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Black Belt Essay by Shannon Clark

Over the past few months, I have written many essays for college applications. For each one, I was confined to defining my entire personality in 500 words or less. During this process, I had to ask myself what makes me who I am. This is when I realized that all of my answers somehow related back to things I have learned in my 8 years of martial arts. The journey began when I was a white belt, but I have retained so much more in the most recent four years than I did in the first.

Attaining a black belt takes determination, perseverance, and hard work, however the real challenges come after this goal is accomplished. Many people stop taking karate after they become a black belt because that was the only reason why they continued. I chose to continue because I genuinely enjoyed karate and could not imagine giving it up yet. I look forward to each class and learning new things. Initially, black belt class seemed like a new world that I was afraid to enter, but now it has become a home for me. While the curriculum remains generally the same, the class itself is more like an independent study than kids’ class. We get to choose what skills to practice heavily, we get to choreograph our own combos, we get to have input on what to learn that day. I had always loved the freedom to work on whatever trick or combo that I wanted to master next, and I loved that, as a black belt, I was treated as a more mature student.

In the time since I received my senior black belt, I have also been able to adopt a stronger leadership position. I was now one of the higher ranks in black belt class. I was the role model for the new black belts. Six months after I earned my senior black belt, it was time for my younger brother to test for his. It was my task to help him prepare; to teach him the new self-defense techniques and give him tips on how to make his katas stronger. This was my first experience in a sensei role, and it served as a vote of confidence that I can be a strong leader as well as a student.