by Jenifer Tull-Gauger
After I got my first-level black belt in 2002, some people asked me, “Was it worth it?” I didn’t know if they meant: “Was it worth all of the time, money, blood, sweat and tears you put in to Karate over the last several years?” Or if they were asking about the test: “Was it worth flying out to Missouri Headquarters to an unknown place and unknown people, spending more money on yourself in one weekend than you’ve ever done before, facing the greatest test anxiety you’ve ever had and pushing yourself beyond your mental and physical limits?” No matter how they meant the question, my answer was an undeniable, “Yes, it was definitely worth it!”
Before I got my black belt, a few other people asked me, “Do you have to fly out to Missouri for your black belt? Couldn’t’ you just test here?” After taking the opportunity to test at United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance Headquarters in Missouri, I would encourage any of my dojo mates to test for Sho Dan (1st level black belt) out there. It was a great experience.
Testing away from the dojo you are used to is more of a challenge. It takes you out of your comfort zone. But it gives you much more of a feeling of accomplishment when you succeed. I got to test for black belt along with many other people of all ages. We went through the same test, side by side. Even though many of us came from different parts of the country, and we just met, we encouraged and supported each other as dojo mates. The encouragement and team work of my East Valley Martial Arts (Kenshin Kan) dojo mates were incredible. You all are truly are my dojo family – even you who weren’t in Missouri.
The members of the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance were exceedingly warm, friendly and helpful. There were over 100 karateka (Karate students) at Summer Camp and about half of them wore black belts. They proved to me that attaining a black belt is only the beginning of the Karate journey.
In Missouri, I learned that as a karateka, a student of EVMA, and a member of the United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance, I am a part of something bigger and better. One of the most important things I’ve ever learned in Karate is that you carry your Karate inside you and you do your Karate for yourself – not for anyone else. Yet, I learned in Missouri that the Karate path is not a lonely one.