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What a Black Belt Means To Me by Mackenzie Willbanks

A Black Belt is a White Belt who Never Quit

I started writing this essay about what a black belt means to me by listing the obvious: dedication, motivation, grit and perseverance, but then I realized that this wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t personal to me and to vague. And then I remembered this phrase: “A black belt is a white belt who never quit.” And I knew that becoming a black belt was more than just these above universal characteristics. When I first began karate, I was terrified. The loud kiais, the intense atmosphere scared my 10 year-old self. I couldn’t see myself in a position of that much power and control. I was timid and shy, and karate was the exact opposite of who I was. Yet the phrase, “a black belt is a white belt who never quit” stuck with me from day one. So I continued, I pushed myself past my limits, and every class mentally and physically challenged me. I participated in tournaments and was on the top 10 one year and even received student of the month. My anxiety sky rocketed at tournaments and not your normal adrenaline rush; I felt that same fear I felt day one. Yet, I did it. I overcame the panic that was taking over my body; I embodied the “black belt who was a white belt that never quit” – even if I wasn’t a black belt. In class, when you “sit like a black belt” this is also taking on this similar persona. It’s not the belt color that makes you into this person it’s the confidence, the self-control, and the presence you have when you walk into a room. Becoming a black belt to me is more than just adding another color to the rest of the rainbow of belts, I have in my closet. It’s a classification that I would have never imagined 8 years ago. Mackenzie – a black belt? The shy one? She can defend herself? But… these phrases are foreign to me now. Becoming a black belt, is the result of personal growth that has made me the confident and strong women I am today. I am now the

force behind the loud kiais and the intense atmosphere. My Senseis (especially Sensei Kevin) held me to the highest of standards, realizing this potential and knowing what I was capable of achieving. And for that I am forever grateful. I can still find that little girl I once was and empathize with her. I’m not perfect. I’m still scared at times. I make mistakes. But this journey has impacted me in more ways than one. I can’t pinpoint the belt color that changed me; instead, it was the accumulation of 8 years that molded me and helped me flourish. Amerikick will always be a part of me. This is because Amerikick teaches life lessons, and although I am leaving for college these lessons will guide and protect me in the future. And when I do become a black belt, I am officially a white belt who never quit.

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