Luca Berichon: How my journey to Black belt has changed my life

Hello, my name is Luca Berichon.

When I think back to when I first started karate, the idea of gaining a Black Belt seemed like a journey simply out of reach. That journey was turned on its head when Covid hit.

Having lessons in the lounge room via zoom and completing my first grading with Sensei Cohen in the backyard was quite strange. There were also times where I thought I might not reach this goal but the people around me and my growing self-belief pushed me on.

When I think about my attitudes to family I definitely have to start with Mum.

Mum keeps me focused and reminds me about needing to have the hunger for black belt.

She always encourages me to keep going and to be better than the last time.

Secondly, Dad for helping me to remember how important practice is. That consistent practice ahead of all other activities such as the skatepark or Xbox is the only way to achieve the high standard required of karate. It’s also about knowing and owning what you say. Your word is linked to your character. When you commit to something, your word is your bond with yourself to see it through.

And lastly my brother Liam. You couldn’t ask for a better crash test dummy for bunki.

The challenge of starting at a new school four years ago was made even harder with Covid restrictions. And even though we were home schooling, I have always believed that you need to come to school happy, ready to learn and to make the most of your learning time.

My attitude to quality work has been to stay focused on the task at hand and to focus on the positive, not the negative…don’t sweat the small stuff and to take your time.

As Sensei Kelie once said “If you take the cookies out of the oven and they’re still soft… then you put them back in and give them more time”.

I have learned that being honest with myself helps me to keep moving forward. Being able to tell yourself that it’s going to be ok, even in a tough moment. At the end of pre-testing I felt really disappointed with myself but I needed to accept the feedback given to me and to listen to the people around me. It was a ‘kick in the backside’ to do better. Not just because I needed to do better… but also because I could do better.

On the way home from pre-testing my Mum talked with me on why Kyoshi spoke about how important it is to protect the integrity of the Black Belt… and that I would understand this better when I was wearing one.

To wear a Black Belt means more than just achieving another grading, it means that I am also responsible for upholding, promoting and protecting that standard. And as my Mum regularly reminds me, “they don’t just give Black Belts out in a weet-bix packet”.

My self-confidence has grown exponentially since starting karate because it’s not just a sport but also a culture that I love and am interested in. It’s been something that has helped me learn qualities to become a better human being including gratitude, determination and empathy. It’s helped me cope with moving to a new area, new school and meeting new people and its taught me skills like humility and kindness.

When I achieved 10th Kyu it seemed to be the time when I knew I could do this…I had the hunger for more. Being here today is one of my greatest achievements…showing you all that I’m busting down the door to the black belt house.

I believe my best leadership skills are that I am easy to approach and ask for help, I am always in a happy mood at training and I always want to be Sensei Kelie’s crash test dummy for bunki!

I see myself as a good sport always ready to help, always trying to make a tough situation fun and always trying my best and striving for excellence.

Before starting karate I would describe myself as someone who was a bit shy and a bit of a nerd. In the past I’ve experienced bullying at school because of those things. Karate has given me confidence to feel comfortable in my own skin. I now see myself as a funny, happy, ‘out-there’ kind of kid who loves to socialise and loves to go to school. Now I have the confidence to deal with bullies and to help other people going through what I went through. Karate has given me confidence to try different things and venture outside my comfort zone.

When I think about my goals, I firstly think about ‘big picture’ goaIs like living a long healthy life and living it to the full. I’d like to travel the world, learn how to play an instrument and work in a job I love! However achieving smaller goals like doing well at school, practicing my karate and being the best human being I can will put me on the right path.

There are many people I am grateful to.

My parents have always encouraged me to keep aiming for black belt and that persistence towards this type of achievement will be something that is really worth the effort.

Sensei Anna has been someone who always encouraged and supported me and who has pushed me to the limit in black belt prep. Sensei Anna has helped me find my spirit and understand that it is one of the most important things in karate.

Sensei Kelie has kept me motivated and focused. I really appreciate the time she has taken recently to help take my karate to the level I need to be at. It’s made me feel like I should be here today.

My friend Sempai Austin. We go to school together, go to the skate park and do karate together. Austin has been a great friend by encouraging and supporting me through this time.

To the team at the Dojo. There are many people here who have given me the opportunity and support to achieve Black Belt. They have taught me their ways of the soul and spirit of karate and I now feel that I am part of this culture.

Arigato gozaimasu…Thank you.