Started training in March 2010, Age 11
Tested for red belt June 24, 2017, Age 18
This is the greatest accomplishment that I have ever reached, for nothing, is more physically, mentally, or emotionally taxing. All the sweat, blood, tears and bruises are worth every day of training, not to mention the test. I have never had such a strong desire, as that to tie the red belt around my waist. I was sometimes afraid I wouldn’t make it this far. But I have.
What is in this essay is only an attempt to describe how I’ve grown through seven years of karate. When I started as a white belt, I definitely had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t only years of sweat and pain that I would endure, but a process of healing, becoming the best person that I could be. I learned to control myself, tolerate my countless mistakes, and grasp the absolutely staggering amount of strength I have. It was all done among some of the best people I could ever meet. At purple belt I wanted to quit, but it wasn’t long until I knew I wasn’t going back. The dojo has, ever since, been a release from my rigorous academics and music, and a place that I could be my best while training with all you guys. This place has become a part of me, and I will miss it greatly when I leave for college.
When I competed at the Face Your Fears Tournament last May, I learned something that would be crucial to this test and the many future challenges I will face. I had never participated at a tournament because the idea of competing put a knot in my stomach, and I was afraid that I would do poorly and make a fool of myself. But then, I just think, during a kata, there is really only you and the judges, no one else. Had I been in this situation before? I had. Like I had done with my flute at solo festivals countless times, my katas are at their best when I’m under pressure, and I am always stronger than I give myself credit for. Just then, I know why I always do this to myself, working through sweat, blood, tears, and bruises. I am always here not merely to test, not to compete, but to perform, as I have always been a performer. And I am happy that I have performed today.
To all my fellow testers, we did it. Through being knocked down by black and red belts alike, through memorizing twenty moves in a drill, through breaking those double boards, we were resilient. I thank you all for being beside me, to support me, and that I could support you every step of the way.
I thank my parents, for being my strongest support and being the reason that I am here today. I thank Sensei Evan for every grappling technique he has taught me, and Sensei Hunter, for making sure I was at my sharpest, and reminding me that it was okay to make a mistake, as long as I learn from them. To Sensei Brian, I would never have gotten nearly this far without you. You always made sure I was at my strongest, sharpest, most flexible, and you reminded me to always have my game face on, even when all my inside voices were screaming.
Even though it is only a couple months before I leave the dojo, and I have overcome this test, it doesn’t mean I will stop. What I brought to this test today, I will continue to bring to every red belt lesson afterward, and every challenge that will present itself in life. I can’t wait to make the most of my last month here with you all. Oss!