July 23, 2014 - Blake Berry of Davisburg had a goal – earn his black belt in Tang Soo Do Karate before his ninth birthday.
He made it with weeks to spare.
"We are so very proud of Blake," said his mother, Julie Berry. "Blake's dedication and hard work allowed him to accomplish this incredible goal."
Blake, who lives in Davisburg with his parents, Julie and Kurt Berry, and his brother Ryan, tested and received his black belt at Master Serrato's Studio on June 21.
"It was good – I broke all my boards and I broke my brick," he said.
He practices every other day if not every day, and looks forward to competing on the school team as a black belt, in sparring, forms, and weapons.
"I've been to a couple of them. I'm not too nervous," he said.
For his weapon, he specializes in the bo staff.
"I thought it's a common weapon, and it looked cool when others were using it. You can do lots of tricks with it, spin it, throw up in the air, and catch it," he said.
He plans to study Karate at least two more years and earn some wins at competitions. If he stays with it until he is 16 years old, he can test for his adult black belt.
His journey started over four years ago. Blake is one of the youngest students to obtain a black belt at the studio.
"Mom wanted me to know self defense," Blake said. "Master Serrato is a great teacher. He helps me with everything I do here."
His Karate training has taught him how to defend himself, focus better in school, and self discipline, and helps him earn the respect of others.
He is a Springfield Plains Elementary student, heading into the fourth grade. In addition to karate, he enjoys lacrosse, football, piano, golf, swimming, skiing, and video games.
His goals also include playing lacrosse at Princeton University, becoming a professional football player, getting married, raising a family, and getting rich.
Karate awards so far include the 2012 HSMA Invitational, third place sparring, third place forms; 2014 Dragon Champion Challenge, fourth place weapons, fourth place forms, fourth place sparring; 2014 Renaissance Tournament, first place weapons, third place sparring; and 2012, 2013 HSMA, Academic Excellence Award.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.