My Journey to Black Belt

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Shweta and her teachers

Back when I was 9 years old, I used to be obsessed with the TV show Kickin’ it. Watching the friendships the characters had, how their karate improved more, and the type of moves they did, fascinated me. I remember talking to my mother at the dinner table, telling her about the new kicks I saw the main character do and expressing my eagerness to learn those exact moves. She used to laugh and tell me “First find a good place where you can learn”. And I did.

I came home from school one day, holding a flyer in my hand triumphantly. I went straight over to her, put the flyer on the table and said the three words I was more than ready to say. “I found one”.

A couple days later, we’re in line to sign up for classes. I get handed my karate gi and admire my white belt. Little did I know... this gi and I would become best friends over the next few years.

I used to believe that karate was only flying kicks, using weapons, and strong punches. However, as I learned more, I realized that the physical aspect is just one part of it. I learned that karate also focuses on discipline, which was taught through our student code. Respect, integrity, perseverance, discipline, and pride.

I used to think that these words were just words, but as I moved up ranks, I started to understand the deeper meaning behind them. The pillar that stood out most to me was respect. Before we talked about what each pillar of the student code meant, I used to think respect was just being kind to other people. My parents, my friends, teachers, and everyone else around me. Until one day, we were having a discussion on the student code, and it opened my eyes about what respect really is.

Respect is also treating yourself well, taking care of your belongings, treating everything, even non-living materials with the utmost consideration. Ever since that discussion, I took my new-found knowledge about what these words meant and am trying to apply it to my own life.

Every journey has its ups and downs, and I can definitely say that karate is no exception. While there were many enjoyable and proud moments for me in karate, like singing Happy Birthday to my friends in the most cringeworthy manner to skipping my yellow belt and earning my yellow with a stripe, there were also some difficult moments. I remember when Sensei Erin announced that the Old Bridge dojo would be closing. While I managed to hold back my tears for the remainder of the class, I was uncontrollably crying on the way back home.

But I found a way to continue my karate journey. I was so determined to continue my education that I convinced my parents to drive the extra twenty minutes to the Woodbridge dojo. All was well in my world as I was making new friends, stepping up as a soon-to-be sempai, and was preparing for my brown belt, when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world as we once knew it. During this outbreak, I was going through a very tough time.

I was unmotivated and my mental health was in a downward spiral. The re-opening of the dojo was like a light at the end of the tunnel. When karate lessons started again, I realized that going back to class would help me with how I was feeling. Surely enough, being able to see my friends again and resuming my learning enabled me to gain some motivation as well as rekindle my passion for karate.

As I stand here today on the cusp of another milestone, I feel proud to have been trained under such amazing teachers such as Sensei Erin, Sensei Paul, Sensei Arthur, and Sensei Chris. I’m also thankful for the comradery and friendship of my classmates who always support me. Finally, I thank my parents for believing in me and having my back through all the ups and downs of this incredible journey. I feel like my karate family has helped me become the person I am today, and that includes making me feel empowered when I step through those doors or teaching me so many useful life or karate lessons.

Respect is also treating yourself well, taking care of your belongings, treating everything, even non-living materials with the utmost consideration.
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