November 14 , 2017 is a day I will never forget. That is the day that Sensei Nick announced that I had passed my Black Belt test and could take my first Black Belt class that night. I couldn’t wait to get in the Black Belt training room to start my first class! It was such a great feeling to be training again with friends and teammates that I had looked up to as they had earned their Black Belts knowing that I was now one of them!
A few weeks later, I competed in my first tournament as a Black Belt and it was at my home school in Delran. Boy was I nervous! The competition was fierce and I learned that to compete at this level I would have to dedicate myself to work harder to improve all of my skills as a Black Belt. I started learning more about traditional events, both for forms and weapons. It wasn’t long before I learned a traditional Bo-staff Kata and Kata Seienchin as my traditional form. Winning with this Kata at tournaments has been difficult compared to Koryo, but I am learning not to let that discourage me. I know that focusing on the finer points of this Kata will help improve my skills and techniques with other traditional forms.
Black belt classes are also more intense than my color-belt training. Learning multiple attacker techniques and some of the take-down techniques for the first degree Black Belt have been some of my favorite classes. The technique I like the most is called Spinning Alligator because you get to take down your opponent. My friend Justin and I had fun one night practicing this technique over and over again. Training various kick combinations have been very challenging as well. I really feel that this has pushed my skills to a higher level.
I have been helping in classes more since receiving my Black Belt. Generally, I assist the instructors with setting up for drills and help the younger students with their warm-ups and basics. It’s a great feeling to have the younger students ask for my help with their forms too. My Dad always tells me that the best way to know how to do something is to be able to teach it correctly to someone else. It is also neat to have some of the newer students ask how long I have been doing Karate, how long it takes to be a black belt, and how much do I practice every day. Working with the Little Dragons is a great experience because not only do I get to help out in class but I also get to help the other color-belts achieve their goals. I look forward to helping more in the future.
I have been very fortunate to be able to continue my martial arts training and I am thankful that I get to learn from the best Senseis a student could ask for. I realized how important my lessons, training, sparring and tournaments have been to the skills, confidence, coordination, and focus that I have today. My Black Belt training has taught me that with determination and practice and perseverance, I can reach any goal I set for myself. I am very thankful for all that I have learned, experienced and accomplished over the last year.