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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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The Black Belt Test
Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We all have different types of challenges in life that we go through, some involuntary, some voluntary. This past Sunday I dove into one of those voluntary challenges when I tested for second degree black belt. Let me preface all this by saying I’ve been studying martial arts for twenty years now and in my adult years I feel my material has become a lot more complete, that I have a better understanding of Kempo as a whole. With this in mind I woke up at an ungodly hour, especially for a Sunday, hopped in a car, and was in a Hartford gymnasium at 8:30AM ready to test my skills.

Something told me that my constant training at my gym was also going to be of help on this day as I’m used to pushing myself extremely hard so handling what others throw at me, no matter how crazy it may be, was something I felt I was ready for. This was going to be a four and a half hour physically demanding test, but I wasn’t as worried as some of my peers. Praise the Lord for all the treadmill work I’ve been doing because it has helped my stamina immensely.

We started off by breaking off into small groups of about a dozen. The people testing for black were in their own groups while those of us testing for second degree black or higher (like me) were in groups of their own. There were only three of our higher ranking groups and unfortunately I would find mine had a guy in it who felt this test was his audition for the UFC, or Hollywood, or some big break in some way. The first time I worked with him he hit me in the groin, which was adequately protected with an athletic supporter, but his reaction told me everything I needed to know about him. He said “you’re wearing a cup right?” And when I said yes he replied “oh then it’s OK then.” Uhh, no, no it’s not, you just hit me in the groin, that’s some terrible control. Within two hours nobody was willing to work with the groin striker.

The vast majority of the test for my group took place outside in a field. It had rained heavily the night before so the field was soaking wet and the first time we had to fall for a technique we landed with noticeable splats. Our gis soaked through within ten minutes, we knew this was going to be a long day. It was on the sopping wet field, however, that I had my first bit of payback on the groin striker. We were working on a concept, grappling from the position of the person who was just taken down in a technique. This was something I’d worked on in class so I was somewhat confident in my abilities, apparently more confident that some of the others I was testing with. While lying on the ground I grabbed my opponents hand, threw my legs in the air aiming for opposite sides of his neck, and attempted one of the craziest armbars ever. I was only halfway successful with the attempt, but it received a terrific reaction from the rest of the people I was testing with, including a very audible “DAMN” from another student.

After numerous high ranking proctors took us outside for different parts of our test we all landed back inside at the four hour mark. Tired and beaten down, we were told to get our gear ready because it was time to spar. To say our moves were slightly sloppy at this point would be an understatement. That being said I don’t think the proctors cared particularly at this juncture of the test, they were helping to usher in the friends and family who came to see everyone earn their new ranks.

For the sparring we formed a line within our group and two people would spar. The person who scored the first point would stay up to spar while the loser would go to the end of the line. This was rapid fire sparring and some of us realized losing was better than winning because it gave us time to breathe. Oh I said some because the groin striker treated the sparring at the four hour mark like his life was depending on each fight. I give him slight credit for having that kind of drive, but then I take it right away from him for not having enough self-control. The highlight of the sparring for me came when I had to fight him. I got into my regular stance, but when the proctor raised his hand to start the fight I took one step back to fight lefty (“I’m awkward I box lefty” – Jay-Z). The look on dude’s face was priceless, it was completely “WTF?” Two powerful right hand jabs later I had set him up nicely for a left-handed body shot, which scored quickly. I think the proctor was pretty impressed with this, and regardless of whether he was or not, I was!

Four and half hours after the whole process started we were awarded our next ranks. So I’m now a second degree black belt. What does this mean? This means I still have a lot of learning to do, actually more learning than ever. My goals now include relearning everything I already know but now learning it as a second degree black belt, and figuring out everything being a second degree black belt entails. It not just about the material, it’s about the rank and what it means within the system and my own dojo. It’s also about staying humble and approachable. So all in all the higher the rank the more one has to learn. Of course, with the new rank I’m also the most ass kicking writer in the entertainment industry, but something tells me I shouldn’t make that the headline on my resume.

posted by Adam Bernard @ 9:35 AM  
  • At 5:04 AM, Blogger Ketchums said…

    Congrats again on the belt....and if you want, I can come up there and mess that groin striker UP lol, journalists gotta stick together

    Check my newest blog, it's about DJ Premier


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