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My Transformation into Responsibility
By Cody Hiltz

To me, being a black belt means embracing leadership roles both within and beyond The Dojo. I believe that throughout the past few years, I transformed from being a black belt with minimal leadership experience into a genuine leader in a multitude of communities. My experience as a karate camp counselor has shaped my commitment to additional responsibilities, especially in my school. Through these responsibilities, I have gained valuable learning experiences, personal growth, and connected closer with The Dojo community.

For the past two years I endeavored in the role of a karate camp counselor, an experience that initially filled me with excitement, as well as apprehension. The opportunity of learning in a new way through The Dojo, to which I have had a lifelong connection, definitely excited me. On the other hand I was nervous, not only because this was my first job, but because working with kids was also a first for me. Fortunately, throughout my time being a counselor, I picked up the skills to be an active role model as well as how to adapt to dynamic and challenging situations. When the other counselors and I met to prepare for an upcoming camp session, Shihan Caroline told us that through our connections with campers “in the next few weeks, [we] [would] change the world.” This is what I think it means to be a black belt. As a leader, I bonded with kids at a level that I never thought I might until Shihan’s words inspired confidence in me. My ties with The Dojo community strengthened profusely during these times, and I aspire to see this bond only strengthen in the future.

I have recently found myself representing The Dojo more, ever since my role in the community as a counselor. Whether it be a fight skit at the bed race, performing on the demo team, or showing up to a black belt ceremony wearing an orange wig and fighting Sensei Zach, I am much more confident and thrilled to be a part of it. Because of my two summers of camp counseling experience, as well as representing The Dojo community, I am resolute in extending my dedication in other communities through similar roles. For example, at my school I am now on the Student Life Committee and set up for a path to being a head tour guide. This is just the beginning, and my growth and learning as a black belt have been instrumental in getting me to this point in many aspects of my life.

I believe the journey to becoming a black belt is not only about mastering martial arts techniques but also about embracing the responsibilities and leadership roles that come with it. Over the years, my transformation from a black belt with limited leadership experience to a genuine leader has been a remarkable and fulfilling journey. Serving as a karate camp counselor was a pivotal experience that allowed me to grow, adapt, and connect with both young students and The Dojo community. My experience at The Dojo over the past years further supports the idea that karate has the power to teach people core life lessons which are essential to success in all aspects of life.

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