Three young martial artists awarded black belts

Jul. 20, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Sammy Blanton of Bear Creek, Justin Brower of Pittsboro and Carson Whitehead of Ramseur earned black belts in June when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly examinations. Each earned the rank of First Dan Junior, a first-degree black belt designation for students under age 18.

Belts and certificates were presented by master instructor Peggy Jolly, a seventh-degree black belt, who owns the school and has been teaching martial arts in Siler City for more than three decades.

Whitehead, who trains in South Eastern Karate Association's Liberty school, was five years old when he was watching his brother learn karate and thought it would be a good idea if he did, too. Now five years older, Whitehead is happy he knows how to defend himself if he ever needs to take action.

But while self-defense is the most important thing for the young black belt, he said training is fun and challenging. He particularly enjoys learning new forms — choreographed patterns of karate techniques used in training. His favorite is Kyo Lyue, an intricate form that can be a challenge even for adults to learn.

“It’s my favorite,” he said, "because it’s a really long form and I can learn more from it.”

Blanton, a 13-year-old training in Siler City, also started studying karate so he could defend himself — and meet new people, too — and enjoys practicing forms. His favorite, Ba Sai, is another advanced form which incorporates a wide range of karate techniques.

He has learned more than just kicking, punching and blocking. Blanton said karate has taught him how important it is to keep control of himself.

“If I don’t, I could panic if something happens and not be able to do the right thing,” he said. "It was harder when I first started, but it became easier as I was in karate longer.”

Brower, 12, said forms are his strength and he enjoys learning the wide range of ways to defend himself.

In fact, Brower says karate isn’t really about fighting. It’s about self defense — and it includes a lot more than blocks, kicks and punches.

Jolly is happy that message is getting across, especially to her younger students.

“Martial arts schools have changed over the years,” said Jolly, who trained for decades under grandmaster Young Yu in Greensboro. “Nearly all schools used to focus on self-defense, but now many emphasize sport or exercise. Self-defense remains our primary focus. That certainly includes the kind of techniques everyone associates with karate, but also how to handle yourself in various situations.

“That’s something we constantly teach to all of our students," she said, "whether they’re young white belts, our newest students, or experienced adult black belts who have trained for decades."