Are you as tough as a 13-year-old?
When you try to picture a black belt in karate, you probably think about Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris. Kayle Justice flips your expectations on their head.
Justice, a 13-year-old from Glenwood Springs, wears her hair in a ponytail with a bright blue headband standing out against her crisp white gi (the traditional karate uniform). Her big eyes are accented by a touch of makeup, but don’t let the innocent look fool you. This girl can throw a punch. After all, she has seven years of martial arts practice behind her quiet intensity.
On Saturday Justice tested for her black belt in front of a board of high-degree karate experts from the Western Tang Soo Do Federation. Federation President and head instructor of Glenwood’s Brian Mable Karate school, Brian Mable, presided over a testing and clinic day on Saturday morning at Sopris Elementary School.
Mable, who has been practicing karate for over 40 years, equates reaching the black belt level to getting a Ph.D. Every student moves through the various ranks differently, but most take about five years to reach the first-degree black belt. There are many more degrees to earn from there, so people can make the study of martial arts a life-long journey. “I like to think of it as a process, not an event,” Mable said. “The black belt is more than a piece of material tied around your waist.”
The test is about an hour long, and it involves going through a series of basic fighting stances and blocks, sparring with partners and performing other tasks like breaking wooden boards. By the end, Justice was breathing hard and sweating, but she still managed to throw up a few flying kicks and bust through three planks in a row.
“I was really nervous,” Justice said after her test. And since Justice was the only student being tested today, she didn’t get a break in between each set of movements. “It was really hard to keep my energy up.”
Nonetheless, she passed with flying colors.
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Visual Journalist Chelsea Self can be reached at 970-384-9108 or firstname.lastname@example.org