After years of training, exercising, and memorizing forms and katas, it must feel extremely fulfilling to receive one of the highest accomplishments in all of martial arts: the black belt. And freshman Luke Daugherty has done just that.
After six years of arduous training, Luke earned his black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate in December 2019. This fighting style is a mixture of Shaolin, Kempo, and Karate. He explained to me what these three fighting styles primarily focus on. “Karate is very much striking, straightforward, and puts a lot of power into one strike,” Luke said. “Shaolin is more fluid, and Kempo is kinda in between.”
When I talked with Luke, he told me about how he first became interested in karate. He recalled getting involved when he was around nine or 10 years old after his sister joined a dojo. “We’d go to drop her off, and I’d see and think, ‘You know, maybe I should do that,’” he said. His parents also wanted him to join. “We had just moved to Connecticut and thought it would be a fun activity and way for him to meet people,” Luke’s mom Eleanor Daugherty said.
In order to get into the black belt test, Luke first had to earn a black bar on his sleeve, which marked that he was ready for the test. He also had to do an array of things ranging from mastering all the moves and writing an essay. “For the black bar project, I had to do a community project. I had to write an essay and create a representation of the journey to black belt,” he said. The representation of the journey is the progression from the lowest belt, white, to the highest, black. Mrs. Daugherty talked about the growth that Luke experienced through the years. “He got disciplined and committed to the work,” she said.
The total black belt test was four hours long, and it was held in a high school gym. Luke said that his karate school was not the only school in the test. The test began with fitness, which Luke believes was the toughest part of the test.“We might have started it off with some warm-ups, but not much, it was pretty much right to exercise,” Luke said. The test continued with combinations (one-person fighting techniques), forms (multiple-person fighting techniques), sparring, and even a game of dodgeball to lighten the mood. Luke gave me insight into what the test was really testing him on. “It was really made to test your stamina and to make sure you knew the material,” he said.
Luke told a story about one student who just left in the middle of the test. “We broke up into groups at one point, and one of the people in my group left and I didn’t see them at the end. They must have gone home,” he said.
Luke said that karate has taught him discipline and focus, which helps him in other aspects of life, such as in school. When the test concluded, Luke said that he was quite tired, which is not uncalled for after a four-hour long, physically exhausting test; however, it was all worth it as Luke can now call himself a black belt.