2. Sempai Miya

black belt
Just a black belt with her broken board!

1. How long have you been training in the martial arts? Why did you start?

“I started training when I was in 5th grade, my mom and brother had already been doing martial arts for a couple of years, and after school they would go to class. Since I had nowhere else to go, I would come along with them. Then after watching a few classes, I tried to mimic what they were doing. I would be on the sidelines kicking and punching along with them. One day the teacher saw me, I thought I would be in trouble but instead she invited me to come join. The next week I came to class in a uniform and brand new white belt.

I started up martial arts because of my mom and brother, I thought it would be really neat to do it together as a family. We would practice at home and help each other out. Now, I’m the highest ranking out of the three of us, but I am glad that my brother has chosen to advance along with me. I hope this continues to be a passion that we can share together.”

2. Have you ever used your martial arts outside of class?

“Thankfully, I haven’t been confronted with a situation that I needed to physically defend myself. But as far as the mental and spiritual lessons I’ve learned, I try to use them everyday in every aspect of my life. Things like discipline, working hard, and focus (etc.) I apply in school, at home and just out in public. I also try my best to always be respectful those around me, because I believe that it’s one of the best things you can give to someone.”

3. What was the biggest obstacle you have overcome since you began training?

“The summer before my 7th grade year, my dad suddenly passed away. That was the worst moment of my life, during the days that followed I felt like I was living a nightmare and that I couldn’t wake up. I had no motivation to do anything (let alone train), I just sat there lost and depressed. For a few weeks I took a break from martial arts to sort out my emotions, when I finally returned to the dojo, I remembered barely anything. I still remember having to do a low rank form in front of a bunch of younger students and messing up…badly. It was so embarrassing! I wanted to curl up in a ball and never come out.

In the years that followed I slowly built myself back up. Martial arts became something that I could focus on and it turned into a deep passion for me. I became determined at succeeding in what I loved. Now three years later, I trained, tested and passed for my 1st degree black belt. (Also this summer, I will be getting a wonderful new stepdad and four new terrific siblings) The scar in my heart that I got three years ago will never completely heal, but the pain is nothing compared to what it was in the beginning. I still feel my dad’s presence in the things I do everyday, just like at my black belt test. That test pushed me to my limits physically, mentally and emotionally. I could never have passed without the drive, the will power, and the determination I inherited from my amazing dad.

Throughout this whole experience one of the most important things I’ve learned is that, the obstacles you face in life don’t define you, it’s how you handle them that makes you who you are.”

Sempai Miya earned her 1st degree black belt in Seito Shito-ryu Karate in 2013. She is in NWSMA’s Black Belt Hall of Fame because her family moved shortly after her test. Check out her essay on what black belt means to her!

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