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My Black Belt By: Christine M. Foster | Ambra Karate Academy Blog

My Black Belt By: Christine M. Foster


My Black Belt

Being of a technical, scientific background typically writing audit reports and for chemistry books or journals, I am more accustomed to presenting facts and making logical conclusions rather than writing an essay about myself.  This task in itself is very challenging and quickly brings back horrors of high school English grammar classes.  This also brings back the many good memories of the people, events and great relationships I built and strengthened during my journey.  Below is a brief synopsis with many specific examples omitted, but all significant lessons treasured.

In summarizing the meaning of a Black Belt, according to the Tang Soo Do student manual, it means mastery of basic techniques.  This is way too simplified. It has been a challenging, though enjoyable journey for me.

I started this journey as an opportunity to grow with my husband and to improve my overall health.  Now karate is a major participant in my life that I would have never believed from the start.  Strategies used in sparring and in learning new techniques were successfully applied to stressful situations both at home and professionally.  Many of my physical and mental obstacles were confronted and overcome through much sweat and determination.  Many of my challenges were self-induced, but they make me who I am today.  A self-motivated, enthusiastic, daunting woman who encourages challenges and is not easily intimidated.  Today I am in better shape mentally and physically than ever and vow not to be anything less in the future.

Physical:
My image of a black belt is one of ultimate physical fitness and serenity.  A high level of endurance, strength, flexibility and focus are typical characteristics.  As a white belt, I obviously did not understand even how to start this journey, never mind envisioning earning a ‘black belt’.  During my red belt, I lost 55 pounds through a healthy diet and this wonderful karate class that I considered fun, though challenging.  My weight was my last crutch in my life.  I always worked hard and been successful in my endeavors, though shedding this weight was the most difficult for me.  I just loved food!  Unfortunately my food obsession was now becoming a huge obstacle in my karate.  Once determined to achieve my goal, Mr. Ambra and the school were very supportive.  The pounds seemingly flew off in approximately 6 months and my physicality became closer to my vision.  Now the challenge was re-learning all the techniques with this new body, though untapped sources of endurance, energy, strength and flexibility were found.   This achievement quickly taught me that most of my physical obstacles were mostly self-induced, hence lending me to improve quickly as a red belt ready to test for Cho Dan Bo.

After several tough physical blows, a significant accomplishment was an improved ability to focus.  A broken foot, strained sarcoptic nerve, numerous miscellaneous foot injuries and several death kisses from Sean’s sidekick have truly built my character.  The injuries taught me a few things: get out of the way, look for the opportunity and focus only on your objective.  This is an area I am looking to strengthen in my next journey as a black belt.

Mental
The Cho Dan Bo level was a substantial asset to my preparation for Black Belt.  This stage was obviously the development of our spirits and mental conditioning.  This did not occur over night!  As I recall quite vividly, it demanded many hours of Mr. Ambra’s counseling; MANY late night discussions with Sean including a serious sparring scuffle on our Caribbean vacation, long silent treatments after class due to frustration; listening to Sean babble endlessly about himself every night after class, many bruises and even worse, bruised egos through tournaments and miscellaneous sparring matches.  Yes I am stubborn, but I then realized my vision of a black belt is achievable.  This is MY black belt.  It is about consistently giving 110% effort, acknowledging limitations and working with them, humility, and most important continually striving for the best both personally and for the school.

School
Here is a school, located off the beaten path, being instructed by a peculiar, young, karate instructor with copious amount of teaching enthusiasm and flexibility.  He was a new instructor, when I started, and I watched him mature into the excellent mentor/instructor he is today.  He genuinely is the friend, confidant, counselor, coach and the sympathetic ear needed to assure the successful guidance on this journey. He eagerly welcomes anyone and challenges their abilities. Volumes of people have entered the school since I started and each brings new talents and challenges to enhance overall development.  After achieving my Cho Dan Bo, the interaction amongst other students was a critical part of my growth.  Starting to teach and mentor other students taught me about my level of mastery, something taken for granted.  We now have a strong repertoire of newer students that are technically stronger and better than I was from the beginning.  During each belt test, I reflect on their progression and admire their perseverance, as I truly understand the challenges they face and encourage them on their journey.  Unfortunately, some students have left or attend intermittently hence are missed because of the value they add.  This is when I realized this is my journey that I must walk alone and not depend on a team to bring me to the black belt level and beyond.  Sean and I have always pushed very hard during this journey and frequently forget where we started.  Upon reflecting on the journey I see my maturity and the school’s has developed into a family knit together by the passion of excellence.

Sean

Yes he gets his own section, because he is special.  Though not much is required here.  We are both naturally very competitive; always striving for perfection, hence can be sometimes too demanding of ourselves.  Sean has been my confidant, challenge, strength, friend and husband through this journey.  We have grown closer mentally and improved ourselves physically while learning to motivate and encourage one another selflessly.  This journey would not have been as rewarding without him.

Webster’s definition of black belt can be quoted as, ”The rank of an expert in a form of karate.”  I personally dislike the word “expert”, because I always believe there is opportunity to learn and improve.  The journey I just completed leaves me aptly prepared mentally and physically for the next step.  Though I have completed this part of the journey, somehow I believe the easier part; I welcome my new beginning as a black belt.

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