Started training September 2005, age 21. Tested for black belt July 2012, age 28.
Black Belt Speech:
Where do I begin?
The journey to black belt has not been what I expected. Stepping onto the mats for the first time as a white belt, or even years in as a purple belt, I still couldn't have imagined I'd learn the variety of forms, techniques, weapons, gymnastics and skills that I have. Knowledge in the mind, strength in the body.... I have so much martial arts knowledge in my brain now. And I have gained several pounds of muscle, lost fat, and trained my limbs to do things I didn't expect to learn how to do, especially learning for the first time as a creaky adult rather than a limber teenager.
The last of the three principles of training, courage and honesty in the heart, has proven to be the most important principle for me however. The process of growing into a black belt, not just as a martial artist, but as a “black belt” human being, has required courage for me beyond simply facing a terrifying opponent or physical exhaustion and pain. It took facing my own life, my own body, my own limitations, and my own heart and mind. Exposing my every weakness, every personal failing and shortcoming, every hypocrisy to myself was more, at times, than I could even handle. There is no getting around it – it was hard.
I learned self control, and lost it, and got it back again. I fell down seven, but got up eight. I learned to focus daily to more and more live good thoughts, and good actions. I learned to focus and to peak, even with life, injuries and 8,000 other things going on in my mind. And in the end, I'm completely satisfied with everything I did to be a tough act to follow.
The process, while sometimes arduous and painful, also revealed to me the deep relationships, true goodness in others, forgiveness, friendships and love that existed in places I might have previously overlooked. It revealed strengths in myself, and a capacity to learn and adapt that I thought was beyond me. It revealed my ability to overcome more than what anyone else will ever know about. All these things this journey revealed not publicly, but just between me, myself and God. The process feels like a 7 year conversation between my heart and God's, growing louder and louder with each passing week. And throughout it all, I learned I had far more within me than I had ever imagined.
To everyone out there who is coming up, I want to encourage you to open your heart. This journey will take you where you need to go. What you want out of it is irrelevant. What you think it is, it isn't. But, you will get what you need if you can learn to leave your heart and mind open to the process, and just trust your sensei. What it means to go to black belt, trust me, you have no idea. Neither did I. And that, is why it is what it is.
But even if you doubt your ability to get there, whether you are a red belt now, or a blue belt, or a person sitting out there wondering if you could even get through your first white belt class, just know that you CAN, and even though you have no idea what black belt means for you yet, you WILL.
This journey has been mine, orchestrated by God and the by best sensei I could ever ask for, and so that is all I want to say about it. If you want more, do it yourself.
What I do want to do is thank some people who made my journey what it was and I couldn't have done without.
I want to thank my friend Jimmy for not only helping me get in shape, teaching me fighting skills, and introducing me to the amazing art of stunt fighting, but also for helping me discover my inner strength, perseverance, and how to forgive myself, overcome, and open my heart to others. Never second guess yourself as a teacher or a martial artist Jimmy – your black belt is in experience, and it is heavy with knowledge and strength. I love you, I thank you, and I look forward to continuing the journey.
And I want to thank my black belt brothers and sisters. Devon and Jordan, you two inspired me from Day 1. Whether you knew it or not, you always pushed me, in your quiet and kind way, to be better at karate, and to be a better person; Jordan, my most challenging sparring foe but always with encouragement and good humor, your perseverance is inspiring. And Devon with your otherwordly work ethic and determination. I could never have guessed how much I was going to love the two cute little precocious Hawaiian twins I met in the summer of 2006. This journey wouldn't have been the same without you. Thank you for everything. I am so grateful and so honored to test with you both.
Ben, it was a blessing directly from God to us the day you sat down at for a hamburger and saw that karate sign across the street. My life would have been so different without you in it, and I can't count how many times I've thanked God for you. Thank you for being exactly how you are in every way. I'm so grateful to be on this journey with you, and honored to watch you grow up from the 12 year old white belt kid you were, into the amazing man that you are now.
Seth, I definitely have never told you enough how much I love you and am thankful for you. You effect others all around you in so many positive ways you will never know about, but never underestimate yourself and the beauty and strength you have inside you. You're always inspiring and challenging to me, and never waiver from your principles. You have taught me so much, and I feel truly honored to have been a part of your life for these past 7 years.
Wendie... what on earth can yin say to yang? I love you. I couldn't have done this without you. Our relationship has not been without its rocks and peaks and valleys, but providence clearly put us together in this life and on this journey because it could not have been any other way. You don't have to worry about me getting a black belt tattoo with your name on it because you have left your mark far more permanent than that on my heart and my spirit. Thank you for all the sacrifice you made to do this crazy project with me for black belt, to train with me all these years and to be friends with someone as challenging as myself. I cannot thank you enough for what you are.
Thank you to the incredible dojo students and parents, so many more of you than I can name right now. You know who you are. You have helped me grow up too. I was 19 when I made the plans for the dojo and 21 when we opened our doors, and now at 28 I'm a different person. Thank you for every prayer, every office talk, every encouraging gift or note, every up moment and down moment, every tear, every hug, every time you forgave me for being cranky or immature, and every sacrifice you made on my behalf or the dojo's behalf. Thank you so much.
And I want to first and last, thank my amazing and tireless husband Sensei Brian for setting me on this path and changing my life forever. For teaching even when it was the last thing in the world you wanted to do, but doing it because it was right. Just like you do everything. For showing me the meaning of duty and honor and justice. What you've given me, I could no more adequately thank you for than I could thank the sun or the air, but I try. Thank you for this journey and this life. I love you very much.