CRESTVIEW — Mastering any art takes years of dedication. For some, the pursuit of an art about which one is passionate lasts a lifetime, with the practitioner never satisfied until he or she’s attained the next level of mastery. After that, it's on to conquer the next level.
Friday evening, around 100 such artists demonstrated their newly acquired prowess for an appreciative audience of fellow students and family members as Gordon Martial Arts on Oakdale Avenue in Crestview promoted another round of students to their next belt levels.
Age levels include the Mini-Martials — kids 4, 5 or 6 years old — who may have a bit of a struggle to step up onto the Crestview Community Center stage, but once there, proudly go through a series of forms, or movements, to demonstrate how far they’ve already progressed.
Or ask Travis Robbins and his family. His sons Luke, 5, and Ryan, 7, are avid GMA students.
"We’ve loved it," Travis Robbins said. "We’ve all participated. It’s a real joy. It’s a great family atmosphere."
Scott Williams, an adult martial arts student, not only progressed to his orange belt Friday night, but did so while being nearly blind and deaf. Those of his fellow students who feel reaching the next belt level seems an almost insurmountable task need only look to their sight- and hearing-challenged classmate for inspiration.
"I refuse to treat him any differently than any other student," Chief Master Thomas Gordon said. "If you have an impairment, sometimes you need the discipline of martial arts more than anyone."
Williams appreciates the support he receives from Gordon, his instructor Amanda Howard — who uses sign language in her instructions — and his fellow students.
"The Gordon Martial Arts family supports me a lot," he said. "I feel more happy and inspired to learn from them."
One of his supporters, 9-year-old Phenix Mayo, said having Williams in his school helps him understand how to approach people with challenges.
"I appreciate him," Hollywood said. "I am trying to learn sign language so I can talk to him more. But I can give him a hug or a thumbs-up. That’s how he knows he did well."
"He’s real nice," Carlos Montalbo, also 9, said. "I can’t talk with my hands, but I can smile to him and give him a high-five."
Having Williams as part of the academy’s family is an asset, Gordon said. Williams will share what he has learned Nov. 10 by teaching a self-defense class for the hearing impaired.
"That’s what we’re all about at Gordon Martial Arts," Gordon said. "We’re a family. We support each other, and we give back to our community."