"A black belt is a white belt that never gave up."
Whether it was a driving force or a "corny little quote", it is a message that resonated with Hayden Lowe and Logan Birchall as they earned their first and second black belts at Mudgee Martial Arts (MMA) last month.
The karate duo first walked into the dojo in the earlier stages of their lives both looking for a sport to keep them busy, and as the years went on, the pair continually progressed and have now reached the next level.
"For us, it takes a long time to get to a black belt. You've got to put in a lot of work, and to have that acknowledged I feel pretty chuffed," Birchall, who earned his second Dan Black Belt, said.
"It's definitely a big deal to get a black belt. Everyone, even if you're not in the sport, understand and recognise that it's a big achievement," Lowe, who earned his first Black Belt - Shodan Ho, said.
"You get out what you put in, if you work hard for it, you'll see the results and get there."
With over 30 years combined at Mudgee Martial Arts, the reason for dedicating much of their life to the dojo differs for the now senior instructors.
"The thing that kept me going more than anything is the ethos and atmosphere of the club. Sensei Geoff and Jacquie are not only talented, but they're lovely, supportive and welcoming so it's always been a good dojo to be a part of," Birchall said.
"I've tried a lot of different clubs and places to train outside of MMA but I just don't like any of them as much, they don't have that same ethos that I really enjoy.
"It's the discipline for me. I've always responded well to that, and I think the challenge is one of the biggest things for me too, not just with competition with other people but more so competition with yourself to really improve and see how far you can go," Lowe said.
While earning a black belt "is the key to the next chapter", both Mudgee natives plan on sticking with the sport but when it comes to whether they will continue to climb the grades, only time will tell.
"Geoff [Spice] always says 'it's just the beginning'. After you get your black belt, you've got all the building blocks, you've got all the basics, and then you can expand your knowledge and grow even more. There's no end point," Lowe said.
"Karate is a big part of who I am. The black belt isn't the end goal, it's just opening the door to the next chapter, and I definitely am looking forward to that."
"In terms of the belts and grades, I'm not too fussed. As proud as I am for my achievements thus far, I keep coming back because I just want to learn and train more. I find it therapeutic," Birchall said.
Mudgee Martial Arts are now taking enrolments and those interested in joining can attend an enrolment session on January 26 from 4.30pm to 5.30pm at the dojo or email email@example.com.
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