8 years and thousands of hours of training, sweat, tears, trials, accomplishments, victories, honors, shortcomings, blood, and even some broken bones and it all comes down to ONE BLACK BELT!
I am so very happy to tell you that on July 25th 2009 I traveled with my family and my Sensei to Memphis Tennessee where 11 of the highest ranking black belts in Kyokushin Ro-Ken Karate from 4 states came together for my black belt test. Together they have over 250 years of experience and training that they would use to test me on my skill, endurance, knowledge, power, and overall martial ability. They made very clear to me that what went on in the test was top secret and was to be held in the strictest confidence. What I can tell you is that it was HARD. It lasted 4 hours and they covered everything. If you are taught it, you are expected to understand it, demonstrate it, explain it, and use it when appropriate. I learned a lot and I am very honored to have been tested by and in the presence of so many very special and very important people in Ro-Ken history. For example, Karen King who was one of the first women and one of only a handful of women to have received a black belt in the Ro-Ken System. Sensei Raymond Jones, 7th Dan is the highest ranking black belt in the system and I am so pleased and honored to have his appoval and blessing. My Sensei's Sensei, Chris Mahoney 6th Dan was also there and commented that he was proud of both my sensei and I and that mine was one of the best black belt tests he had seen in a long time. Also present were Tom Hook 5th Dan, David Dyer 5th Dan, James Trainer 3rd Dan, Jenny Lykins 1st Dan, Bradford 2nd Dan, Larry Web 1st Dan, Leslie Watson 1st Dan.
There is one very special moment in my black belt test that I would like to share with you. Right after I received my black belt, my Sensei's mother, my Grandma Bailey said that she had something very important to share with me. She opened an envelope and pulled out cross necklace and a card that read,
"The nights of work, the hours of hope amount at last to this day of joy. You have arrived. Let us celebrate this moment in time.
"Iah, lets have a pretend tea party, that was so much fun wasn't it? The cross is to remind you to NEVER put anything ahead of Jesus, for without him, we could do nothing! I love you Iah, Grammy
It was from my mom's mom, my teaparty grammy who died in 2005. She knew. Even back then when I was only 11, she knew. The cross was hers that she always wore. What a very special day and what a very special surprise. I think everyone cried right along with me.
The moment I realized the card that was being read was from my Grammy that passed in 2005
“In Mariah’s (Black Belt) test she demonstrated excellent technique, pinpoint focus, devastating power, determination and a positive attitude. Qualities you normally do not see in a ‘young lady’ who is only 15 ½ years old. This was my first time to ever see or meet Mariah and in my 29 years as a Martial Artist, and almost 26 years as a Black Belt I was truly impressed. Mariah’s Sensei, Aaron Bailey, was the third person that I promoted to Black Belt. I am proud to see Aaron’s, and now Mariah’s, continuation of the tradition of Ro-Ken Karate.”
Sensei D. Chris Mahoney, 6th DanRo-Ken Karate (Parent School)Germantown (Memphis), Tennessee
“A student like Mariah does not come along often. She has proven herself to be an exceptionally gifted Martial Artist and she has made all of the Senseis here in Memphis proud to have her as one of us. Although she never met Sensei Kendall (Founder of Ro-Ken Karate who passed in 1994), I know she has made him proud too. Mariah has the knowledge and techniques as well as the love for the arts to be an awesome instructor and to pass on what she has learned.
Karen King, Kyokushin Ro-Ken Karate 3rd Dan.
I remember the first day that Mariah walked through the door. She was a small little thing that had no idea what was going to happen in the next 8 years of her life. These last 8 years has been a battle of different wars. One battle that she had was trying to find her inner self. Well on July 25th I think she did. She achieved something that not many people do. That is getting her in a very traditional martial art. She was determine to do this and she did it. I am very proud of her and very honored by what she has accomplished. She is my first student to become a black belt, and I think that I was more nervous than she was at times during the test. Mariah is a true testimony to the art, and has a very special talent in her. It has been a honor to teach you and will be more of an honor to stand next to you in class. I am proud.
Sensei Aaron Bailey, 2nd Dan
What This Black Belt Means To Me
From the second I walked into my very first karate class at the age of 8, I knew the dojo was the place for me. For the past 7 years I have poured my heart into training to be the very best that I can be in martial arts. To be “good” has never been good enough for me. I have always wanted to be exceptional. Working my way through rank has taught me some very basic yet very critical life principles; Honor, Respect, Discipline, Patience, and Determination.
In the beginning, I didn’t quite understand why they were important. But now I realize that part of becoming a black belt is realizing that these principles are very important in understanding the true heart of the martial way. I have learned that what may not seem important one day may be the essence of life the next.
In life, I am determined to make a difference, and I will. I love to help others succeed and fulfill their dreams. I believe that with one good deed at a time, we can change the world. My martial arts have given me priceless skills which I continue to use to help others. I dedicate countless hours to women and children’s groups giving motivational speeches, performing and demonstrating martial arts and teaching self-defense. I could not have done this without the lessons I learned while earning rank. It is an honor to be able to use the sport that I love so much to help others. The confidence that I have gained and the respect that I have earned for myself and for others is priceless. Implementing change demands passion, discipline, drive and determination. All of the characteristics I believe you will find in a true black belt.
Martial arts have been my passion and my life for as long as I can remember and I will always aspire to learn more and accept the challenges before me. For instance, learning two new katas just two weeks before one of the most important day of my life was very stressful but, as I have been since I was six years old, I remain determined to earn this belt and I am committed to doing whatever it takes.
By learning to be patient, to pursue my passion with determination, discipline, and honor and following the drive in my heart, I have been very successful in martial arts and now today, I stand before you realizing my very first martial arts dream. Testing for my Black Belt.
Now, more than ever, I am certain that this black belt means something different to me than it does for most, because I believe most consider the black belt the end of the journey. Now, seemingly at the end of my journey, here testing for my black belt, I know without question that this is not the end of a process for me. Rather, it is just the beginning. It is a passage into a new level of determination, drive, patience, discipline, honor, and respect.