May 9

Adair Rodriguez: What being a black belt means to me

This Wednesday, May 11, Adair Rodriguez will become the 11th Metamora Martial Artist to test for first-degree black belt. In preparation for this review, Mr. Chianakas – a Metamora Township High School English teacher – asks candidates to write an essay about what becoming a black belt means to them.

Adair has been with Metamora Martial Arts since 2007. [adam]

I was once told that a black belt is a white belt who never gave up.

I believe this is one of the best definitions of a black belt I’ve ever heard. I really like this definition because it sums up a lot of characteristics that a black belt should have such as dedication, ambition, being a hard worker, constantly training, etc.

It’s incredible to think that every martial artist that has earned his or her black belt through my school was once a white belt. They all started at white belt and refused to give up their efforts to earn their black belt.

Adair Rodriguez

Adair Rodriguez

Another reason that I like this definition is because it implies that a black belt isn’t the end of martial arts training. I believe achieving the rank of black belt is the first of many major steps to becoming a master of the arts and perfecting one’s abilities.

Thinking about testing for black belt reminds me of my first stripe test. That first stripe was so much more than just a piece of tape to me. It was my first step forward towards gaining my black belt, a symbol of my newfound knowledge and the work I put into earning it.

I feel that same rush of excitement, nervousness and hope coming back.

It’s amazing to think that just three years ago, I was practicing Tai Kyoku Kumi, ippon #1 and taezu #1, and now I’m reviewing 10 katas, 15 ippons, 10 taezus, 15 kihons and so much more! This knowledge feels so natural to me, but when I sit down and think about it I realize how much I’ve learned, and it amazes me because I have gained an incredibly large amount of knowledge over the past three years that I could have never imagined being able to retain – and there’s still so much more to learn! The fact that martial arts training is a never ending journey is definitely one of my favorite aspects of it.

Another one of my favorite parts of martial arts is the people I’ve met throughout the years. Through karate I have made many new friends, teachers and even students that I will never forget. Being surrounded by people that share a passion for martial arts and being able to train with or compete with them has been an amazing experience.

I have had the opportunity to participate in tournaments and demos and even give motivational speeches. I have been given the opportunity to share my passion with others and possibly inspire them to become involved or continue training.

I have become a part of a world unlike any other. Where else can somebody kick, punch and scream, and have everyone around them think they’re perfectly normal? The world of martial arts is a beautiful one that I hope to always be a part of.

Throughout my training I have gained a passion for teaching. Early on in my training, I began going to the grade schools to help teach. Seeing a bunch of younger kids excited to learn karate reminds me of my passion for the art and never fails to fire me up.

One of my goals as a martial artist is to earn the title of Sensei so that I can continue to teach no matter where life takes me.

I could never imagine living out the remainder of my life without karate. I hope to pass on my knowledge to as many people as possible as well as my children, if I end up having any. Karate is one of the most important parts of my life and I can easily say that I could never be the person I am today without it.

I am a very different person today compared to who I was three years ago when I first began training in martial arts. I can easily say that I am stronger physically, mentally and spiritually. Never could I have ever imagined myself breaking boards, let alone bricks, with my palm, or remembering 10 katas, 40 wazas, and so much more, or do a back flip off the wall. I have been able to do some things that almost seem impossible!

It’s incredible to think about what kinds of limits I have broken past along my path to black belt. I truly feel as though my world has expanded to great new lengths that could not have been reached any other way.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned through my karate training is that there are no limits to what I can achieve. I have reached an opportunity to become a part of an elite group that only two percent of all martial artists have ever joined! To become a part of this elite group would easily be one of the greatest achievements of my life.

There are some schools that will give a person a black belt for just attending classes for a certain amount of hours. I love that my school is not one of these schools. I love that my school pushes the limits of every martial artist testing for black belt to the max. Every black belt that has earned his or her black belt from my school is an incredible inspiration to me. They have had their physical, mental and spiritual limits pushed to levels that are almost inconceivable and came out of their tests victorious! They are living proof that there is a significant difference between getting a black belt and earning a black belt.

My journey to earning my black belt is coming to what many may believe to be an end. To me, it is the first major step to something much greater.

Testing for my black belt is like a personal declaration. I am choosing to take on an incredibly difficult test that few people have been able to pass or even reach. I know how much time and energy I have put into my training and this test is my opportunity to show myself how far my training has taken me and what I am capable of achieving.

I am prepared to push myself farther than I ever have in my entire life.

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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