‘We leaned on her’: Persevering is a hallmark of Gordon Martial Arts summer promotions
CRESTVIEW — As Gordon Martial Arts instructor Amanda Howard explained, Robyn Fulkerson’s black belt in Combat JuJitsu “was a long time coming,” but as the academy’s owner, Tom Gordon, said, “she persevered.”
While it took Fulkerson four and a half years to attain her black belt, it certainly wasn’t for want of trying. But at last, during GMA’s July 2 belt promotion ceremony, “after several injuries, several surgeries,” Howard read out her name.
Fulkerson became the latest of 104 black belts awarded by Master Gordon’s academy in its 25 years, most of them spent on Oakdale Avenue in downtown Crestview.
“I was supposed to test in December, but back in November I had shoulder surgery and that was a setback,” Fulkerson said, one of several she would encounter.
Her daughter, Megan, had already enrolled in Gordon Martial Arts, studying both Taekwondo and Hapkido. Robyn saw how rewarding it was.
“When I retired after 26 years, I needed a hobby,” she said.
Her sometimes arduous journey to the Crestview Community Center stage Friday night was admirable and typical of many of his academy’s students, Gordon said. While not necessarily written up on the wall in the main instruction room, “perseverance” is certainly one of the students’ tenets.
“Ms. Fulkerson had all sorts of injuries, but she persevered,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean her black belt test was a breeze, nor was it a sort of trophy for just showing up.
“For an hour and a half we punished her; we leaned on her,” Gordon said. “My job as an instructor is to take her as far as she could go, and then one more step.”
Free passes, no matter how sympathetic a student’s situation may be, are not something distributed at GMA. While it looks great to be able to boast impressive stats, such as a large class of new Black Belt Club members, “gimmes” neither build character nor produce leaders. Perseverance does.
That’s one reason when Howard announced the July ceremony’s Black Belt Club members, only one name was called: Bryce Graham, who was presented the armful of training weapons and the respected blue uniform.
Black Belt Club members are students who aspire to earn the hard-earned black belt and its subsequent degrees.
“We look to see who’s doing what they should be doing, and being where they should be going,” Howard said.
Another such student is Coleson Hannan, 16, who received his third degree black belt, as his dad, Nicholas, also a GMA student, earned his probationary black belt in Combat JuJitsu.
One of the academy’s teen leadership students, Coleson is often called on to help with keeping things such as the promotion ceremonies running smoothly.
At the July 2 ceremony, that included helping put out more chairs for an unexpectedly large attendance.
“We did not anticipate such a big turnout on the Fourth of July weekend and in the rain,” Gordon said.
For retirees Pat and Lane Watkins, there’s more to practicing Hapkido than a proper mindset.
“It’s fun! It’s a real confidence builder,” Pat said, as her husband added, “It’s also great exercise.”
Like Coleson and his dad, Robyn Fulkerson, and other students, perseverance is integral to their achievements at GMA. For Coleson, that usually involves maintaining his focus.
“The hardest part is making sure I have my thoughts under control,” he said. “I tend to over-think things.”
Achieving a balance between maintaining his focus and honing his skills is typical of how Gordon Martial Arts students continue to progress. Even if it takes four-and-a-half years, as it has Robyn Fulkerson.
Gordon Martial Arts offers instruction in Taekwondo, Hapkido and Combat JuJitsu at 130 Oakdale Ave. W. in Crestview, 850-862-0720, www.gordonmartial arts.com, Facebook: facebook.com/GordonMartialArt/. Students aged 4-and-a-half to adult are welcome.