Started training in January 2010 at age 11, tested for black belt in July 2016 at age 18.
Black Belt Speech:
There are very few things in this world that, no matter the ability, will never be reached. And yet, many remain beyond the horizon, unable to be described, and accepted. For me, black belt was that mysterious entity, hidden beyond comprehension.
It’s not that I can’t see it or remember what those days were, and what they meant to me, but rather that it feels unfair to map out, and dissect it to try to come to terms with it all. It changes you in too many ways; breaking you down, scrambling all of the pieces, and then building you back from the ground up… Still recognizable, but at the same time made anew.
I’m not who I was six and a half years ago, and I’m glad and relieved that those changes came from a place that I can call my home, surrounded by those I can call my family.
Even now, nearly 3 weeks after the mountain was over, others have come to me and asked if I could share parts of my journey. And I understand; it’s ok to be curious or skeptical about how difficult it truly was. But know that I can’t explain it. None of the black belts can. Not because you aren’t supposed to know before hand, but because it has so much more impact and value than words can express.
So let it be a mystery, let that feeling of the unknown sink in. Let fear and anticipation fuel you, and let joy carry you beyond.
I’d like to thank my brother and Jeremiah, who walked the path with me; who inspired me, challenged me, and who offered me a hand when I fell. Jeremiah, I can’t thank you enough for all the times you caught my mistakes, and worked with me to iron it out, and feel confident in my knowledge once again. Cole, I have seen you grow up and shape yourself in your own way. I've seen you stumble and fall, and struggle to get back up again. But you still get to your feet, no matter how hard. You have surprised me numerous times, and shown me the true capabilities of a martial artist.
For all the black belts behind me, I give you my utmost gratitude for everything. The pain, the challenges, the motivation, and the success.
Sensei, You are an unbelievable person. I can’t put into words what your guidance has meant to me, and everyone here. You’re inspiring, and I’m so glad that it was you who had shown me that path all those years ago, who watched me travel it, fall off or get lost, and then find it again. I’m glad you could stand with me at the summit.
And to everyone who came to watch today, whether you’re a student or not, present or absent, I thank you for being a part of a day that I will remember for eternity.