Black Belt Graduation June 2017

Journey to Black Belt – A Personal Essay

July 19th, 2017 by Mary Murphy

When students test for black belt, one of the requirements is to submit an essay on what being a martial artist personally means to them. We were so blown away by some of the kids’ essays from our June exam that we couldn’t not share them.

Check out what Ben, a 12-year-old from the Upper East Side, had to say right before he earned his black belt:


by Ben S.

Martial arts to me means the long journey I have taken to get here. This path I have followed for the last seven years has led me to grow as a person and as a Martial Artist. When I started Martial Arts, I was simply a clueless child who had no idea what to do, except for running around a mat with no purpose. Martial Arts teaches you not only to be physically strong but teaches you to be mentally strong too. This is a key component in the upcoming test that I and my fellow candidates will have to break through at times when we are tired. In other words, we have to push ourselves to the limit to reach an ultimate goal.

Throughout these past seven years, I have met a fantastic group of friends. Every day that I train and learn in class with them, I am always amazed at the genuine support, encouragement, and effort we give to each other. Our main goal is to make each other better at our craft. This is one of the great qualities of Martial Arts, striving for an individual goal yet having a community to be part of. For me, one of the best parts of the test is that I will be able to accomplish something incredible with people and instructors who have shared the same road with me.

Everything started when I walked through the doors and up the steps when I was in kindergarten. The day of my first class, I remember the first words I said, “I’m Ben, I’m new here.” Ever since that first week I have kept a seven year long tradition. On Fridays my little brother Jonah, my grandma Diane, and I stop at Starbucks for a snack and come to class. So out of everyone my grandma has seen me grow as a Martial Artist the most over the years.

There are a critical group of people who have made an impact in my Martial Arts career, my instructors. They have been instrumental in helping me to reach my goal, from making me laugh to hitting me in the face to keep my hands up. Each instructor always brought something new to the table for me to learn. From them I have learned structure, determination, and respect. I am not judged by who I am or what I like to do outside of the dojo. I am “Shampoo,” “Mustachio,” “Fresh Meat,” but most importantly, I am always me, and that is who they really see me as. Their unwavering support through the ups and downs of learning how to defend myself and just navigating my way through growing up has never gone unnoticed. Thank you!

Technique is also an important aspect in martial arts and mine has evolved over time. It is one of the most important parts of my growth because it teaches patience, self control and confidence. These skills are equally if not more important off the mat. Although none of these skills are perfect, I strive to prove the respect that I have for what I have learned.

Finally, in martial arts there is no ending. There is always room for improvement and it requires perseverance both mentally and physically. Maybe, just maybe, Martial Arts has also taught me how to defend myself. However, even with such knowledge, I stand by the words of the student creed, “Common Sense Before Self Defense.

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