Congratulations to Cathryn Gallione upon earning the teaching grade of Sensei (instructor) and the rank of Yondan-ho (probationary 4th Degree Black Belt). This is a dojo record, and is the highest level that Kyoshi Baker has promoted any student to in all of his 25 years of teaching karate!
When an individual approaches this level, they are asked to write a “Black Belt Thesis” – a reflection of their journey in the martial arts and what it has meant to them. With her permission, Sensei Gallione’s essay is as follows…
Through the years I have learned so much from karate – from the time I first walked into an intro with my parents as a seven-year old till now, over ten years later. Martial arts has taught me many important lessons, like not to give up easily – to keep fighting, no matter how difficult it is to fix an issue with my technique, to stay down in Shikodachi, to do one more push-up. It’s taught me to respect the teachers and higher ranks in authority positions over me – to just shut up and listen whether I agree or not, to do as I’m told whether I want to or not without arguing or making excuses. It’s taught me to be strong – to take a hard hit without making a big deal about it, that it’s totally fine to sweat a little (okay, maybe a lot), that I really can keep going when I feel like I just can’t. There’s always a little more in me that I can give, and I’ve got to give it. It’s taught me that it’s all right not to be perfect at everything but that I always need to try. I’m going to make mistakes; the important thing is to have a good attitude and give it my best. It’s taught me to be humble and that I should work as hard as I can no matter what I’ve earned because hard work is what helped me get there in the first place, and there’s always the possibility of a person in the row behind me showing me up if I don’t stick with it. It’s taught me how to be a leader – that sometimes the best way to lead is just by example, by being an example of a good student, respecting the one teaching and practicing hard and that sometimes I need to step up and take the teaching position. Teaching can mean different things at different times: it can mean being firm and correcting a student when he’s out of line; it can mean being gentle and encouraging to someone who’s learning; it can mean taking the initiative to be strong and make decisions.
Beyond all that karate has taught me though, is a world of things it has given me. It’s given me, most of all, a dojo family that I’ll always treasure in my heart, a whole group full of guys and girls, men and women, who’ve all given to me in their own way, whether it be inspiration, instruction, challenge, encouragement, friendship – all these things that have been so essential to my karate life. Karate has given me the thrill of feeling power surge through me as I send a technique rocketing through the air, the satisfaction of feeling the thud of a punch or kick landing squarely on a sparring partner’s stomach, the joy of nailing a kata at tournament, the fascination with all sorts of partner-work, joint locks, and take-downs, just all the great things I enjoy about the art itself. It’s given me a challenge – a drive and an opportunity to compete, not only in tournament but in every class – competing with myself to get that stance low, that punch strong, that kick fast, that technique right – and competing against others in class, which, though silent and possibly only known by me, is so important. Karate has given me goals to work towards, to try to reach. It’s stretched me and helped me grow in determination and resolve.
I know I’ve got a ways to go. There’s always room for my effort, attitude, and technique to improve, but the experiences I’ve been blessed to have with Rising Sun Martial Arts have played a major role in helping me to get to where I am today.