SILER CITY, N.C. — Friday, January 4, 2013 — Jonathan Bray and Cameron Fraley, martial artists from Liberty and training at the South Eastern Karate Association school in their hometown, were awarded black belts in a ceremony held last month.
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.
Like other students over the years, Bray was taking his son to karate when he decided to begin training, himself. The 40-year-old had joined a class once before, back when he was in eighth grade, but didn't continue for very long. Still, his interest remained and martial arts eventually became a lifelong passion.
This time, he earned the black belt after three years of work that not only gave him plenty of exercise, but a sense of confidence that extends to all areas of life. Before jumping into training this time around, Bray says, he wasn't comfortable at all in front of any group. But by learning to focus on the task at hand and gaining the experience that comes with a journey to black belt, all of that has changed.
He has even developed an interest in teaching karate — something he never would have imagined. "I wouldn't have stood up in the front of class and given the instructions, but now I don't think twice about it," he says. "I play music, too, and it used to be I wouldn't sing. But now, I have two or three songs and don't think anything about it. Karate gives you more confidence more than anything."
Fraley comes from a family of martial artists — his uncle even owned a school teaching a different style — so it's no surprise that martial arts was a passion for this 20-year-old as well.
Finding time to practice outside of class can be difficult, but Fraley made it a priority. The discipline he learned in the process and the interaction he had with other students made a much broader impact on his life.
"I was really in my shell when I started training and I was really nervous about everything," Fraley recalls. "I had a really bad stuttering issue and was not confident in myself at all. But when I started doing karate, that exposed me to different people and they didn't judge me. We were all there to do the same thing — to make ourselves better — and that's what I wanted to do.
"I came out of my shell and practiced as hard as I could every single day. As I grew in the martial arts and got better in my techniques, I got more confidence in myself."
Clearly, self-defense is the essence of any martial art. But Master Jolly says the new black belts are prime examples of what the art can do to help anyone improve his life.
"There are four things we emphasize and they're all listed on the sign outside our door," she says. "Self-defense is important, but the others are, too, and those are confidence, self-discipline and fitness. All four work together to make better martial artists and stronger people. Everyone comes in for a different reason. No matter what their own situations may be, our job is to help them improve and enjoy better lives."
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.