On Saturday, June 2, 2018 our very own Mr. Stronge tested for his 1st degree Black Belt. For those of you new to our school, our black belt tests do not come around often. A student must show their dedication, tenacity and mastery of their martial arts techniques to even be considered for this opportunity. Is it hard? YES! Do our black belts feel satisfaction and pride knowing they EARNED their belt? ABSOLUTELY! As a part of their journey to Black Belt, potential students are asked to write an essay about what it means to be a Black Belt. Here is Kyo Sa Nim Stronge’s essay:
The Black Belt
I owe everything I am to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When I was four years old, I watched that show on TV every chance I got. I was drawn not only to the action, and the ninjas, and the monsters, but to the quiet moments. When the turtles sat in their lair, and practiced. They trained. They honed their techniques. They meditated. They lived by a code. That television show exposed me to a side of the martial arts I’ve never let go of – these arts aren’t just a fighting style, but a lifestyle.
My mother signed me up for a martial arts class that same year, and I’ve been hooked ever since. In that whole thirteen year period, I’ve never taken more than three weeks off. I’ve been to more tournaments than I can count. I have no memory of what my life was like before I was a martial artist. Training has sculpted me, physically and mentally, into the person I am today, and I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone that has ever supported me in this journey.
I’ve come close to the black belt twice before. When I was ten or eleven, I became a junior black belt at the first school I ever trained at. When I was thirteen, I was a black stripe at a different school, and my black belt test was within reach for the second time. Looking back on where I was, and what I was, I wouldn’t have measured up to our green belt standard. That’s why this black belt, and this organization, is so meaningful to me. When you test for a belt, you know that you have earned it. The level of prestige associated with the black belt is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my martial arts experience, and I’m glad that this is where I’ve chosen to spend my time.
To me, the black belt is the difference between training in the martial arts and being a martial artist. When a student is a red belt or black stripe, it should be expected that the fundamental, physical aspects of the discipline are mastered. The black belt test, the one I’m about to undergo, is the last true test of physical aptitude. After that, once the black belt is attained, the journey becomes more of a mental one. It is the end of one part of the journey, but the beginning of another. A black belt embodies the tenets of taekwondo, their own personal code, not only on the mats and in training, but in every aspect of life. They are courteous – kind and respectful to everyone they encounter. They have integrity – they operate with truth, and honor, and hold themselves to a high personal standard. They persevere through any challenge or obstacle. They possess a sense of discipline, of self-control, of both their actions and their emotions. And they refuse to let their unbreakable, indomitable spirit be defeated. In my view, the difference between a red belt and a black belt has nothing to do with kicking and punching. The difference is in those tenets. We learn them on the mats, but we adopt them in endeavours unrelated to martial arts too. We develop the ability to regulate our emotions, our feelings of anger, of recklessness, of doubt, of fear. We interact with our peers with a sense of respect, and of fairness. We refuse to give in easily when faced with adversity. That is what makes a black belt a true ambassador of the martial arts.
Over the last year, I’ve caught another martial arts bug, and learned more about a whole other side of all this. I had the opportunity to start teaching kids. I never thought that I would be much of a teacher: the idea of standing in front of a class of students and talking to them terrified me. But as I’ve watched them grow and improve over time, I’ve realized that I’ve wanted to do this my whole life. It’s not a cliche to say that teaching is the most fulfilling job you can have – the sense of pride I have in my students when they break through barriers and improve is unparallelled by any other feeling I’ve felt. I’m going to keep chasing that feeling as long as I can find students that want to learn from the experience I have.Teaching martial arts is what I was meant to do, and I hope I can give back to the organization that has given me so much by continuing to be a part of training the next generation, and I hope I can do that for a very long time.
THE JOURNEY IS NOT SIMPLY ABOUT KICKING AND PUNCHING OR PUTTING YOUR TIME IN, IT IS A WAY OF LIFE. CONGRATULATIONS ON THIS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT KYO SA NIM STRONGE.