Students, Staff Wear Blackbelts, Get Honor

By Matthew Schwanke, Reporter

Millions of people all over the world practice martial arts.

A fraction of those people actually stick with it.

An even smaller amount of those people achieve the status of a blackbelt. 

According to the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Southeast Michigan, their new attendance system reported the following:

  • 2% is the average number of students that go on to become black belts
  • 6 years is the average length of time it takes for a person to earn a black belt
  • 3 times a week is the average number of sessions a student came in before earning a black belt

Senior Francis Fiore agreed that although a blackbelt is the ultimate martial arts honor, the work is not done.

“Most people see the blackbelt as a finish line. Little do they know it means you have to work harder…people look to you,” said Fiore.

Senior Chris Moss explained how earning his black belt helped him to grow as a man. 

“Hard work and dedication” are two necessities, according to Moss.

“Integrity is an important thing that (martial arts) valued,” said Moss.  

Moss understands how striving for a black belt  can also teach valuable life skills.

“It taught me self defense and discipline. Discipline goes a long way in life. And if I were in a position where I’d need to protect myself, I could,” said Moss.

Another person who has their black belt in Taekwondo is teacher Garth Hoffman. 

Woodshop teacher Garth Hoffman competes in an invitational Taekwondo match in Siberia Russia. Photograph Courtesy of Garth Hoffman

Hoffman participated in a  tournament put on by a martial arts organization  IMAC(International Martial Arts Club),  a points based team tournament in which Hoffman and his twelve other teammates won gold for team America.

“I went to Russia and competed. It was in Omsk in Siberia,” said Hoffman. 

He appreciates the real-life applicability of the skills involved. 

“I wanted to stay in shape and mentally (in) it…,” said Hoffman. “(I switched to MMA) because of the ground game. It is practical. Most fights end up on the ground.”

Hoffman found he learned important values that still continue to better his life.

“I’ve met a lot of people that I can depend on. It’s a bond to have. These are friends that I’ll have forever. You can’t break that bond,” Hoffman said.

Getting a blackbelt is not easy, and few ever achieve the honor of getting one. Within getting your blackbelt one thing is clear; the lessons learned from receiving a blackbelt are just as valuable as the blackbelt itself.

Hoffman and the other USA competitors watch the match that is going on before they compete. Photograph Courtesy of Garth Hoffman