless to say, I was pretty sorry the next day. I should have been more prepared for that test, but it turned out to be a good experience. It taught me very quickly what it would take to advance through the belts at this school, a lot of hard work and spirit. SenseiÕs rank tests are one of this schoolÕs most admirable qualities. Sensei has this uncanny ability to know exactly whatÕs going on with you, whatÕs going on in your head. He never seems to have any trouble bringing you to that place where your mind and body start saying, ÒDude, whatÕs wrong with you? YouÕre not supposed to be doing stuff like this!Ó Rank tests and things like them arenÕt exactly normal pass times. Most people just donÕt do these kinds of things, and for good reason, theyÕre no fun. In short theyÕre terrible. I would rather have my teeth pulled, but there is nothing more rewarding than successfully completing your rank test (the best part of which is eating afterward). Sensei can bring the best/worst out in you with his tests. By pushing you to your limits and taking you to the edge, that point where you truly believe that you donÕt have any more to give, you discover that you do. You push through the pain and find that you have a lot more to give. These tests are something that sets this school apart from many other martial arts schools. A huge goal of mine, if I ever have a school of my own, is to emulate SenseiÕs rank tests. They amaze me, how fast paced they are, how intense they are, and how scary they are. IÕm scared to death of them. The mental anxiety that you have in the time leading up to the test plays a big part. I always have this sense of dread as my test approaches. My brown II test was a little different. I didnÕt feel nervous at all before my test, that is, until Sensei called out, ÒSeiza!Ó Wait! Now? Like right now? But itÕs only been a year. ThatÕs not enough time. No matter how many test you do, that anxiety never goes away. ItÕs funny how that anxiety effects even the people around you who arenÕt testing. My Mom is usually more nervous before a test than I am. I donÕt know what I would do without karate. This place has meant a lot to me. God blessed me by letting me find this place. I think that it was pretty lucky for me to find such an awesome dojo on my first try, I donÕt think it was a coincidence though. Being a part of this dojo family has been incredibly rewarding for me. I canÕt think of a cooler place to spend my time. We get to learn so much more than just karate here too. The skills that IÕm learning here have helped me with school and many other parts of life. Learning to lead a huge class of crazy little kids for forty-five minutes can very quickly teach you to deal with obstacles. ThatÕs a test in itself. It has been a great experience for me to be able to teach. ItÕs pretty cool to have a job like that at a time when most kids my age are competing for a job at McDonaldÕs with people who have college degrees. You guys are truly family to me. You are all teachers to me. No matter what belt you are, I learn things from you guys every day, and it doesnÕt hurt to have a sensei like sensei Brian. Those of you who have taught classes know that it is not an easy job, though Sensei makes it look easy. I wouldnÕt have made it this far if not for all the sincere, humble and genuine martial artists here. You guys set such a good example for me, and as for you red belts, whyÕd you have to go and set the bar so high? IÕve gone through a karate burn out like every body does, but I never contemplated giving up karate. If you are going through a burn out, know that all you need to do is put your head down and work through it. If you do this you will eventually snap out of it, and when you do you will be more interested in karate than when you started. ItÕs been quite a ride up to this point. Karate isnÕt for everyone but I feel sorry for the people who quit because they donÕt know what their missing out on. Even more valuable than the karate are the friends that IÕve met here, like Devon and Jordan who always amaze me with their abilities. Devon, I call the robot, because he seems to be impervious to pain and fear. ThereÕs Wendie, by night known as ÒSuper WendieÓ. Dylan, my personal punching bag/little brother I never had, Andrea, and Seth-of-death and his family (my family away from family). Seth gets this cruel pleasure out of doing cool jump-360-kicks into my face right in the middle of crowded public places, like at the Old Mill. ThereÕs Barb and Gabi, who are without a doubt two of the hardest working people here. Then there is Dan,who is as much of a teacher to me as a student. There are many others, including those who have had to leave the dojo like Shaun, Kim, David, Trevor, and Glen, guys IÕm glad I got to meet, and I hope will come back soon. Of course, thereÕs Brian and Kristina who have been great teachers to me and have been very generous with the opportunities that they have given me. I also wouldnÕt have been able to do any of this without the support of my parents, letting me steal their car all the time and drive like a crazy man to my classes and private lessons. TheyÕve worked very hard in helping me to get to this point, and have done every thing they could to help me do well. IÕm very thankful for their dedication to my karate. During the time of the move from the old dojo I injured my knee on uneven ground. The first doctor that I went to told me that I had probably torn some cartilage, and that if the swelling didnÕt go down in a week I would need surgery. I didnÕt like the sound of that very much. I was worried about how this would effect my martial arts, so I went to another doctor. This time I got a different story. He explained that it would probably take a month or so for the swelling to go down, certainly not just a week. He was right. I took care of my knee, and in about a month and a half it was nearly one-hundred percent. I was kind of shocked at the first doctor. He would have had me get a surgery I didnÕt need, a surgery that probably would have messed up my knee more than the injury did, but I was thankful that God was protecting me. I hated being away from karate and couldnÕt wait to get back into it, but after about a month of walking around like a pirate I was able to start training again. I believe that God has a purpose for my martial arts. I donÕt know what it is, but I know itÕs there. I believe that this is a task that God has given me and that I have a responsibility to try to give it my all. I thank Him for letting me put my strength into something I love and IÕm optimistic about the future. My goal is to be more like Christ and to point my students towards Him so that they can feel the same sense of purpose that faith in God lets me feel. Brown II leading up to Red has been a big time of growth for me. IÕve learned some things, like how I hate having to make open forms. Brown II has been a blast though, and IÕm almost sorry to see it go (almost). ItÕs hard to believe that as a red belt IÕll be only a year or so away from black. ThatÕs crazy. Coming up like we have (in a school with no black belts except Sensei) it seems almost like we will never reach black belt. I canÕt believe that this is my last test in the dojo. IÕm not quite sure how to feel about that. I have bitter-sweet feelings. I wonÕt wax too emotional just yet however, thereÕs still the mountain to look forward to, but I have this crazy feeling that when it's all done IÕm going to miss our rank tests. Luckily the journey doesnÕt end there.