• There is something about watching a wee little white belt child perform their pattern that...it heals your soul. 

    As we get older, we have memories of our past, however sometimes we mistake "memory" for what I refer to as "conscious knowledge". The difference between the two is that one is literal, the other is simply remembering a feeling. In this case, for a black belt or for someone who has never taken a martial art, they may understand that for these students, this belt grading is the hardest grading they've ever done. However, it's either been so long since they've been in that position, or they never have at all, so they aren't able to feel it in the way that the students feel it.

    Watching this test tonight, these students felt it.

    They felt it, and they overcame it. This was such a fun test. Eleven students had the opportunity to grade, ranging from the feisty, always smiling Jaxon, and Chris, our first graduate of the L'il Kickers program, all the way up to the rising star of the Robbins family, the soft-spoken and heavy-handed Luke. 

    Oh, and that John Robbins guy too.

    What made this test so much fun is that as Phoenix has grown, so has it's students both in terms of sheer numbers, and more importantly, personal growth. Every test is both great, and a little better than the previous one.

    For instance, in February the young kickboxing machine Rachel got nervous before the grading. Here in June, Rachel got nervous half-way through the grading. That means she is on pace to not be nervous at all at her next grading. 

    In February, Pat did more thinking than I like anyone to do on The Floor, and it took a bit for him to settle into the grading. On this night in June, he was an Ace from the start, doing what we all know he is capable of and showing his vast potential.

    Actual, tangible growth, from both young and adult.

    Depending on how a grading is run, they can last for several hours. My goal is to always have a grading go, at most, two hours. With that in mind, the students, who are always told to "be prepared for anything" when it comes to grading, started things off with a change in format. Everyone performed the same fundamentals together, regardless of rank. My goal as a teacher is to always use martial arts to teach life lessons, hence this idea. 

    The core is always the core, the foundation always the foundation. We are in this together.

    After everyone showed some individual kicking skills based on their belt rank, we moved on to poomsae, or patterns. This is a part that some people find boring, and as a student I did not care about for the longest time. "Get this done, move onto sparring and...", well, you know.

    The truth is, there is magic in all of this, and it really starts to come out during the poomsae. 

    • Watching young Jax & Chris nailing their white belt testing form with far more power than I've seen from anyone their age or experience level was eye-opening. 
    • Watching Rachel, someone who can fight like the immovable object, move like water through her forms and seamlessly through several different ones at that. Already a wrench (can do almost anything well), with so much untapped potential. 
    • Watching Kylea officially take "the next step" in her evolution as a martial artist and really start to exhibit the high-level potential that I've seen in her for two-plus years now. 
    • Watching Luke and John, both with so much experience, get a little nervous before demonstrating the technique that will take them to black belt next year. They still care, they still respect what we do. I respect those nerves.
    • Watching Pat flow gracefully through Breathing Law, a form that is the polar opposite to his personality, and one that has allowed him to improve both his physical and his mental approach.
    • Watching Kim, who has been in contact with me from virtually Day One about coming and training, and his daughter Jessica, who stepped on The Floor with a BROKEN FREAKING HAND, both showing off an incredible combination of power, technique, and enjoying what they're doing.
    • Watching Jodi, who comes to us with vast experience in Kung Fu, Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and, well basically every other martial art, join up with his son Hayden, to both perform their grading pattern at a high level, and also to drop down a rank and perform Four Directional both left and right-handed. I know well over 30 different patterns, and very little brings me joy like watching two martial artists perform Four Directional, a white belt form, as a mirror. It is absolutely a thing of beauty.

    How to sum up the self-defense in one sentence...

    Brother-and-sister Chris and Kylea got to perform Chris' very first grading self-defence together, and it was every bit as cute as you could imagine; Hayden already shows signs of being a high-IQ martial arts wizard; Jaxon's infectious spirit is perhaps a better self-defense than anything ever taught at a club (though he's still going to know how to protect himself beyond his smile); Kim took great care to protect Jessica, who did I mention had the courage to grade with a BROKEN FREAKING HAND; thankfully Jodi and Pat didn't almost blow the floor apart this time with their amazing speed, power, and ability to defend the defences; Rachel is a yellow belt going on black; Kylea is tiny and yet can throw anyone anywhere she wants to; and John & Luke made advanced defense techniques look simple, as they had put in the time to understand and be able to properly use them.

    Sparring was...well...you know the first rule of Sparring Club...

    Everyone thinks that the breaks are scary for the children. You know who they're really scary for? The black belts holding the boards. What if they miss? What if they miss four times and start to get upset? What if they break my finger? :)

    Do you know what makes it all worthwhile? That moment when they put their foot or their hand through the board, and they smile, and we both have that huge sigh of relief moment, where they're happy that they've accomplished something so raw to the human nature, and I'm both happy for them and happy that all my digits are intact. That moment, that smile on their face, the excitement dancing in the back of their eyes, that truly is everything.

    Eleven students put in the work all year, and were given an opportunity. All eleven students earned their new ranking, taking the next step in their personal development. We aren't about belts, tips, and trophies here. We believe in constant, never-ending improvement. We believe in The Rock's mantra, Be the Hardest Worker in the Room. We believe in ourselves, and we believe in each other. 

    On the wings of one another, that is how we fly.


    Iron Sharpens Iron