Started training in January 2010 at age 8, and tested for black belt in July 2016 at age 15.
Black Belt Speech:
Words cannot express the feelings and emotions I felt after completing a journey that has taken six and a half years. It’s something that has been a long time coming, something I never thought would happen when I started karate back in January of 2010. I remember putting my black belt in that case, with many others. As I moved through the years, I saw belts come and go. Mine stayed; gathering dust, yes; but also getting nearer and nearer to the day that I would take it back out again. When that day finally came, I had many things on my mind about what I was about to do, but more about what I had done to get there. I had gone through every single belt, every single out trip. It was the same as what I had always been doing, yet completely different, and that is what makes doing these things so special. You take a kata, something I’ve been doing for so long, and you put it on a cliffside, and it is entirely different. There is more than one way to look at things, to do things, and the more often I do them, the less scary they are when I have to.
Anyone who knew me when I started my training; the little boy, with long hair covering his face, and lots of energy; knows how much I have changed. From white belt to black belt, anyone would change. This journey isn’t one that is completed soon after it is started; it’s one that lasts a long time, to be savored. However, in my perspective, most of the change happened from red belt to black belt. The process is so eye-opening and humbling that it is where I feel I’ve changed the most. These past three months I have trained rigorously, spend countless hours going over the tiny details; both alone and with Hunter and Jeremiah. But even before that, as soon as I earned my red belt, I jumped into my first class taught by Wendie and Andrea, who were preparing last year's black belts for their final test. After experiencing what they were going through in class, and seeing not only the power, but the emotion behind their punches, I knew that I had a long ways to go if I wanted to test the following year with Jeremiah. At this point I was already training. It was light training, but anything that would get me prepared for next year would help. I would run to school every morning with a backpack full of textbooks to simulate anything I would have to carry on any of the out trips or the test. I went off of “early bird gets the worm” and kept training lightly to become the determined sparrow.
When the first out trip finally came I felt little nervousness; it was all over ruled by anticipation. I was ready to go, excited to start. But once I had started I felt like there I wasn’t nearly as ready as I would have preferred. It was many more times intense than I had originally thought, as well. The pants I was wearing were completely torn down the leg.
Moving on to the second out trip, I was feeling very nervous. It went along as the other did; painfully slow. However, near the end of the trip, I felt something change. A little mental note that really put me through the rest of the out trip and the next two that were to come.
Soon after, the third out trip came. The time between the second and third out trips was two weeks less than that of the time between the first and second. It was one where something else of mine ripped; my backpack. The worst part about this was that it happened very early into the trip. I would put something into my bag, and it would fall right out. I ended up having to carry all of my stuff wherever we moved in my arms.
Then, at last, the test finally came. It seemed so surreal to be there, about to test for something that was six and a half years in the making. At white belt, I would’ve never imagined this day would come. In fact, as a purple belt, I lost almost all my want to do karate and almost stopped completely. I am extremely glad that I didn’t. This test, and the process that it took to get to it, changed my life completely. And now, I can say that I conquered that mountain. I climbed it, as tired as I was, and I reached the top. It has taught me to never give up.
That mental note that occured during the second out trip was this; taking one step at a time, and putting every ounce of your strength into that one step. Not thinking too much about will happen later, but about what is happening now. But also, as you do this you need to think of the importance of that step. That door, the entrance to this dojo. Students here bow as they walk in as a sign of respect to the place itself, but also those who are in it. As a lower belt, I would bow because that was how I was taught to always enter to dojo. I would never actually think of the meaning behind that bow, similar to bowing to a sparring partner. If you really go into detail and think about what you are doing at that moment, it changes your perspective on everything.
Strength comes from the heart. And those who have been in my heart during this journey mean so much to me, I could not have done this without them, and now is the perfect time to give thanks. To my mother, Stephanie, who has been at every single rank test prior to the test, to support me. To my father, Brian, who while cannot be here today, I know has supported me as well, and been along side me on every step. To my grandfather John and grandmother Midge; I am very glad you two could be here today, and that you have always wanted to know how my training was going. To my grandmother Diane, who has been at some of my tests and supported me right along side my mom. And to the rest of my family in California, Grandma Ruth, and Uncle John and Aunt Wendy with Riley and Parker; thank you also for supporting my journey and believing in me. To my best friend, Zach; you knew exactly what to say when I was nervous about my previous tests. You always knew how to raise my spirits. To my girlfriend, Makila; your support and belief in me was something else. I don’t know how I could’ve accomplished this without you.
Moving on to my family at the dojo. To Wendie and Andrea; hopping right into your class was a very painful way to start red belt. I thank you for kicking my butt right off the bat. To Seth, Ben, Devon, Jordan, and Allie; I have always looked up to you guys, teaching classes, and taking them. Your stances and power are amazing. To Evan, Grant, Dylan, and Cameron; Evan and Grant introduced us to karate, but when we started I knew Dylan and Cameron decently early on. The training I have received from you guys was a great help. To Hunter Bart, Jarod, Galen, and Gabi; being the previous group before me, I’m sure you still have the test fresh in your mind. But your attitude towards wanting to train with us was a good thing to have. To Hunter, my brother; I have always been right beside you in this journey. I’m glad I was able to start it, and finish it, with you. To Jeremiah; you were always there to give me the little extra push I needed during classes, and all of the out trips and the test. It was great to get to know you better over the course of our journey together. And to Sensei Brian; being under your guidance and kind nature for six and a half years has influenced me in ways you can’t believe. To my friends and family, both in the dojo and outside of it, I love you guys. Thank you for helping me reach my goal. Oss.