Sylvan Lake is now home to three new black belt martial arts masters.
Niklaus Meier, Joseph Spiller and Mawell Kaminski were awarded their belts in December after years of training and a full day of rigorous testing.
“It’s a very thorough test and it’s very mentally draining on these guys,” Sensei Ken Sumner said. “We make no apologies for that. When we send them they are ready to work hard and take that belt home with them.”
The testing is done in Red Deer in front of 18 different Arashi-Do schools and over 25 current black belts. This year, three Lakers tested alongside eleven others for their belts.
“There is a tonne of pride and accomplishment with having three of our students do that,” Sumner said. “When you get a group of guys that come up together, they tend to stick around longer. Sensei Joey, Sensei Max and Sensei Nick started training here in Sylvan. They got their green, blue and brown belts at the same time. They have stuck together.”
The three newly minted black belts have been teaching at Arashi-Do Sylvan Lake, something that Sumner is very grateful for and credits them with bringing different aspects to the table.
“It’s something they enjoy,” he said. “Nick had a lot of issues with bullying growing up and karate was how he overcame that. He learned to stand up for himself and now he’s really good with helping kids develop their own self-esteem. Joey really loves martial arts. He wants to make good people into better people. That’s his passion. Max’s whole family does karate and martial arts. That was the way my family did it too.”
For practitioners of martial arts, a black belt shows the mastery of the basics – meaning the journey of martial arts has just begun for these talented young Lakers.
“The idea behind black belt is the mastery of the basics,” Sumner said. “Now we can take the basics and do really fun stuff with it. Now we put it together in interesting and detailed ways. A black belt is when you really start learning. Any karate – from white belt to brown belt – is essentially the same. Black belt is when it becomes different.”
The new black belts will join Sumner’s other advanced students in his upper-level classes.
“This is the exciting part,” he said. “All these kids are in my adult-advanced class now and I can throw anything I want at them and they can do it.”
The typical black belt takes from four to six years to earn and is meant to test the students in a big way.
“Black belt is a big achievement for these guys,” Sumner said. “It shows how far they have come both physically and mentally. The black belt test is hard. We re-evaluated it three years ago and decided to leave it the same because it’s meant to be hard. If you aren’t ready, you won’t pass it.”
Sumner added that Meier, Spiller and Kaminski are great people and that they are always are friendly and willing to help out.