Started training in July 2008, age 10. Tested for black belt July 2014, age 16.
Black Belt Speech:
It’s very difficult for me to try and find the right words to describe my journey. For just over 6 years, I have spent a good portion of my life working to improve myself and others. After 8 rank tests. After meeting so many great people, and then saying goodbye to even more. After learning how to help others in greater detail. After passing up so many opportunities to stay focused on my martial arts journey and after months of intense, straining, at times frustrating, and humbling training, my fellow black belt brothers and I faced the debilitating task of earning our black belts head on, and stand before you today changed for the better, both physically, and more importantly, mentally.
Every white belt dreams of becoming a black belt someday, and we were no exception. Even at red belt, black seemed like a lifetime away. And yet, never before had something seemed so close within reach. I could hardly believe it when I, along with my brother, Cameron, and Dylan, was asked to become a black belt candidate, and begin the slow, numbing, but fulfilling process of becoming a full fledged, Bushido Kai black belt. It never really set in until after the first out trip, and it was admittedly strange at first when we were told that we would be testing with Cameron and Dylan. Although we were pretty good pals, they had done so much more than we had, seen so much more, and had learned so much more. When we joined, they were both brown belts. They were always our senseis, and in a sense, I still feel that way.
It was very awkward when we began our training as a group. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them. Although younger than Evan and I, Cameron and Dylan had 2-3 years of training on us. Also, the fact that Evan and I had not really done a whole lot of hiking, climbing, and training out in the wilderness before didn’t really help either. However, after going out and doing what we called “training” at Smith Rock, we found that the four of us worked great as a group, and that we believed the next four months, no matter how bad we would feel, would be great because we were a team. Now I use quotes on the word “training” because, compared to the other 10 or so group outdoor training sessions we did, it was more of a “photoshoot.” We did work hard, but we had just been told, like three days prior, that we’d been chosen as candidates, and I guess we were still giddy from the news, so it wasn’t quite as productive as it could have been. So you future black belt candidates listen hard; don’t let exciting news like that deviate from your training. You still have a long way to go until the end...no the “beginning.” Anyway, I’m pleased to report that, the following week, we went out with Sensei Ben, and he in a sense, brought us back down to Earth, and made us realize that we still had a long and arduous path ahead of us before we could call ourselves black belts. So, although he may not be present today, I thank him for that.
For those who haven’t taken an outtrip, It’s very hard to describe what one feels like. If you didn’t already know, the process required to test for black involves: an outtrip every 4 weeks (in short, you go out and “train” with the black belts), and then a black belt test 3 weeks after the third outtrip. It’s definitely hard, painful, and at times nauseating and emotional, but not impossible if you go in with the right mindset. The samurai use to go into battle and fight “as if they were already dead.” They would fight as if there was nothing else to lose. And really, you should do that in any intense physical situation. Even brown belts who are testing, or purple, etc. Just keep a clear mind, and remember your technique and control.
Now, you red belts, and even second degree brown belts, who are preparing for your turn to climb the mountain and achieve your black belt, listen very carefully. My biggest piece of advice, is to go out and train with your fellow black belt candidates as MUCH as you can. Now, out doesn’t mean like outside in a parking lot, our in your backyard, or at a gym even; you’ve got to go out as a group into the wilderness. As you saw from the pictures, we went to as many different places as possible, and we didn’t cheat ourselves; we did difficult things that we knew, even if they wouldn’t be at the outtrips/test, would not only improve our physical and mental strength, but also our camaraderie as a team. It’s also very important to keep in mind what black belt means to you. You have to think about the qualities of the dojo’s black belts. What are their strengths? Their weaknesses? You MUST be honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to admit your flaws. Throughout my training, and now after the test is over, I have come up with my own definition of a Bushido Kai Black Belt. A Bushido Kai Black Belt is a “person, who, after years and years of dedicated training, not only exudes the bushido code (all seven on the wall), but also has the ability to go 110%, 100% of the time. They put others before themselves, and never, EVER quit. They aren’t masters, they are students. They have a basic understanding of the ‘martial’ aspect of training, and now they spend the rest of their life perfecting the ‘art’; black belt is not the end, it is the beginning.” These words are the base which every black belt works from. We are shodan, which means first student. That’s all we are. Nothing more, nothing less.
I climbed the mountain, and earned my black belt like those before me, but it is through the support of many others that I stand before you today. I would like to first, thank my parents. Not only have you driven my brother and I here for years and years (don’t worry, I’ll get my license before school starts), but you gave us as much love and understanding as you could. These past four months were really hard on everyone, but you guys took it as best you could. Although you may never know how we exactly felt along the way, and you may never know what we faced, you always were there to help us along the way. I thank and love you guys :)
Next, I’d like to thank my black belt brothers. Cameron, we’ve been good friends for years, and I’ve always looked up to you as a teacher. Your knowledge of katas and technique is superb, and I hope to continue with you. Wherever life leads you from this point, I wish you luck, and know that the three of us will support you always. Dylan, although we didn’t hang out too much before our black belt journey, you’ve always been someone I look up to, much like Cameron. Your wrestling skills, matched with your MMA and sparring excellence, has been kicking my butt for years. Although you usually win, I always enjoy our grappling/fighting sessions, and I thoroughly respect your opinion when thrown into a self defense situation. I can’t express my thanks enough to the two of you, and I look forward to our years of continued training together.
In case you didn’t already know, Evan Gibson, is my twin (yes TWIN) brother. We’ve gone through every single test together. Every step of the way, we worked as a team. Obviously there has been sibling rivalry in the past, but these 4 months of training together really strengthened our bond. I can’t wait to climb more mountains together, both literally and figuratively. I love you man, and I can’t wait to see what the world has in store for us next.
To my other black belt brothers and sisters: Seth, Ben, Devon, Jordan, Wendie, Kristina, Andrea, and Allie, what is there to say? You guys are phenomenal in your own individual ways. You all bring something great and new to the table, and your courage in the face of fear has always impressed me. You guys are trailblazers, and I thank you deeply for being there for us during every step of our karate journey. You guys are like family, and I will always look up to you. Thank you for being, well, yourselves. Oss! Oh, and Kristina, I would like to deeply, deeply thank you for teaching my brother and I how to run the office as well. I probably will never be as quick at it as you are, but I’ll certainly try :) Have fun in LA.
Next, I would like to thank the red belts. You guys were there to push us and give us strength during our classes. I can’t wait for next year’s group, and I think I speak for the rest of my fellow black belt brothers when I say, “We will be there to train with you.” I look forward to your guys’ future achievements. Oss!
To all dojo students, wherever you are in your journey, just know that you could be a black belt someday. I think Sensei Andrea worded it perfectly when she said “A black belt is just a white belt that never quit.” I wish you all luck. Oss!
I would also like to thank Coach JT Taylor and Bruce (as well as all my training partners) for the bjj that you taught us during our sophomore year at RPA. You guys are phenomenal at what you do, and I can’t wait to roll with you again. Oss!
I would like to thank my RPA friends, many of whom couldn’t make it today, for giving me support during my journey. You may not know it, but you all, in one way or another, helped me out. I thank you. Oss!
To my piano teacher, Ms. Donna Moyer, and her husband, Dave, thank you for all your support. You are like grandparents to Evan and I, and I can’t be more appreciative of your care. Also, 7 years of piano lessons has definitely helped in my cognitive thinking and cultural respect department, and has helped me thoroughly with my martial arts journey, believe it or not. I thank you.
To Aunt Lou-Wayne, I thank you for sewing on all my gi patches, and for coming to support us at tournaments, rank tests, etc. Thanks.
And to Sensei, well, where do I begin? From our intro, all the way to now, you’ve always given me guidance. You've shown me how to become a better person, and shown me how to better other people. Your legacy is excellent, and I’m glad to be a part of it. You have been, and always will be, my Sensei, my teacher, and most of all, my friend. Thank you, so, so much. Oss!
Sunday, July 13, 2014