John Phillips 3rd Degree Letter
It’s hard to believe that it has already been ten years since I entered the doors of TNT Martial Arts to inquire about classes. Martial arts has always been something I was interested in, but never took the opportunity to actually do as I was growing up. I brought up the idea to my wife, Alana, and was shocked when she was up for trying out as well. This didn’t even require the whole speech that I had prepared listing all of the great reasons why we should do join. With that, we both swallowed our pride, put on a white belt, and began a long journey together. I am now applying for my third-degree black belt and was asked to reflect on my training and experience up to this point.
I realize that I have had a unique experience as I trained with my spouse, then alone, and most recently as a father with my family. It seems like most people begin training once they already have kids, or before. We did it all. When we started out, Alana and I would drive in from New Baltimore two to three times a week for classes. The drive was long, but TNT came highly recommended from people that we trust. We immediately felt part of the community and have ever since. We trained together for the first few years as we made our way through beginner and intermediate classes together. It was around the time of our blue belt that we had the amazing news that we were to become parents.
Alana trained for as long as she could and then bowed when we were ready to bring our son into the world. She encouraged me to continue training and to keep going, even though she had to step out for a while. She began to come out and to cheer me on with my son, Aidan, as I worked through the advanced belt ranks. I continued to train hard with a great group of red belts and in September 2013, earned my black belt. I spent many hours with what became my TNT family as we prepared together. I often joked that it felt like I had temporarily moved in to the dojo, but it was time well spent.
It then became my turn to take the role of support when my wife was able to return to training and begin her own journey. It was a great time helping her with forms and teaching her our new samurai sword form for her own black belt testing. There aren’t very many husband and wife teams that train together, so this was a fun time. We even referred to our trips to the dojo as “date night” whenever anyone asked who had the kids. I still joke with everyone that if you want to see Alana’s best sparring, just put her in the ring with me. Within a couple of weeks of her own black belt testing, we found out we were going to be parents again, this time to our daughter, Sadie. Once again, Alana encouraged me to continue on training, knowing that she would be back when the time was right.
The latest chapter of my training has been a great one. I have been able to watch my own child begin working first in the Lions, Tigers, and Bears classes and recently in beginner karate. It has been fantastic to watch the growth in our son and to see his confidence growing. For many years, I have trained with others who also trained alongside their kids and have seen their sense of pride. I have been blessed with this opportunity and love the times that we can all train together. I am looking to the future as we can continue this together.
My time in the martial arts have given me so much. I have learned many lessons along the way. I will always remember stepping in the dojo for the first time and realizing that I had no idea what I was doing. I will remember questioning my first day in intermediate class when I wondered if I would even be able to make it through class. I have learned even more about perseverance as I struggle with nagging injuries and have to push through. I know some of these things will continue to get tougher as the years go by, but I have no intention of stopping. I am thankful for all of my instructors and training partners that have helped me make it this far. A special thanks goes to Patty and Andy Troia for their teaching and creating an amazing karate school that I would recommend to anyone. Here is to the start of another great decade of training!