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What a black belt means To me by Morgan Whitaker

In 2013 we moved from Philadelphia to Barrington NJ. I was four years old when I started Karate. One reason my parents wanted me to start karate was they noticed that I would let the other kids jump in front of me, while I was waiting my turn on the playground. My dad also wanted me to know how to defend myself from others. Being new to town my parents thought that Karate would be a good place for me to meet new people, to gain confidence and to be able to defend myself. Over the past eight years while I have taken karate classes I have learned that it takes courage, determination and confidence to earn a black belt. Karate has taught me a lot about bullies and defending myself and others. A Black belt means that I put in  a lot of effort to reach my goal.

During my journey to earning my black belt I have become courageous. Sparring is one example. Sparring for me is a challenge.  It is not my favorite part of karate, but I have learned to cope with it. When I first started the thought of sparring bigger people frightened me. I was also nervous that I would hurt myself. Once I realized that all the gear would protect me I felt confident. I remember my first tournament sparring. It took a lot of courage to be able to go out in the ring for two mins and spar with another person who you do not know while others were watching.  Since there were not many girls who spar, I would end up sparring the boys or even older students. This helped with my courage, knowing I can face anyone any size or age. Karate and sparring has shown me that I can be courageous.

Determination is the quality that makes you continue to try something that is difficult. Karate has taught me that you need to be determined to become a black belt. There have been many days that I have felt like I wanted to quit and give up. It can be difficult to get to class two to three times a week, going to school and at times having softball games or practice all in the same week. With that going on you can see how one might give up. Even through the tough weeks I have never given up. Once the stressful weeks are over I look back and think, wow I am glad I stuck to it. Since I have become a red belt we have faced many challenges. COVID being one, it forced us out of the studio for almost a year.  I had to learn to adjust to taking classes by zoom. It was difficult at first because I was trying to learn new self defenses. It was hard not being in front of a mirror and being able to see my moves, but I was determined to do my best. One thing that keeps me determined is the saying in class a black belt is a white belt who never quits.

Finally Karate has taught me to be a confident person. Without karate I feel like people could take advantage of me. I stick up for myself and my friends now. One way karate has helped me become confident is the defense training that I have learned. After studying all of my self defense, I am confident in my reaction time and knowing I could defend myself or others. I have the confidence to go up to someone and ask them questions or let them know my thoughts instead of putting my head down and walking away. Being a confident person can get you places not just in karate, but in life.

I’ve met people that stopped karate and I still see them today. I am grateful I stayed because those few people wish they stayed in karate and lack the traits I learned from karate as well. I’ve seen two of my friends from karate, Lena and Gracie, get their black belts and now it’s my turn to get mine.