Started training: February 2008 - Age 10
Tested for red belt: August 21, 2013 - Age 16
I stand here today attempting to describe the indescribable. To others the color red would spark thoughts of fire, roses and blood. To me, the color red means, well… quite honestly, nothing. The color I wrap around my waist today is simply a piece of cloth. I have nothing to say about the belt. In fact, I would rather do karate without one. Instead of talking about this piece of cotton I will instead be trying to translate my experiences in the dojo over the past 5 and a half years into English.
When I was young I played sports like most young boys. I played many sports with results varying from first to last. I started with soccer. What I remember about it is the day I tried out for the traveling team. I was rarely passed to, got the ball once or twice and surely enough didn’t make it. I remember walking away from the field that day feeling that my days of playing soccer were over. Then there was baseball. I’ll start off with the impressive statement that by the end of the season, my team won first place in the league. They don’t calculate batting averages for kids but I can tell you that mine was exactly 0.000. I never hit a ball the entire season. I was scared of the pitcher, scared that I would be hit by the ball. From baseball came football. I chose to be a receiver. In practice I was the star. I could catch any ball thrown in my direction. Even in running back exercises, I was the star. Each of us would run plays until we were tackled, then we would rotate. After a good amount of time, the coach ended up having to rotate me out since nobody could catch me. Then we faced other teams. By the end of the season, I had not caught a single ball.
I found myself entering the fifth grade doing no sports. My mom and I were driving along one day when we passed radio shack. Above the store was a second floor. Big red letters read “Karate” across the top. “You want to do Karate?” my mom asked me. “Sure” I said, not thinking too much of it. Later, my mom said she knew the mom of a girl who went to my school. That girl was Gabi Wayne, and her mom was Barb. Apparently she had recommended the place for me to my mom.
I started my journey in February 2008 as a white belt, still in elementary school. It was then I met the incredible man Brian Sortor, and I was to call him “Sensei”. He is the one and only Brian Sortor, and I am blessed to have come across such an amazing teacher. It didn’t take very long until I received my yellow belt. A week or two in, I remember being in the group of kids that had to sit out while the students that could do their yellow belt katas did them. I wanted to learn them extremely bad. That night, I went home and watched my yellow belt training DVD for countless hours in my play-room. I wouldn’t stop until I had them memorized. In one night, I had learned all of my yellow belt katas: Han Shodan, Han Neidan, and Han Sandan.
Soon I was a blue belt. A became a purple belt shortly after moving in to the new dojo. Then came purple II. I became a purple II and immediately started assisting in lower belt classes. I shifted my schedule from 2 classes a week to about 10. Shortly after achieving my blue gi, I tested for brown belt. The tests don’t get any easier as you go. In fact they get much harder. My brown belt test was almost finished. I had almost done it. We were on the final stretch, the board breaks. I broke one with ease and moved on to the next, a jump side kick. I flew through the air and broke the board. It was upon landing that I realized I had done the same to my ankle. The foot I landed on rolled and I fractured my ankle. This was the first in a long line of injuries and setbacks. Luckily, that was the end of the test and I passed. I was out for a couple months but was back as soon as possible. I stumbled through brown I and eventually tested for brown II.
Now somewhat confident in my skills, I attended my first tournament. It came to sparring. Although I had sparred in class before, this was completely different. In the middle of the rush, my opponent spun and threw his leg through the air full force. Before I knew it I had taken the blunt end of a spinning wheel kick to the face. He was disqualified but I didn’t place anyways. However there was good news that came from that day, it transformed my nose into a button. Just lightly touch it and it dispenses a generous amount of blood. Pretty neat right?
I realized I was signed up for another tournament in less than a month. Nationals this time, and I was sparring. I entered the ring that day full of fear. But with Sensei Brian behind me, I proudly stole first place and left full of confidence and joy.
This began the absolute rollercoaster of Brown II. As a requirement for your black belt test, we must be engaged in a second martial art. 0I started MMA soon after acquiring my second degree brown belt at Smith Martial Arts with Jimmy Smith. I was hooked. My karate tied right in and I immediately became a fan of the MMA fighting. I then started my sophomore year in high school. I was totally unprepared for the siege of homework that followed me home each day. I began having to take time off. It was awful watching myself fall behind my teammates but I lived through it. One of my biggest challenges in brown II has been malnutrition. Mostly a result of my medication, my appetite has started to die. I would come to class and run out of energy. I was bonking every class for at least a month. As bad as the experience was, it’s made workouts somewhat easier. As pushing myself with energy is much easier than trying to do so without. 2 months ago (June 2013) my dad called together a family meeting. This was very abnormal and I was expecting some kind of pleasant surprise. I listened to what my dad had to say. It took a very long time for my register what my dad had actually said. “There’s a very good chance we’re moving to Seattle” he said, choking up and with a tear in his eye. He said there was a 95% chance we were moving by the end of the summer. Immediately I could not think about anything but karate. My goal for the past 6 years of my life was to get my black belt. Karate was all I knew, and it was about to be stripped right out from under me. I scrambled to try to find a way to stay in Bend. I would not accept losing what I love.
This leads me to my thanks. My biggest thanks go out to the Bart family. It was with them that I found possible refuge if my family had moved away to Seattle. At least Hunter, my best friend, was up for the idea. I don’t really know what his parents, Sean and Shannon, though. Nevertheless, I have you three to thank for so much. Hunter, you have been both my best friend and a great training partner for quite a while now. You’re always up to train with me anytime and I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve helped me with. And of course, Shannon and Sean. Thank you not for just putting up with every bit of me, no matter how annoying, but also for being such fantastic hosts considering all of the time Hunter and I have spent trashing your house.
Mom and dad, I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done to let me do what I love. For all of the long trips to and from the dojo countless times a week. I’m sure you’re life has become much easier since I got my license. For your incredible effort that let us stay here in Bend. I am truly grateful.
Although obvious, my next thanks go out to Brian Sortor. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to train at your extraordinary dojo; thank you for letting me do what I do best.
Thank you to all of the black belts Seth, Kristina, Wendie, Ben, Devon and Jordan. Thank you Kristina for practically running the dojo. You do a fantastic job especially considering how unorganized you are. Thank you Ben for being such a great example and teacher, you’ve inspired me time and time again. Also thanks for not warning me how hot those hot wings were a couple months back. That goes for Seth and Dylan as well. Thank you Devon and Jordan for being amazing examples and teachers as well. Especially Jordan, you really kick my butt every time you teach my class. And thank you Wendie for completing the kick-ass female duo with Kristina. But thank you for being an awesome teacher and example as well.
And Seth. Oh Seth where do I start with you. Thanks for being more than an example, but an idol of mine. You’re an amazing teacher and you’ve taught me a lot of what I know today. It’s a pleasure to consider you my friend.
Dylan, you’ve been a great friend and a fantastic training partner. We’ve always stacked up quite well against each other and I look forward to continue training together.
Thank you to Jim Smith my MMA teacher. I’ve had many good experiences training in your gym. It’s been amazing expanding my view of the world of martial arts.
A special thanks to Tyler Kalebaugh. I tested with him every belt until purple II, when my setbacks began. You were very quiet and it is a shame we rarely talked and that you decided to drop out at brown II. It’s been hard seeing so many of my training partners drop out but I understand.
Thanks to my cat, Otis. Thank you for letting me use you as a pillow when im sad or stressed. You alone have helped me with so much.
My thanks go out to every member of the dojo family and do everyone who has motivated me, supported me, and believed in me all these years. It’s been a pleasure testing in this dojo. As terrible as it is, I’ll miss it. I don’t know quite where I’d be without this place. As a school, the dojo has also served me as a second home. Every day, I apply the seven warrior codes to my life: courage, compassion, courtesy, honor, honesty, justice, and duty, and it’s changed me as a person. Another thanks to my only opponent during this test, Galen Smuland. I never thought I would claim victory against myself. Once again, thank you all.