Five ZDK students earn black belts

JOHNSTOWN – Five students of the Zen Do Kai Martial Arts Association, headquartered in Johnstown at the American Zen Do Kai Martial Arts School, successfully tested for black belt rank in the organization. The students, all from the Johnstown AZDK school, tested before a board that included Sensei Michael Campos, founder of the ZDK, and other senior ranking members of the organization from various schools located throughout the United States.

Testing for black belt rank within the organization is designed around a rigorous examination that is very challenging, according to a news release. Students, even though they have years of experience before the test, usually find it to be an exhaustive physical and mental endeavor. Test candidates must demonstrate basic martial arts kicking and punching combinations, show proficiency with sparring, and also must produce several demonstrations of additional abilities like takedown skills and joint locking techniques. The ZDK has members from a variety of martial arts styles, and test applicants must be adept at the traditional aspects of their martial art, including forms and the techniques unique to that system. The core art at the AZDK school is Shotokan Karate, a Japanese-based system of empty-handed defense, and the test candidates were required to be proficient in the forms and techniques from that style.

Self-defense is the most important aspect of all of the rank examinations at the club. The successful students were required to demonstrate skill against multiple attackers, defense against weapons, and defense against common attacks used by unarmed assailants.

The five successful students include: Christian Germany (age 13) who was awarded Junior Black Belt Rank, Mackenzie Frank (age 14) who passed the adult black belt test, Taryn Sedon (age 16), who passed the adult black belt exam, adult students Rachael Bailey, who passed the adult black belt exam, and Jeff Streun, who was successful in achieving the rank of nidan, or second-degree black belt.

Christian Germany has been a student at the AZDK for the past two years, and came to the school with a Junior Black Belt from another system. “We are very proud of Christian, because he was able to adapt to the way we do things, including learning new forms and self-defense techniques,” said Rob Streeter,chief instructor of the AZDK school, in the release.

Mackenzie Frank and Taryn Sedon, both members of the Adult Advanced Class at the school, are longtime members of the school. Both teens started in the youth programs at the school and worked their way up to the adult program as advanced brown belts before taking the adult black belt test.

Rachael Bailey and Jeff Streun are both longtime adult students and assistant instructors at the school.

“I’m especially happy to see more women [Sedon and Bailey] make it to black belt,” said Bonnie Streeter, who is the senior ranking black belt and co-owner of the AZDK school, in the release. “We are also very proud of how hard that everyone worked in getting ready for the test.”

The students started training as a group for the test, almost a year before the test date. In addition to the time they spent on the dojo floor, they also ran sprints and trained at area gyms to build the endurance needed for the test.

Having five students from a single club test for black belt is a rarity.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen this number of students successfully test for black belt from a single club,” said Michael Campos, founder of the ZDK, in the release.

For more information on this and other events at the AZDK, call 762-4723 or visit the club website for the latest news, including tournament and testing results, at www.americanzendokai.com.