Thirty Years Later - a story of 30 years as a female Black Belt

on Thursday, 22 December 2016. Posted in All About Martial Arts

A Black Belt Anniversary

robkathy1985Thirty Years Later

I celebrated my 30th year as a Black Belt this month.  I was promoted to my 1st Degree Black Belt on December 18th, 1986.

In fact, I started taking Karate right after I moved back home following my college years.  I had gone to college to become an elementary school counselor, only to find out that I had to first become a teacher.  Once I did my student teaching, I decided that this was not my career choice after all.  That was an interesting time.  I had just spent 4 years in college and now I had to figure out what to do with my life.

I moved back to Raleigh in late 1978, and started my first full time job in an office, working for the State of North Carolina.  I also started taking karate .  Mr. Wellendorf was my teacher and Mr. O was a Black Belt who was off teaching in a small program in Rolesville, NC.  He came into the dojo one day and as the story goes, he asked Mr. Wellendorf if he could ask me out on a date.  Mr. Wellendorf said no, as it was forbidden for instructors to date students.  He persisted and Mr. Wellendorf told him that if he purchased my membership he could ask me out, but he had to purchase it just to ask.  Mr. O did exactly that.  He paid $474 for the privilege of asking me on a date.  I was involved with someone else at the time and said no.

I think it is obvious now, that Mr. O was continued to ask and I eventually said yes.  When Mr. O was a Black Belt and I was a Green Belt, we purchased Karate International of Raleigh from Mr. Wellendorf in 1980.  Shortly after that, we got married.  

Karate in the 1980’s was very different than it is now.  It was definitely interesting, but the path was not as well defined for students, as it is now.  It wasn’t unusual to be working hard towards a goal, but to have no idea when or how you would achieve the goal.  There were obstacles that often seemed insurmountable.  I thoroughly enjoyed karate, but I had no female role models.  There were very few women in Karate at the time.  The path to Black Belt also included sparring and my sparring partners were men.  Most were bigger, stronger and more comfortable with sparring.  Still, it was something I wanted, so I pursued it.  I must admit now, I did struggle in those years.  In fact, my path from white belt to Black Belt took a little over 8 years.  

In my early years in Karate, Mr. O was very supportive and encouraged me to move forward.  His instructor, Mr. Wellendorf, was my first teacher and the person who tested me for every belt level.  I don’t think the stories are as important as the end result.  I got there and I worked very hard to do just that. In about 1984, the first Karate Kid movie was released.  Following this, there were some children and women starting to show up in Karate classes.  

In the 1980’s in martial arts, it was common to tell someone they probably would never get to Black Belt because the journey was so hard and that is what made the rank of Black Belt special.  Mr. O and I decided to start telling people that they could reach Black Belt and that it was just a matter of defining your goal and following a path.  Karate is a learned ability and everyone can learn.  We built our business on the premise that everyone should be given all the help they needed to get to Black Belt and that it was our job to remove obstacles. 

The past 30 years have been filled with a marriage, children, grandchildren, business, relationships, health challenges and amazing joy.  I wouldn’t change a thing.   

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