Started training in January 2009 at age 9
Tested for black belt on July 30, 2017 at age 17
"Sitting down to write this essay has been more difficult than I previously imagined. How do I condense almost a decade of crazy hard work, life experiences, and all the friendships into an essay that won’t be as long as the Bible. I’m gonna do my best but if it runs a bit long for your taste it’ll be okay, there isn’t anybody else that’s giving a speech. So I’d just like to start with telling all of you that accompanied me on my journey physically, or in spirit, it means the world to me that you had so much faith. It’s almost like you were on the mountain with me.
This journey has been one full of many challenges both physically and emotionally. Hours and hours of outdoor and indoor training, perfecting or getting as close as you can get to perfecting every aspect of the Sortor Karate curriculum, injuries, all of these things make an already difficult task even more challenging. I had many physical hurdles that I had to leap over in order to get this black belt, my ribs refuse to stay in place and my spine in my upper back is crooked, making small trials big ones. Now I am not saying this to make myself sound amazing for continuing to train through my major physical struggles, but rather to let all of you know that even with physical difficulties, even with physical circumstances that seem impossible to overcome, this journey is very possible for anyone who wants to work on their weaknesses.
However, I and many others believe that the physical challenges are nothing compared to the emotional ones. Fear, in particular. I had made it a goal in my life to never let my fear stop me from doing anything, in fact nothing really ever scared me at all. However, when it came time for this journey I felt a feeling that I rarely encounter. Being completely and utterly terrified. Crying days before my out trips, crying the morning of my out trips, never sleeping if i thought about them. This fear consumed me for months. If you were around me the week of my out trips you know this to be 100% true. However, even with this constant fear, I made the decision that it didn’t matter that I was afraid. I remember this quote because I said it every night before my tests, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the acceptance that something else is more important than being afraid”, and I prayed in my car before every test that I could remember that quote even when I can’t imagine walking another step. I think this can be applied to not just black belt, but every aspect of life. This is not the only mountain I will climb in my life, and I will be this afraid again someday, but because I conquered this fear, I know I can conquer any others that come my way.
Now I promised a lot of people that I wouldn’t make my essay a giant list of thank you’s although with all the people I want to thank it very easily could be one. However a special thank you needs to be said because I believe it is very important. As all of you know I did this black belt test on my own. Because of that I was very often lonely and confused about how to train and where and who to train with. So because of this I’d like to extend my thanks to all of the black belts.
I strongly believe that you all are the reason I had the bravery to shoot for this test. You all encouraged me, punched me, brought me up, pushed me down and then waited for me to get back up on my own. I cannot thank you all enough for being my best friends and my training partners, with all your support it almost felt like you were fighting right alongside me during every test and trial. You all mean so much more to me than you could ever know and you deserve a much bigger, grander form of appreciation than a paragraph in a speech. I love you all and I am proud to be your partner and crime and black belt sister.
Sensei Brian, thank you so much for being my cheerleader and my partner during all of this. You are an amazing person. You helped me through my journey and through life and I will never forget the lessons I learned from you and from this dojo. You always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself and that is the greatest gift anyone could give me. I am humbled to have a black belt from this dojo and I will always cherish it.
For my final thoughts, I will encourage everyone here to face their biggest fear. Whether that’s black belt or not, climb your highest mountain (metaphorically or not). Know that the feeling that’s on the other side of fear is amazing and worth the struggle to get there. Do something that scares you, do something amazing, live your life with no regrets and in a way that makes you proud of yourself. No matter what it is live a life that you are proud of, everything seems impossible until it is done. Thank you all for accompanying me on this amazing journey that is so much more than getting a black belt. I will remember what it means everytime I tie my belt. Thank you dojo family for everything you do. Oss."