The ceremony, which rarely allows cameras or reporters to view their spectacle, celebrated and honored the time held tradition of acquiring a blackbelt at VanBelle’s ATA Blackbelt Academy.
“It is indeed a very special moment, and what is actually done and spoken is not shared with any of the students until it is their turn,” said owner and 5th degree blackbelt Sharon VanBelle.
VanBelle operates the school with her son, Blane, also a 5th degree blackbelt. Due to their teachings, no one other than the students and their family members may view what would happen in these ceremonies. Due to special permission, the Irrigator was allowed entrance to this spectacular event.
Before the door to the academy opens, everyone is asked to remain silent and only take very few photographs. The entire large room is lit by only candle light and one set of red lights.
As the students receive their belts and share in the special tea ceremony, there are gifts and words exchanged by the students to their teachers and also from the teachers to their students.
Each person that had gained the blackbelt level has their new blackbelts tied on them by their instructors and were given an ample sized rock chosen especially for them with the Korean Symbol for “Pil-sung” for “Certain Victory through strength, courage, and an indomitable spirit” painted on the surface.
The rock is meant to symbolize the hard core which is solid and hard as is the center of the students’ new blackbelts. While they have all trained and passed the training to reach the level of blackbelt, like the rock, they are imperfect and will need to be chipped and molded, forever changing their shape over time, but never, ever, reaching the state of perfection.
“There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions that have passed through the doors to academies throughout the world,” said S. VanBelle. “Out of all of those, only one percent achieve their blackbelts.”
And out of that one percent only one percent go on to the next level, and it continues up to the fifth level which Sharon and her son did together.
Amyla Tadios from Patterson and her two sons Armyn and Andrew came to a free class four years ago and the brothers really enjoyed it.
“My husband and I asked if this was something that they would like to try and see if they would like,” said Amyla about the experience. “They quickly discovered that they would enjoy it and work together in this and four years later they have earned their blackbelts together and plan to keep on going, perhaps opening their own school one day and passing on their teachings.”
For those who are interested in learning more and would like to experience the class, VanBelle’s ATA Blackbelt Academy will still be hosting “Free Trial Periods” and classes at the school in Patterson as well as Modesto.
For more information, contact Sharon VanBelle at 209-545-2497 or VanBellesATA.com.
Randy Sawyer is the temporary sports writer for the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at RandySaw1@gvni.com.