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See that bear over there? Look how much fun he is having rolling in the grass! Have you ever seen bear cubs wrestle? They look just like 5 year olds at the playground, tumbling all over each other, not a care in the world. I am not saying that the cute bear over there wouldn't eat my foot if he got the chance. But look at him! He is like a newborn baby sucking his thumb, only furry! With claws.

This time, two years ago, two fantastic karatekas named Russell and Desi, were testing for their 5th degree black belts. One year ago, Matthew and I were doing the same. And since it is mid-March again, today we begin another black belt promotion. 

There are no higher ranking candidates this time, just a few shodans and nidans from the Brooklyn dojo, and two advanced brown belts, one from the Brooklyn school and one from ours.

There is no shortage of martial arts media on the Internet. If you are so inclined, you can browse through hundreds of Facebook memes that quote the old masters. You can read technical articles on how to kick harder. You can watch inspirational videos full of powerful knockouts. Everyone who trains brags about the hard of it all, the challenges, the wars, the blood, sweat and tears. Each one of us has a sparring tale. (Or two. Or ten.) We are all, myself included, supremely proud of the horror stories, the times we almost gave up but didn't. It is what made us who we are today.

There is no better place to showcase all this struggle than at black belt promotion. Challenging combinations. Tons of pushups. Performing beautiful kata that flows like a river. Giving a speech in front of a roomful of black belts. Over two hours of sparring. It is hard, and it is supposed to be. The hard makes that moment you get your belt tied on all that much sweeter.

But it is also supposed to be fun. Kyoshi Desi, one of the men who received his Kyoshi rank two years ago, is fast and strong and extremely focused. He is also always smiling. Kyoshi Russell, the other candidate, is a very talented student and teacher who will learn from and train with almost anyone. He just loves training, period. 

Our advanced brown belt student is named Adri. He is young and athletic and strong. He knows his Kenshikai material like the back of his fist. (Uraken!) His kata is beautiful and when he spars it is like watching a very cunning spider spin a web. But what is equally important, in my opinion anyway, is that he truly LOVES karate. He loves to train, he loves to teach, he loves the dojo with a passion not that different from what a mother feels for her child.  Every time he steps onto the floor, you can tell he is having the time of his life.  

Good luck to all the promotion candidates this week. Work hard. Don't give up. You got this! 

But most of all, have fun. Enjoy it! It is not just supposed to be a war, it is supposed to be a game too.


  1. Wonderful piece! I'm looking forward to this promotion and your post-promotion account here!



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