SILER CITY, N.C. — Friday, March 28, 2014 —Four martial artists, including two brothers, were awarded junior black belts in March when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly promotion exam.
Belts and certificates 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.
Shane and Calvin Conroy, the brothers residing in Siler City, trained the typical three to four years before receiving their black belts.
Shane, 11, wasn’t sure how long he would continue when he first walked into the school, but became friends with some of the other students and learned to appreciate how martial arts can improve your life in many different ways.
“I’ve learned a lot of discipline,” says Shane, who appreciates the exercise as well. “It’s helped me be able to listen and my manners have improved. Master Jolly is a really good teacher, so just listening to her has taught me a lot.”
Calvin, 8, also mentioned the value of exercise, but would tell friends that self-defense is just as important. In fact, one of the essential things he’s learned is how to use blocks to keep from being hurt.
And, as for every student, there have been some challenges along the way. Calvin has worked hard on some of the more complex forms — choreographed patterns of techniques that help martial artists develop their skills. The longer, more intricate forms are not easy for younger students. “I just try to concentrate and think about it,” he says.
Brandon Downs of Pittsboro also received his junior black belt, a designation used for all black belts awarded to students under the age of 18. The 9-year-old also says memorizing forms was one of the more difficult things he had to do.
But what did he enjoy the most? Fun night, one class after each promotion test where students take turns leading class. “That’s what I like most and who doesn’t, really?” he says. “It’s your choice and I can lead walks like a bear, worm, snake or crab. It’s good for you.”
Also receiving his junior black belt was Danny Willett. Learning turning and jumping kicks has been the most challenging part of training, says the 10-year-old, though many of the 50-some kicks in this Korean martial art have actually become his strengths.
But that’s not all he has learned. Like many of his colleagues, Danny says learning respect and self-discipline is just as important as mastering techniques. “You have to be serious,” he says, “and pay attention to be able to hear what the instructor says."
There are plenty of family ties among this group of junior black belts. In addition to the Conroy brothers, Danny used to watch his mother when she was training and Brandon’s sister is approaching her own black belt test.
“It demonstrates how karate is a great activity for families,” says Master Jolly. “We have a lot of parents actively training with their children — including one entire family, both parents and their three children. That’s not unusual. Martial arts are designed to improve your life, no matter how old you are, and it’s something families can enjoy together.”
Martial arts are especially helpful for home schoolers, she says, since they not only teach self defense, physical strength and coordination, but help students develop social skills, as well.
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 southeasternkarate.com.
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.