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The Black Belt Experience

By Max Piotrowski

I have been so lucky to have had the experience to do all of this. I have been doing karate for ten years now, and I have loved growing up in the Dojo. Being a black belt is about many things, but most of all, it's about gratitude. I am grateful for growing up in the dojo and making fellow peers into my friends. I am grateful for the fact that I have had this place to grow with my family, and become black belts together, with my brother Shodan Jack and Sensei Mom.There are many good habits I have learned and so many amazing people I have worked with. 


The friends that I have made have been an essential part of my life and my martial arts journey. My friends Callum, Chris and Cody, have all helped me to get to where I am today through our support and good-natured way around each other. We are never mean, and always try to help each other, but we are not afraid to have fun with each other. We support each other both in and out of the Dojo, and I consider them all great friends.

I have been lucky to have worked with many dedicated adults over the years during my karate journey that have been influential in my growth as a person and as a martial artist. The first ones I would like to talk about are Shihan Henry and Sensei Zach. They have helped me through hard times and made them into good times. They both have an amazing talent with both teaching karate and being hilarious. They are both very patient with me, even when I keep making the same mistake over and over again. Sensei Peter  has shown me that it's never too late to learn new things. He has always cheered me on and urged me to keep going, even when things seemed impossible.He is always happy to help me with my techniques both on and off the mat, even at a Lowes where he put me in a headlock. Next, are my karate moms. Many of you know my real mom, Sensei Michelle. She has helped me to learn some of my new and old material for all of my black belt pretests, and I forever am thankful for that. Sensei’s Soma, Lisa, and Tashi Collen have all filled that role and I am grateful for all of their love and support. They are also all really funny, talented, and just amazing to be around. Lastly, is Shodan Dawn who has been really a treat to work with and has eternal patience with all of us teenage boys.


The good habits that karate has taught me have benefited my physical and mental health. One of them is discipline. Discipline is the little voice in the back of your head telling you that you don't need that extra cookie, that you should practice even though you don't feel like it, and to never procrastinate. The most important one I have learned is perseverance. Perseverance is the larger voice in the back of your head telling you to keep on going, telling yourself the good things that you can accomplish if you just try, and that not everyone can do this, but YOU can. 

            I am very grateful for this community, it has changed my life in so many ways. I am forever grateful for my friends, mentors, and healthy habits. I am ready to become a Sensei. After my last test gave me my first degree, the rank of Sensei has been my non-stop dream, but this community has given me the strength to reach this goal, and like what Shihan says on those early morning runs, we should be grateful to be there, and now, I couldn't agree more.

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