SILER CITY, N.C. — Friday, July 18, 2014 —Carson Whitehead of Ramseur, Sammy Blanton of Bear Creek and Justin Brower of Pittsboro were awarded black belts last month when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly examinations. Each received the rank of First Dan Junior, a first-degree black belt designation for students under the age of 18.
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.
Whitehead, who trains in South Eastern Karate Association's Liberty school, was just 5 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 that 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 also says 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 says, "because it’s a really long form and I can learn more from it.”
Blanton, a 13-year-old training in the Siler City School, has a lot in common with his colleague from Liberty. He 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 that incorporates a wide range of karate techniques.
He has learned more than just kicking, punching and blocking. Blanton says 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 says. "It was harder when I first started, but it became easier as I was in karate longer.”
While it’s unusual for so many martial artists to have the same preferences, Brower makes it unanimous. The 12-year-old says forms are his strength and he enjoys learning the wide range of ways to defend himself in case someone ever attacks.
In fact, Brower points out that karate isn’t really about fighting. It’s about self defense — and that includes a lot more than blocks, kicks and punches.
Master Jolly is happy that message is getting across, especially to her younger students.
“Martial arts schools have changed over the years,” says Master 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, whether they’re young white belts, our newest students, or experienced adult black belts who have trained for decades."
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.