April 2

Do The Work To Achieve a Black Belt

A black belt is a white belt that never quit, according to the popular saying.

But how do we get there?

Do The Work

I could just end this post there.

Do the work.

Those are the only three words needed. You’ve got to do the work to get to black belt.

But in the interest of explanation, I want to delve a little bit further.

Do the Work! book cover

Do The Work!

I work in marketing for a relatively young company that is striving to attain a certain goal this year. This goal, though not impossible, will be difficult to achieve unless everybody is doing their part on the team. In other words, doing the work. Our CEO bought us a book called, coincidentally enough, Do The Work!, in which he hoped to inspire us to dig in for a long next several months in order to reap the benefits later on.

“Great story, Mr. Bockler,” you’re saying yourself. “But what does this mean to me as a martial artist?”

You Must Conquer Resistance

In order to do the work, author Steven Pressfield talks throughout his book about Resistance, “always lying and always full of (expletive).” Resistance, he says, is elicited by “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health or integrity.”

Sounds a lot like working toward a black belt, doesn’t it?

Some common stumbling blocks we encounter as we work toward that next goal:

“The requirements are overwhelming.”

“I don’t have time to practice.”

“I’m not in good enough shape.”

So, what are we to do?

Just Do The Work

Pressfield identifies a few ways we can wrestle Resistance to the ground.

Stay stupid – “We can always revise and revisit once we’ve acted. But we can accomplish nothing until we act.”

Be stubborn – “When we’re stubborn, there’s no quit in us.”

Blind faith – “Our mightiest ally … is belief in something we cannot see, hear, touch, taste or feel.”

Passion – “Fear saps passion.”

Friends and family – “Only two things will remain with us across the river: our inhering genius and the hearts we love.”

Becoming a black belt is not easy. It’s like getting your a diploma from grade school, high school or college. It took you a long time to get there, and you had many tests – both literal and figurative – along the way, except the education just begins when you get that “final” reward.

Like everything else, if you want it bad enough, it’s yours. You’ve just go to do the work to get there.

Just remember: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Take your first step today. Join your first karate class for free this Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Metamora Community Center.

September 18

Where are they now? Jessica Duffy, Metamora’s fourth black belt, checks in

For this installment of “Where are they now?”, we feature our fourth black belt from the Metamora Martial Arts program, Miss Jessica Duffy. In this “Where are they now?” article, Jes gives us an update on her life experiences post-martial arts.

When looking back at my experiences in the club and while training, it is not the intensity of the workout or physical injuries that I remember the most – although I will never forget my black eye.

Jessica Duffy, 2006 MTHS graduate

One of the most valued experiences I took away was the sense of camaraderie that I felt with my fellow students. Although there were some times when we did not get along, we were a team in every sense of the word.

Whenever we were at a tournament we cheered the loudest and at that moment we were our competitor’s biggest fans. The time we spent on bus rides to tournaments and seminars helped to cement our bonds to each other and let us get to know each other as people as well as classmates. I still keep in contact with many of my former fellow students and still maintain those friendships that formed almost eight years ago.

College for me was a little different. I started out at ICC for two years and then transferred to Valparaiso University in Indiana. However, the actual student experience was a little different than the campus tour promised it would be, so I transferred back to Bradley University after one semester. While at Bradley, I joined Kappa Delta Sorority and Habitat for Humanity.

My sorority experience was amazing. I know there’s a saying that people do not want to have to pay for their friends and that sorority girls are just vapid narcissists, but it was not like that at all. My favorite part was the philanthropy work we did around Peoria, which included adopting a Girl Scout troop and helping them complete their badges.

In Habitat, we went on spring break trips to build houses in Albany, Ga., and the greater Miami area. Talking with the volunteers and future home owners really helped to open my eyes to the extreme conditions that they had seen, including a family that had not had a home of their own since Hurricane Katrina.

These experiences have stayed with me and have helped me to become more aware of similar situations here in Peoria and Normal.

In May 2010, I graduated from Bradley University with a bachelor of science degree in Marketing.

Jessica Duffy, Mr. Chianakas and Thomas Deters at the 2005 US Open

Jessica Duffy, Mr. Chianakas and Thomas Deters at the 2005 US Open in Orlando, Fla.

I would like to say that choosing and staying with my major was easy. However, I did fall into the statistic that says a college student will change his or her major three to four times during their college experience. If I could advise current high school juniors and seniors about anything college-related, it would be that you should choose a major in a subject you love, not one that you think will cookie-cutter you into the perfect job – unless you are going to be a doctor or an accountant…that’s different. I chose a major that I thought I had to do and if I could do it over again I would have chosen differently.

A major is something you identify yourself with your entire life, not just the four years where it seems to consume your

life. While I lived and breathed advertisements, focus groups and statistics research in college, I would have rather been thinking about events in history and art and the permanent marks they have left in the culture of mankind.

Also, for all those who complain about how they do not want the slacker in a group project to bring down their grade, the team aspect you learn does in fact come in handy later in life. That is probably the best thing I learned at college and I use it almost every day.

I did not get a “real” job right after college and I still do not have one. After working at a coffee café during the summer, I started work as a resident supervisor for a sorority at Illinois State University. This experience was very profound for me personally in that it showed me what I don’t want in life. It is very easy to think of the things we want in life but rarely do we realize what we don’t want in life until something opens our eyes. While the work was easy, I could not stay in a job where I was not able to be myself.

A few weeks ago I wrote an email to my boss, essentially telling her, “Thank you for the opportunity but I can’t do it.” Pressing the send button was one of the most liberating feelings of my life. I think that after college you have to do jobs you might not especially like, but not at the expense of sacrificing yourself.

I currently work at Eastland Mall for American Eagle Outfitters and ULTA Beauty, though I am still very active in my search for the elusive full-time job. I am a member of the alumnae association of Kappa Delta Sorority for the Bloomington/Normal area.

(Note from Adam: Jes told that since she wrote this article, she has found that full-time job as an assistant manager at American Eagle.)

I look forward to moving back to the Peoria area very soon and the new opportunities this might bring.

Ms. Duffy graduated MTHS in 2006 with her 1st-degree black belt. She also trained briefly in Shotokan karate at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Jessica brought a lot of fun and energy to our program, traveling with us to Japan in 2003. She was a fierce competitor during her high school career.

September 9

Upcoming tournament: Morrow’s in Moline

Save the date!

Morrow’s 37th Semi-annual Karate & Kung Fu Championships will be Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011. The event is held at Morrow’s Academy of Martial Arts at 1321 5th Ave., Moline, Illinois.

Events include weapons, forms and sparring. This tournament features a black belt division of competitors age 40 and older, and a black belt championship match for a 4-foot trophy.

Mr. Morrow requires sparring competitors to bring dip foam boots and gloves, a groin cup and a mouth guard.

Registration is $30 for all events, and the spectator fee is $4. The tournament begins at 10 a.m. with registration beginning at 9 a.m.

For more information, please call John Morrow at 309-764-1929. Don’t forget to like Morrow’s Academy of Martial Arts on Facebook.

If you’re a Metamora Martial Arts student, let us know by Saturday, October 8, here on the blog or in our private Facebook group if you intend on competing.

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.

March 9

Keeping the Art traditional: Master Kevin Roberts speaks out against “commercial belt factories”

For this week’s article, we feature the story of a great friend and fellow martial arts instructor, Mr. Kevin Roberts. Mr. Roberts has been a great supporter of our program, always enthusiastically participating in our tournaments with his family and students.

Mr. Roberts shares his experiences in martial arts and why he teaches in the following article.

Through the Tenets of TaeKwon-Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, martial arts has affected my life in several ways.

What I value most about the martial arts are the values and discipline that are contained within them.

If students study and practice the art as a whole, and not just the self-defense or sport aspects, they may find themselves with less stress and receive more respect from others, for they will be giving more respect to those they come in contact with.

The physically demanding challenges that the martial arts offer can also help the weaker become stronger, which in turn, should build more self-esteem more self-confidence.

Why do I teach?

Well, I guess I will answer this as, “Why did I start teaching AGAIN?”

In TaeKwon-Do, there are so many instructors and groups out there promoting people just for financial gain. I have watched TaeKwon-Do be torn apart and treated like T-ball and a huge “marketing store,” giving out black belts in a year and promoting 5- and 6-year-old children to Black Belt.

The Art I studied and love so much was becoming a dinosaur. I watched as stances, blocks and strikes became Hollywood moves, “looking cool” with no practical application behind them.

I teach to help pass on an Art before it is gone.

Some thought I wouldn’t get many students being as I practice “old-fashioned” TaeKwon-Do. Now here I am with over 50 students.

People want true Martial Arts. It is up to us to educate and teach the public what that is. I don’t have the gimmicks and toys for kids to play with. I tell them up front that it will probably take five years to get a Black Belt from me. Sometimes the parents are shocked, and then I ask them to watch a class. When they do, they see the difference.

One high point in my teaching is when a student with learning issues makes a breakthrough and advances to the next technique or belt. Regular school sports just don’t have the time or care to take the time to develop these kids.

Another moment is when the teens or adults take the class, but have thoughts that maybe they are wasting their time.

However, when they see the value and the techniques to be learned, how they are applied and start enjoying the Art, it’s like winning in the fight against the “commercial belt factories” that have watered down and sold out my Art.


Mr. Roberts started TaeKwon-Do training on Dec. 7, 1978, under Mr. Duane Connett, at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois. One of the smaller children his age, he was part of the original TaeKwon-Do class when LLC first offered it. At that time, the demanding two-hour classes consisted mostly of adults, and the then-16 year-old Roberts was the youngest student in the class.

Other than doing missionary work in Haiti in 1981, he trained for three years without missing a class and practiced another two hours a day at home on top of that. Three years after his first lesson, he successfully tested for 1st-degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do under Mr. Phil Minton of Terre Haute, Ind., in 1981. During that time, he also attained a brown belt in ShudoKan Karate under Mr. Terry McConnell. He has competed in many tournaments and placed in many divisions.

In 1983, Mr. Roberts tested for 2nd-degree Black Belt under Master Yong Duk Choi, earning additional degrees in 1985 and 1988. He reaffirmed his 4th-degree Black Belt in a test led by Grand Master Han Min Kyo in 2007. More than 30 years since his first class, he passed his test for 5th-degree Black Belt in Springfield, Mo., under a panel of judges in June 2010. The National Progressive Taekwondo Association (NPTA) awarded Mr. Roberts “Instructor of the Year” in 2009.

He teaches a Chang Hon style of TaeKwon-Do at Lake Land College TaeKwon-Do in Mattoon Illinois & Fighting Tigers TaeKwon-Do in Charleston Illinois.

He is also the Director and co-founder of the Kyumson TaeKwonDo Alliance. This is a new organization and his hope and mission is to help TaeKwonDo instructors find their way back to the more traditional Art: uniting TaeKwonDo to train together as one Art.