CRESTVIEW — Amid tumbles, flips, falls, sparring and routines, more than six dozen martial artists advanced to the next level of their craft at Gordon Martial Arts’ Oct. 6 promotion ceremony.

Some students missed the event due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Nate, bringing the total number to promoted martial artists to 120.

To rounds of audience applause — and the occasional “oooh!” as a combatant was thrown to the mat — students ranging in age from 4 and 5 years old to adult demonstrated their proficiency at the Crestview Community Center event.

“It’s exciting because you get to learn so many techniques,” student Cayden Mavity, 9, said. “It goes with life. If someone comes up and wants to hurt you, you know what to do.”

Cayden was singled out for a solo test at the ceremony and progressed to preliminary black belt in taekwondo. If he passes his pre-test in September, he will qualify for a December test and receive his belt at the academy’s January 2018 promotion ceremony.

His dedication is the sort of attribute that brings smiles to Gordon Martial Arts instructors’ faces.

“He sat through the June black belt test and took notes, then went home and started practicing,” GMA Director Amanda Howard said. “He was determined to succeed.”

The students’ discipline impressed the evening’s guest speaker, Okaloosa County School Board member Tim Bryant, who remarked on the choruses of “yes sir!” and “yes ma’am!” he heard throughout the ceremony.

“You’re also learning respect and courtesy,” Cayden said, in addition to self-defense techniques.

“Martial arts teaches you respect for your teachers and for each other,” Bryant agreed. “Character goes a long way.”

GMA instructor Master Greg Bledsoe, a retired elementary school teacher, said published studies show “students who participate in martial arts are better students and have lower levels of aggression.”

Parents have remarked on the discipline instilled in their children when they study martial arts, Bledsoe said.

“We have parents bring in kids who have anger issues and behavioral issues and we’ve had a lot of success in turning those kids around,” he said.

Bryant said a martial arts student’s progress through the colored belts of each successive level of proficiency mirror a dedicated person’s progress through life.

With the dedication his audience learns at Gordon Martial Arts, in both martial arts and life, “you start out as a white belt and you work your way up,” Bryant said.

“Life may not work out the way you want it to at first. But with hard work, you’ll get where you want to be.”