Started training: January 2010 - Age 27
Tested for red belt: June 7, 2014 - Age 31
I want to start by thanking everyone for being here today. It’s an honor to have you all here supporting me, and I am very grateful.
This essay is very hard for me to write. I don’t talk much about my martial arts training or share the way I feel about it. I’ve contemplated over and over what to say. I knew that someday I would be here and would have to do this, it just seems surreal that it’s actually happening. I have so many thoughts and so many emotions.
I started training at this dojo 4 1⁄2 years ago, but I’ve been a fan of all things martial arts my entire life. As a kid, Jean Claude Van Damme was my hero. I still remember the look on my parents face every time I wanted to rent “Kickboxer” or “Bloodsport” again...and again.. and again. I would play “ninjas” outside for countless hours.
Home made throwing stars, throwing knives, smoke bombs, swords, you name it.
Then came the discovery of MMA. At 14 years old I remember watching UFC 14 on PPV with my Uncles and thinking how awesome it was. I’ve been hooked and obsessed ever since.
My entire life I knew I wanted to train martial arts, I just didn’t know where or what style. I really didn’t know where to begin. At 27 years old I found this dojo and was intrigued by Bushido Kai being a variety of different martial arts. As funny as it sounds, I really just wanted to learn fighting techniques and self-defense. For that, I knew not restricting myself to one style was important. So all of the different styles were intriguing. Little did I know that I was about to learn so much more than just how to defend myself, and my life was about to be changed forever.
But... I didn’t sign up on my own. My very good friend Jordan was so tired of hearing me talk about it for years and years and not do anything about it. So he purchased the intro package for me as a Christmas present. Now I had to do it! He purchased one for himself also, and we started together.
All of it was a little intimidating at first. The bowing, the Japanese, the movements. Everything. However I immediately fell in love with the teaching, structure, intensity and workouts. After a few months Jordan and I tested to yellow belt. What a great day! A little bit of color around the waist felt good. Not to mention that also meant sparring. Soon after Jordan decided it wasn’t for him and stopped training. I was bummed I lost my training partner, but knew that I wanted to continue because of how much I enjoyed it.
When I started there were no black belts other than sensei Brian. Brown 2 was the highest rank in the school. I remember thinking as a yellow belt that that seemed like an eternity away. Could I possibly make it that far? If they can I can, and will, I thought. Trust me when I say the time goes by faster than you can imagine.
At blue belt was the first time I saw a higher belt class doing random attack. The entire class was attacking a student who was about to test for brown belt. I remember getting so pumped and thinking how awesome it was and that I wanted to be able to do that! It gave me yet another thing to look forward to. Around that time in addition to karate I also started training MMA with coach Jimmy Smith and would continue to do so for a couple of years. Shortly after that I started doing no-gi grappling with sensei Brian at night after class, which quickly became a class of its own. I had fallen down the rabbit role, and was consumed by all things martial arts.
The more I trained, the more I wanted to learn. At purple 1 I was asked if I would be interested in teaching. The thought terrified me, but I jumped at the opportunity to give back to the school and to challenge myself in that way. I did a few guided classes with Brian helping me, then I was on my own. I have been teaching ever since. Teaching has made me a better student, a better martial artist, and a better human being. I learn something new about people, myself and karate every time I teach. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to be able to share what I’ve learned and help students learn and grow as martial artists.
Purple 1 and Purple 2 went by fast. It was once I received my brown belt that I
started to feel a little overwhelmed. That’s when things really take a step up. The jiu jitsu requirements, the forms, the intensity, all of it. Plus having to remember the entire lower belt curriculum as well. It was no longer just about getting to the next belt. It was the first time that doubt crept into my mind, and I wondered if I would be able to do it. I had to. I wasn’t about to give up, and 11 months later I was testing for Brown 2.
As with every belt, Brown 2 was by far the most challenging. The forms are so much different than anything I’ve done up to this point. My lack of flexibility and short nubby legs made everything even more challenging. But I worked hard, stayed dedicated, and have persevered. 1 year to the day (tomorrow) since my Brown 2 test, here I am. A red belt. It doesn’t feel real. I expect red to be even more challenging, and look forward to pushing myself to reach the ultimate goal – black belt mountain.
Some thank yous:
I want to start by thanking my family and friends who aren’t here and everyone who’s supported me on this journey. For all the times I’ve said “I can’t hang out”, or “I can’t go to dinner”, or “sorry I have karate stuff this weekend”, or the countless other things, because of karate class. Your understanding, love, and support means the world to me.
Additionally a special thank you goes out to all of the friends, co-workers and other people who have poked fun at me or asked me stupid questions over the years like “when do you learn to use throwing stars and blow dart guns,” or “you know karate wouldn’t work in a real fight” or “you’re so little I bet the kids even beat you up” or the best of all: “aren’t you a black belt yet!?” That one never gets old. I’ve heard it all.
But I love all of you guys too.
Dad and Mary – Of all the tests to see I’m glad it got to be this one. Thank you for your love and support.
Serenity – Thank you for being here today. I know you didn’t quite know what to
expect when I said I trained martial arts. Hopefully now after being here today, you think I’m a little less of a dork when I grapple with the dogs, wander around the house shadow boxing, or repeatedly kick the walls and furniture.
Dave – Thanks for making the journey twice now to support me and watch me test. You have been a huge influence in my life in so many ways and have always been there for me. I love you.
Jordan – You’re like a brother to me. Thanks for being such a great friend and always being supportive of this. And thanks for buying that intro package. This started because of you.
To all the higher belts – Thank you for your guidance and the example you set. I look up to each and every one of you. You’ve paved the way and set the bar high. I look forward to seeing you on the mountain.
To all the lower belts – I admire and respect all of you. It’s an honor to share the mats with you. This journey is an amazing one. You all have what it takes to get where I am today. Don’t give up, train hard, and believe in yourself.
Wendie – My hope is that as I’m reading this you’re still here injury free. Hopefully you beat on me extra good today to make up for the last test. I think you are such a wonderful woman. You’re compassion, drive, and selflessness are admirable. Thank you for everything you do.
Kristina – You too are an amazing, wonderful woman. I appreciate you more than you know. I’m so grateful for everything you do to keep this dojo running. You’re an incredible martial artist, and human being. You’re amazing at everything you do. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me, and thanks for being a great friend.
Dan – You’re so awesome. If I’m half as bad-ass as you in 20 years I’ll be one happy man. Thank you for being my training partner for the last year and beating the crap out of me daily. You’ve helped push me to be the best I can be. You’re such a beast and you inspire me every day. It was such an honor to test with you here today. I couldn’t have asked for more for my last test in this school. Thank you.
Sensei Brian – What can I say? At first you were intimidating. Balding, scary black belt that I thought was like 40 years old. Sorry. But really, you are the most humble person I’ve ever met. You are always willing to give, and never expecting to receive. You’ve pushed me to my limits and brought the best out of me. You made me aware of the potential I didn’t know I had, never allowing me to sell myself short, make excuses, or feel sorry for myself. As a sensei you’re patient, caring, compassionate, dedicated, educated, selfless, respectful, and open-minded. As a person you’re intelligent, funny, motivated, always questioning things, always seeking knowledge and never satisfied with the status quo. You’re a special human being. If there were more people like you, the world would be a better place. I never had the chance to meet sensei Stuart, but I know he would be proud of the man and teacher that you are today. I’m forever grateful to have you in my life not only as a teacher and mentor, but also as my friend. I look forward to many more years of awesomeness.
Through all the ups and downs in my life over the last 5 years, this dojo has remained the constant. It’s something I’ve always been able to fall back on and look forward to. Martial arts and this school have changed my life in countless ways. I feel like my life is divided into 2 sections. Who I was before January 2010, and who I am now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from family and friends that I’m a different person now. This has changed me. To put into words how different, or how grateful I am for this school and training would be impossible. What I thought this journey would be, it’s not. It’s been so much more than I ever could have imagined, and it’s not over yet.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The only person you are destined to become, is the person you choose to be.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ll see you on the mountain.