With great pleasure, Kenpo Women is proud to present our newest Black Belt, Alexis Susidko. Alexis is a fine example of all that being a black belt entails. Her thesis was created to help other young girls stay on the path and to not give up. Congratulations Alexis.
I remember the day as if it was yesterday. I sat next to my mother on the bench in the middle of the front door and behind the Aquafina (Gatorade) machine. My mother and I were watching my little brother in class, whom had just started Karate. Moments went by before an older gentleman greeted my mother and myself. He introduced himself as Mr. White and told me he would see me Sunday. Wait, what? I thought, Why would I see him Sunday? I turned to look at my mother for some kind of explanation and instead she just smiled. I learned later that my father told Mr. White he wanted me to join, but wasn’t sure I would want to. Mr. White told him to bring me by for an introduction with Mrs. White and that when we were done I would want to join.
I had my introductory class that following Sunday with Mrs. White and my parents asked me afterwards if I wanted to join. With hesitation, I said, “I guess,” I didn’t want to, but only agreed to make my parents happy. My father explained that it would be a commitment to go to class at least 2-3 times per week to get the most out of the lessons.
Even though we talked about joining it hadn’t quite registered with me. I pleaded, I cried, I begged my parents that I didn’t have to go. They wouldn’t budge. I’m not sure why I was so against it. Maybe it was from a past experience when I was four years young. I don’t remember much but crying in the middle of class and running to my parents. I haven’t stepped foot into a Karate dojo since. Or maybe because it wasn’t a typical girl sport you hear about, like tennis or volleyball. Regardless of the reason I had no choice but to stick with it.
Thursday evening, I suited up in my white Gi and white belt and participated in my first group class. Not without a tantrum first. Still, my parents didn’t budge. It was intimidating to be the only female in a group of men. It also didn’t help being only thirteen. Thirteen – the awkward stage. The time where you transition from child to teenager. I was insecure then. I always felt like my young age determined my worth, or ability. I felt like people judged and looked down on me, even though that wasn’t exactly the case. The students were all so welcoming that I’m not sure why I continued to feel that way. I continued to protest to not go to the next class, or others thereafter. I found every excuse I could. Looking back, I admire my parents persistency.
Two weeks into starting my father had a discussion with Mr. White to keep me motivated so I wouldn’t quit. Mr. White knew exactly what to do in which he told my father he would assign a mentor. It was great insight for Mr. White to make this decision which turned out to be the perfect solution to keep me interested.
That same week, I was introduced by Mr. White to my mentor Jessica Stewart. It was nice (and a relief) to have a fellow female. I knew she understood all I was feeling, and was once in my position. She had the strength to overcome the uncomfortable moments and I couldn’t help but admire her. Without Jessica I truly believe I would not have continued.
Being a woman in a world full of uncertainty and random violence is not easy. Every waking moment we step foot out of our homes and into the world at risk. According to the RAINN organization, every 107 seconds, another American is sexually assaulted. Each year, there are about 293,000 victims of sexual assault. 44% of victims are under age 18; 80% are under age 30. The statistics are scary. Women are prey. We have to walk with keen awareness. We always have to be on our toes. Of course, I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I’m sure we all do. Unfortunately, this is our reality and I can either take charge or hide in the state of denial that I won’t ever be a victim. Since I have started Karate, I have noticed a drastic improvement in my confidence. For someone who was once timid, I am now confident when out alone. I’m stronger, more assertive and have more self-esteem. I’m not afraid to speak up, be demanding, and determined. Karate has also taught me to listen to the voice within. Identifying when something just doesn’t feel right, and to react on that feeling. I encourage women everywhere to sign up for Karate or seek a self-defense course. A University of Oregon sociologist found that women who took a ten-week self-defense training were significantly less likely to experience unwanted sexual contact. It is best to be prepared than to not be.
November 30, 2011 – my yellow belt test was upon me. I was a bundle of nerves. I’ll never forget Jessica assuring me that nerves were normal and meant you cared. Fifteen minutes later my white belt was replaced with yellow. It wasn’t until then that I actually began to enjoy Karate. I remember telling my father, “Okay fine I’ll stick with it. But no fighting.” Unbeknownst a couple months later I was introduced to Jaime Matthews whom became my sparring instructor. I took first place at my first tournament, as well as my next four. I had a continuous winning streak for someone who once said she refused to sparr.
My advice to anyone just beginning Karate is to give it a chance. Have patience with yourself. Understand that there will be times you’re frustrated because you’re not picking something up as easy as everyone else. Or maybe you have floating why’s in your head, “Why don’t I punch as hard as him? Or why don’t my kicks look like that? Or why can’t I react quick enough? Why am I so uncoordinated?” However, it becomes much easier. Stay committed! Once you have a firm understanding of basics you’ll notice how everything relates making it easier to pick up new material and proceed forward with your training. It’s a mental hurdle we all were faced with and once gotten over, it’s a huge relief.
Fall 2015, Mr. White sent me a message unexpectedly asking if I would be willing to teach at the school. My initial reaction was to hide under a rock and politely decline. However, I immediately recognized that was only out of fear and uncertainty. After careful consideration I realized the universe aligned the stars and was gifting me my first teaching opportunity. My career dream is to become an English teacher for High-school/college students and inspire the next generation. I knew in my heart this was for me. I accepted his offer and eagerly began teaching right away.
I’m a firm believer that every single thing is calculated for our best interests thus, I don’t believe in coincidence. Twelve days before my Black Belt test, one of my students had his first belt promotion. To everyone else it was another belt promotion but to me it was much more. Watching him go through his testing and promotion I saw a reflection of my journey. Yellow belt, the first test, the beginning of a miraculous journey. I felt myself become emotional because of the profound symbolism. I knew in less than two weeks I would be tested on all my knowledge. I also knew my first yellow belt test was the beginning of my developing passion for Kenpo.
As I continue to reflect, I see an obvious correlation from when I first enrolled in Karate to present day. For someone who was timid to be the only girl in class, I am now the only girl testing along three men whom I consider all great friends. I don’t feel insecure but empowered and ready to take on the world.
We think it’s our responsibility to determine ourselves what should and shouldn’t be in our lives; what we should and shouldn’t do. We don’t usually know what’s best for us. What is given to us can be a blessing and be of great value that lasts a lifetime. It’s about learning to not think about pre-conceived ideas, labels, opinions of others, and taking a leap of faith to feel one-hundred percent comfortable about who you are and what you’re meant to accomplish.
I’m not playing tennis or volleyball because I was meant to be in Karate. One of my favorite quotes, author unknown, “You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will look back in a few years and be absolutely perplexed and awed by how every little thing added up and brought you somewhere wonderful – or where you always wanted to be. You will be grateful that things didn’t work out the way you once wanted them to.”
Achieving my Black Belt is my first real accomplishment. It is a dynamic symbol I hold very close to my heart and something I hope to share with my future children. I want to carry on the tradition of imparting knowledge onto other students as black belts have done to me. This skill is the greatest gift teaching me discipline, confidence, respect, team spirit, poise, loyalty, and self-control. This is not the end for me but a new chapter, to a new journey.
First and foremost I would like to give many thanks to God for blessing me with the talent and ability to pursue Kenpo, and guiding me on a path that led to encountering BWKS as well as, establishing all the relationships I have developed being apart of the studio family. Also, for His strength during this journey leading up to May 7th. It is a journey I could not have faced alone.
My mother and father for persistently pushing me and never allowing me to give up. My 13 year old self wouldn’t believe I am saying this now – thank you for enrolling me in Karate.
Mr. White for his constant encouragement, guidance, and instruction. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. It is an honor to be a student at your school.
Mrs. White for her nurturing spirit and always being so kind. Seeing your passion for helping and empowering others is truly an inspiration and has gifted me with courage.
Jessica Stewart for devoting her time every week to help me become the martial artist I am today. Thank you for being so patient and strict on the quality of my stances, kicks, forms, techniques, eating habits, and to focus not just on meeting expectations, but striving to exceed them.
Mr. Matthews, Ms. Pfefer, Mr. Wilgus, Mr. Alexander, Mr. McGeough, Mr. Cammann, Mr. Wilson, Miss Alcala, Mr. Gundlach, Mr. DeAngelo, Mrs. Flessing, Mr. Bartolomucci, Mr. McClure, Ms. Ramierz, Dr. Smith, and all the other students I have trained with over the years – thank you for all the constructive criticism, enthusiasm, and support.
Jordan Lamas, Adrian Lamas, Wade Ganes – it has been a wonderful past few weeks training alongside these athletes. Being able to all coach each other and see our vast improvement from when we first started to now is very special and something I will cherish forever.
The unity at Bob White’s Karate Studio could not be more profound and for that I am forever grateful.