Less than three per cent of the world’s population hold a black belt in karate.
On Monday evening at the Elks Club Hall, 10 students from the Shuswap division of Provincial Martial Arts (PMA) became part of the elite black-belt group, in the first black-belt ceremony to take place in Salmon Arm.
Students from Sicamous included Tommy Bland, Tiffany Sigvaldson and Chris Evans. The remaining seven martial arts students all hail from Salmon Arm– Rena Kakuda, Katie Cullen, Ben Eddy, Houston Rampton, Bandy Unger, Evan Frankhauser and Denise Cullen.
“During the season us instructors always have plenty to say, but now at the end of the season there is nothing more to say than congratulations,” said Todd Johnston, director of PMA at the start of the ceremony.
This year marked the third group of students to graduate with black belts from the Shuswap division of PMA.
Five years ago instructor Holly Raczynski started the Shuswap division of PMA and has been impressed by the strong sense of community that has formed around PMA.
Raczynski credits the large number of families that train together as one of the reasons for the club’s success. The mother and daughter duo of Katie and Denise Cullen is one such example of a family that has been an active part of PMA for the five years since its inception in the Shuswap.
“It’s a lot of hard work paying off and another goal in my karate life,” says 15-year-old Katie, who received her first-degree black belt.
Her mother Denise on the other hand received her second-degree black belt and has helped instruct classes with Danette Rampton when Raczynski is unable to instruct.
“We tried to keep the classes organized and teaching the basics while keeping up a physical intensity,” said Denise.
All of the students were quick to thank Raczynski for her dedication, despite her busy schedule.
“She is more than a karate coach,” says 15-year-old first-degree black belt Tommy Bland. “She pushes you to be a better person and teaches you about respect.”
Raczynski is adamant that those kids who grow up in karate will transfer the lessons they learn into their everyday life and move on as leaders in the community.
“This is a big deal to see everyone here grow, not just in martial arts, but in all facets of who you are as individuals,” said Johnston. All of the new black-belt students will continue to train and plan to keep improving their technique.