Breckenridge gets a kick out of black belts |

Breckenridge gets a kick out of black belts

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Eric Drummond

BRECKENRIDGE ” With blonde pigtails and a big smile, Charity Burke may look the part of a girl who likes to play dress-up, but she’s one 9-year-old no one should steal dolls from.

Armed with numerous kicks, punches and defense-methods, Burke is testing to become a black belt for Seo’s National Karate in Tae Kwon Do at the Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center in Breckenridge.

She was one of over hundreds of pupils attempting to become various levels of black belt for Seo’s, and one of over five hundred when Mile High Karate is included, which was testing at the Village at Breckenridge, over the weekend.

“It’s been kind of nerve-racking because you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Burke said of the weekend. She quickly added, though, that her pleasant instructors made it a fun experience.

Grand Master Joseph H. Seo started the school Colorado, teaching the Tang Soo Do discipline, and currently has four schools in the state, as well as, four satellite schools on the East and West coasts.

“We use a lot more hip movement, more thrusting in our kicks,” Master Dean Bagley said, who has been doing martial arts for 15 years. “As compared to something like the Japanese who use a lot more weapons and the Chinese … which is much more circular and defense-oriented. Korean martial arts is more linear and straight ahead in its application.”

The weekend brought in people of all ages, from tiny kids to men and women with graying hair. They all came together, though, with one goal – to pass the test.

The participants also shook the entire Colorado Ballroom when they performed forms and kicks together.

“It’s been intense, really difficult and fun,” 10-year-old Jake Horton said, who is a first-degree fifth-star black belt.

The group was tested over their competency in different areas like forms, one-step sparring, self-defense, a written exam and, of course, board breaking.

As students took turns breaking wooden slabs, roars from parents, other students and instructors occurred with every board that shattered, and when a student failed on their first try, the room filled with clapping and encouragement as they tried again.

It emphasized the other aspect of the weekend, that the event brings everyone together, Bagley said.

“We bring them up here and it helps us to coalesce and makes it a much more intimate setting,” he said. “It helps our students to focus and makes it a special event for people who make it to black belt.”

That focus comes from hundreds of pupils striving for the same goal, with the support of varying instructors and parents behind them. For one instructor, however, it did bring a little bit of anxiety.

“I feel the pressure to perform well in front of my students, but it does give it very high energy (to have everyone here for the weekend),” certified instructor Ross Mackes said, who has been doing martial arts for 14 years.

The energy can’t be denied. With everyone shouting “Yes sirs” to Grand Master Seo, the excitement and intensity could be seen in his students’ eyes. Sitting with legs crossed, the students absorbed his every word of encouragement and advice.

“It’s special, which is what it should be,” Bagley said. “The black belt testing and black belt opportunity needs to be a special event, and we come to a pretty place and we’re here sequestered together.”

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