Started training: July 2008 - Age 10
Tested for red belt: June 8, 2013 - Age 15
A couple months ago, I spent about an hour cleaning through, rearranging, alphabetizing, and even categorizing the movies and video games in my DVD drawer by genre, when I noticed several of my previous karate tests on video. I read the dates. An anthology of 2008-2012 lay before me. After analyzing them, I thought two things. First, I thought “Grant, you have OCD.” Second, I thought it was incredible how much has changed; both in myself and in the dojo. Who were once blue belts are now brown and red belts. Many amazing students I never got the chance to meet are no longer practicing here. Staff cases and the large hanging bags weren’t around yet, and I had yet to fully understand my inner sensei’s potential.
To say that my karate journey thus far has been a major part of my life would be a HUGE understatement. Between the knowledge I’ve been given (both physical and mental), the awesome people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had, I can say that without a doubt, the past 5 years of my life have been some of my best ever.
Before moving here, the only experience I had had in any martial arts would be noticing a karate school in California. But you have to imagine that it would be difficult for a 3 year old to pronounce the word ka-ra-te. After moving to Oregon a decade ago, I started t-ball, and eventually graduated to baseball and a little basketball. However, after several seasons, I decided it was time to find a long term sport; one that wouldn’t end when winter came around.
When I miraculously found myself putting on a ninja uniform and running around the mat like a klutz, I eventually made up my mind that karate was going to be my life. I remember few things from my white belt. I do remember that the highly superior blue belts were doing flying jump kicks against the bags, something that I thought was impossible. I can picture the old dojo and how small it was. I remember the half full black belt case. I also recall going to eat at Arby’s after a successful white belt class. Thinking about that now, if I had kept that up, I’d be more fit for sumo wrestling than karate. My yellow belt test occurred within the same week of the new dojo’s arrival, back when it had that new “dojo” feel to it.
Yellow belt was fairly vague as well. I just remember that I thought it was fairly cool that I passed a fairly exhausting (at least for the time) hour long test. I also remember there were a relatively large number of katas and self-defenses that I had to learn. Oh, and we were far away from Arby’s, which was a good thing.
Blue belt brought about the end of the beginning belts. From experience, don’t try jump outside crescent kicks in houses. I tried one and broke my toe on the door jam. Jump kicks became more dominant, and I learned my first of many submissions. In this belt, I also attended my first tournament. I had a newfound respect for the dojo after seeing how different we were from other schools, even though I truly respect and am intrigued by all forms of martial arts.
Purple belt was another significant turning point in my karate journey. It was decided that my brother and I would go and participate in another tournament. Not the Chip Wright tournament. Not Pacific Jewel. We had the USA Open International Karate Tournament set in our sights. So, after months of private lessons, conditioning, and becoming a member of the USA National Karate-Do Federation, we flew over to Vegas. After staying and practicing there for a week, we found out the night before the tournament that Bossai Sho (the form that we were going to do) was actually considered a black belt form and we were unable to do it because we were in the Intermediate level. We had to change forms, and didn’t place for it was not the “traditional” form of Shotokan. The experience was still crucial in my journey and I enjoyed every moment of it. Purple II was pretty sweet. Nunchuku were the new weapon and although cool, they could hurt pretty bad if used incorrectly (I learned this the hard way). In Purple II, I also tried out for Trix Team. After bobbling Heian Yodan for some unknown reason, I came back a week later and became a Trixter.
The test for brown I really pushed my limits. It became very exhausting when the kata stacking reached its midway point. I made it, but I decided that the next test wouldn’t be as exhausting.
So, throughout my brown I journey, a lot changed. My kiai before brown I was very different than the one I currently have. I found the strength to push harder in class, either through motivation to perform better or maybe the fact that I was 4 years older than when I started. My only advice for becoming stronger would be to just start going hard during class, and just push your limits every time. You should go home sore, and sweaty (minor injuries optional).
And so, the brown II test arrived. To be honest, there wasn’t too much hype leading up to the test, from me at least. It was just going to be another belt test. No big deal. Standing before you today, I can honestly say that, even though I passed the test and was able to demonstrate my strengths (and weaknesses), it was even more exhausting in a sense than the brown I test. Then it hit me. Grant: “You’ve been doing this for 4 years now. The next test will be red. Then you have to find a new form. Then you have to train a lot harder. Then…” I’ll be honest, either due to excitement or exhaustion, these kinds of questions were buzzing through my head the MORNING after the test. I was looking forward to becoming a red belt, instead of focusing on brown II. I can say now that I feel bad for doing so; I should have been happy for being a brown II, instead of becoming greedy and looking onward.
But a day or 2 passed, I realized this, and I focused on Brown II instead. And much like how fast it came, it has passed by just as such. Now I stand here, on the point of collapse, having finished my red belt test and am anxiously waiting to see the results. No matter what happens today, I can honestly say that the group of testers here with me, as well as the helpers, are some of the best martial artists in Central Oregon and I’m proud to be part of such an awesome dojo family. I might have taken the test, but it is through many other people that I have found the strength to pull this off. I’m going to start by thanking my parents. You decided that martial arts would be a great way to build self-esteem and keep up my physical fitness. I cannot express how much I am glad that you made this decision. Thanks for living through the tests. Thanks for watching me and the dojo evolve. Thanks for paying for everything. Thank you for driving thousands of collective miles to get here, even when weather conditions weren’t the best. There aren’t words powerful enough to thank you guys for spending your time and money in me and the dojo; Mom, dad, I couldn’t have done it without you.
Next, I would like to thank my best training trainer partner and one of my greatest supporters, my twin brother Evan. We have worked together since the beginning, and have always been there to offer new ideas to each other. There may have been some rough spots, but I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather train with than you. I cannot wait to see what the future of our martial arts journey has in store for us, and I know that we’ll dive head-first into any challenge together.
As for the testers with me today, I have some things to say to you guys. Hunter: this is our 3rd test together (and arguably our hardest one). Thanks so much for coming to class, willing to train hard and better yourself and others. You have been a huge help. Same goes for you Iqmal. I look forward to seeing you guys in class! To Jarod, I hope that you can recover as quickly as possible and come back full force. I think I speak on behalf of the dojo when I say: get well soon Jarod! Good luck in brown II Jeremiah.
To all of the helpers here today, I thank you for watching me fight to the end (and even help contribute in making it difficult for me to do so). I look up to you black belts and await my turn to face the mountain.
Sensei and Kristina, it is through your teaching, your advice, and your execution of knowledge that has shown me the correct path to get to this point in my journey. Your strength, speed, and sharpness are impeccable, and I can only hope to be half the martial artist you guys are. Thanks for beating up on me today (Oss).
To the crowd, thank you for cheering us on, even when we didn’t feel like we could continue. To those who feel like they can’t do this, YOU CAN! You just need to start. Never give up. Always push yourself and listen to your inner sensei. I stand before you bruised and beaten, but my spirits are unscathed; all thanks to you.
Thanks for coming today. Oss.