Three young students of Kootenay Christian Martial Arts School will test for black belts in taekwondo Thursday, while 10 others will seek their second, third, and fifth degree belts.
Kyle Baker, 13, Justin Daloise, 12, and Hannah Jordahl, 13, are all expected to achieve the high honour following a three-hour exam that will push their physical and mental mettle.
Joining them will be an entire family — Bob and Colleen Hellman, with daughters Annie, 11, and Kelly, 12 — plus Kevin Milde, 15, and seniors Charlotte Bond and Dot Bryan, all going for their second degree belts. Brett Rigby, 18, is testing for his third-degree belt.
“He’s got the longest seniority of any of my students,” Master Dean Siminoff says of Rigby. “He started when he was nine, and he’s competed at nationals.”
For the first time, Siminoff, who founded the school in 2001, will test alongside his students. Typically he’s done his own testing privately or with other higher-level black belt candidates, but he’ll join the rest of the class as he goes for his fifth-degree belt.
“It gets harder in the sense that you’re getting older,” he says. “Even if you’re training steady, your body’s not getting any younger.”
Siminoff says attaining higher-level belts is an “impressive” accomplishment, regardless of the circumstances.
“Getting a first-degree black belt is a big deal but it’s that much more again to stick with it and go to second degree. You went up to first degree in baby steps, but second degree takes a lot of commitment, perseverance, and patience.”
Most of those testing for their second-degree belts have waited two years, while the young trio seeking their first-degree belts have each been training for four years or more.
Siminoff is confident all will succeed when examined by grandmaster Brenda Sell, who holds an eighth degree belt, and is the world’s highest ranked woman.
He also has his grandmaster’s approval to test for a higher level himself, following a recent two-day session in Florida.
“It’s kind of like my pre-test. The pre-test one-on-one with him is harder than any actual test would be. That’s the toughest hurdle,” Siminoff says. He obtained his fourth-level belt four years ago.
Sell will also put on seminars this weekend. A graduation ceremony is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph’s School.
Kootenay Christian Martial Arts trains twice a week at Evangelical Covenant Church in Nelson and South Slocan, and plans to open a new school in Castlegar early next year. It has graduated about 35 black belts to date.