Written By Renee Bartone

It is every white belt's goal to one day achieve black belt. For me and Senpai Kristian, our dream was no different.

We started our karate journey together back in 2013, with big ambitions but terrified of what might be in store for us. Karate was so different from any sport we'd ever tried. Being used to activities like cricket and dancing, we were like fish out of water, uncoordinated and confused, experiencing something we never had before. We began our classes at Hillside as a shy pair, sticking together no matter what, never doing anything, or going anywhere without the other. Now, while karate has made us both infinitely more confident, we still train together as just as close a pair as when we started.

Over the past five years, we have faced many obstacles and challenges together. Whether it was a physical challenge like our very first karate grading, or mental challenges like questioning whether we'd ever get to our black belts, karate has helped us learn to both persevere and to believe in ourselves when things get tough. As each grading got tougher and more demanding, being able to work together and continuously help and support each other let us accomplish the goals we set and better our skills and technique. With the help of Sensei James, Sensei Renee and Sensei Nick, we've been able to push ourselves further than ever and achieve things we'd never thought possible.

Training for our black belt was one of the hardest, yet most fulfilling things we have done. We spent hours during the day training together, not only at home, but also at the Caroline Springs Dojo; either with Sensei Renee, James or Nick, or alone just the two of us. The training was long and tough, with us sometimes training for hours at a time, two or three days a week, and then coming back to Hillside to train twice a week for our regular classes. However, as tough as the training was, we knew that it was necessary to get the most out of ourselves.

Being together at the blackbelt grading turned one of the most daunting challenges we'd ever faced into one of the more enjoyable and memorable moments in our karate journey. Throughout the afternoon long grading we were pushed to both our physical and mental limits. However, our overwhelming desire to succeed and belief that we had prepared as best as we could for this very moment, allowed us to continue to give our very best to overcome the fatigue and apprehension we felt. By the completion of the grading, knowing that we had put everything we had into our training and performance, we were both overwhelmed with the elation and joy that we felt.

Over the past five years, we have been challenged and pushed. We have faced obstacles that were to us, as big and immovable as mountains. However, if these past five years have taught us anything, it's that no matter how difficult times may be, or how stuck we think we are, that through hard work and dedication, nothing is impossible.

We cannot thank Sensei Nick, Sensei James and Sensei Renee for all the hard work and effort they put into us, not only in the months leading up to our grading, but in the five years we have been a part of Liberte Karate. Thank you also to all the parents and students for their continued support and belief in us. It has been an amazing journey so far, we can't wait to see what the next five years have in store for us and for the entire Liberte Karate family.