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Three students receive black belts

Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006

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Siler City, NC - Three area karate students were awarded black belts and two others received the rank of third-degree black belt when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly promotion examinations last month (Dec. 15).

Victoria Pavon of Siler City and Dakota Smith of Pleasant Garden were awarded the rank of First Dan Junior, and Retired Army Master Sgt. David Joel Jolly received the rank of First Dan, Instructor.

Pavon, 7, is one of the youngest students ever to receive a black belt from the school. She was just four years old, watching her older brother train, when she decided to give karate a try.

Generally, students must be older to begin classes. But Master Instructor Peggy Jolly, who holds the rank of Seventh Dan and teaches Pavon in Siler City, said she was impressed with the younger's self-discipline and decided to let her onto the training floor.

Pavon's skill, self-confidence and poise has grown steadily ever since. "I didn't know about self defense before," said the student who particularly enjoys practicing kicks. "But if I go to the park, now I know what to do if a stranger comes up."

Smith, 9, was attracted to karate after watching movies starring martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme. "He would do a full flip or a kick and hold it straight up," said Smith, who trains in Liberty. "I wanted to try karate and see if I could do that."

Through diligent practice, his kicks have become nearly as impressive. But he also has come to enjoy sparring with other students and practicing forms, which are combinations of choreographed moves used in training.

"He tells everyone he doesn't practice outside of class," said Master Instructor Jolly. "But I know he spends a lot of time doing forms, kicks and blocks at home. When someone asks, he'll say, 'I'm not practicing, this is fun.'"

Master Sgt. Jolly, 48, tells some people he had no choice about learning karate. If he ever wanted to see his then-fiancee, the school's master instructor, he needed to be on the training floor. But that's not the whole story. He always wanted to learn martial arts and feels right at home with the discipline.

The new black belt frequently teaches juniors - younger students - at the Siler City school and has come to appreciate how martial arts can change your life.

"Karate makes you feel at ease, because it builds confidence and teaches you to think about what can happen," said Master Sgt. Jolly. "I've seen people cross the street and walk down the other side just to avoid somebody. You need to be confident enough to look people in the eye and say, 'Good morning.'"

Having earned their black belts, signifying an initial maturity in the art, all three said they plan to continue training - "as far as I can go," as Pavon put it.

Higher Ranks Awarded

Earning the black belt allows martial artists to begin advanced training. Two of those advanced students were awarded higher ranks at last month's promotion examination.

Zack Ellington, 17, received the rank of Third Dan, Assistant Instructor, recognizing his development in the art and his teaching role in South Eastern Karate's Liberty school, where his father, Mark Ellington, serves as head instructor.

The Siler City resident was 6-years-old when he began taking karate, but took a break after receiving the black belt. It's a move he now regrets, though that hiatus helped Zack realize he wanted to train. He wasn't simply going through the motions for his father.

Martial arts have helped him in all areas of life. Not a day goes by, he says, when he doesn't think about what he's learned and how it applies to all aspects of life, not only his physical development. That includes meeting his most challenging test of late - the shift from student to teacher.

Michael Snider, 50, who also takes an active role teaching students, received the rank of Third Dan, Instructor. Snider, who lives in Liberty, also faced the challenge of teaching others.

"I realized more in this last year just how much there was to teaching and learning than what I already knew," Snider said. "Learning is never really finished, because I realize now more than ever that every time you think you know a technique, there's even more to learn about it. You can't outgrow learning.

"And then, there's working with other students, watching their confidence grow. There are a lot of people out there without a lot of self-confidence and self-respect. It's great to see that grow."

Master Instructor Jolly presented all belts and certificates during an evening ceremony in Siler City. A few hundred people - students and instructors, along with parents and friends - attended.

Instructors 'Amazed'

After what was an unusual promotion ceremony, with new black belts ranging in age from 7 to 48 and two achieving the rank of Third Dan, Master Instructor Jolly said she is constantly impressed with what students can achieve. "The dedication of young people always amazes me," she said. "Some of these students have been training for half of their lives and that's unusual in this day and age."

Mark Ellington, who holds the rank of Fifth Dan and teaches Smith, Snider and Zack Ellington, agrees. "Those students are extremely dedicated and are always willing to help in the school, no matter what comes up," he said. "The third-degrees, Zack and Michael, in particular, they've shown over a long time that they have a love for the art and are willing to pass that knowledge down to others."

Related info:
South Eastern Karate
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Three students receive black belts
Victoria Pavon, Master Instructor Peggy Jolly, Dakota Smith and David Joel Jolly.

Related info:
South Eastern Karate