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A coworker likes to share the phrase, “You’re never too old to learn, and you’re never too young to teach.” Often we look to role models who have already forged the paths we want to travel, but we shouldn’t discount those who may be behind us in achieving a particular goal but whose perseverance and unique aptitude can be a refreshing lesson in never giving up. My last post was a call for black belts to learn from everyone they encounter, no matter what rank they are. My new challenge for my fellow black belts is to find inspiration from others.

Last Saturday I attended a black belt test at the dojang I’ve been attending for a year. Five students ranging in ages from thirteen to twenty-one tested for first degree black belt. They had different interests and talents and had come together to collectively show that they could move to the next level.

Intense is an understated way to describe this belt test. These young people fought and pushed and prevailed through three and a half very mentally and physically taxing hours. There was a lot of sweat and nearly as many tears on and off the mat by the end of it. I had a nice big bruise on my leg from the lone testing girl after a fast and furious sparring match.

As I watched the students I imagined how I would move through the kicks, forms, and self-defense. I thought about the mechanics of each movement and what I would need to think about the next time I did those same techniques.

That’s when the big challenges started rolling in.

After the students had done about twenty minutes of solid kicking with targets held by helpful black belts, our master asked them to do one hundred roundhouse kicks with targets. Yikes, that’s rough…but in my head that didn’t seem impossible. I had done that in a class about a month ago. If my creaky old body could do it, they could do it.

Then a visiting master asked them to once again kick the target one hundred times…with jump snap kicks….consecutively.



One by one those brave students made it.

“Wow, if they can do a hundred jump snap kicks, they can do anything,” I whispered to a fellow second dan. 

I couldn’t stop thinking about that particular feat the rest of the weekend.

They made it through an incredibly difficult physical task. That really inspired me. I can make it too, and not just through the third dan test I hope to complete a year from now. I can make it through a tough sparring match. I can make it through a heart-pounding workout. I can make it through a giant initiative I’m taking part in at work in 2020. I can make it through the book publishing process and be a successful writer.

I can do one hundred jump snap kicks in a row.

The next time I went to class I went to a quiet part of the gym to warm up.  I shuffled, kicked, and stretched, and I kept thinking about the one hundred jump snap kicks. I wanted to see what it felt like so I did thirty jump snap kicks in a row. My heart and lungs felt fine, but I definitely noticed some struggle in balance and power. I mentally ticked those notes away and finished my warm up with a few forms. Maybe I’d try forty jump snap kicks next time.

Those new black belts inspired me not only with their technical prowess but also with their bravery and tenacity. I was so proud of them and also realized that to continue to be in their league, I need to step up my game.

If they could make it through those hundred snap kicks and the rest of that test, then the rest of us could make it through anything, whatever our “anything” is.


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Stay tuned for my upcoming book – “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!

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