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Young martial artist from Siler City receives black belt in summer ceremony

Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Siler City, NC - Michael Ayala, an eight-year-old martial artist from Siler City, was awarded a junior black belt last month, when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly promotional exams.


The belt and certificate were presented by Master Instructor Peggy Jolly, a seventh-degree black belt, or Seventh Dan, who owns the school and has been teaching martial arts in Siler City for more than three decades. The "junior" designation is used for all black belts awarded to students under the age of 18.

When he began training, Ayala was just 5 years old, the youngest age students can enroll at the school. For everyone, young and old, the journey can be a challenging one. When he was a red belt, roughly two years into his training, Ayala decided he didn't want to go to class any more. But his parents convinced him to continue and the new black belt doesn't regret it.

"It's hard to get to black belt because you have to learn all of your forms and all of your kicks," he says. "But I didn't quit. I went until I could do all of them."

His favorite is the crescent-jump crescent kick, a combination kick that requires jumping and turning. Ayala says it didn't come easy; at first, he had problems twisting in the air and sometimes fell down. But he kept working and eventually learned the kick well. "Practice makes perfect," he says.

Over her 30 years of teaching, Master Jolly can remember very few who didn't face the same decision about whether to continue.

"It almost always happens once, maybe twice, during the two and a half years it takes to become a black belt, and that's true whether it's an adult or a junior," she says. "We certainly don't plan it that way, but it seems to be universal. The martial arts teach self-discipline, perseverance and determination. This is part of the training and part of what it takes to achieve the rank."

Master Jolly says she's proud of Ayala's accomplishments and all of the 254 South Eastern Karate Association students she's trained to the black belt rank. Anything worthwhile requires commitment, she says, but where the commitment is great, the reward is too.


Classes are held in Siler City on Tuesdays and Thursdays — with one class primarily for children from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and another class primarily for adults from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Liberty classes are Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Details are available at

South Eastern Karate Association has taught Korean martial arts in central North Carolina since 1982 to men and women from 5-years-old to well past retirement age. Schools in Siler City and Liberty feature instruction in self-defense and emphasize confidence, physical fitness and self-discipline.

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