A decade in the making!

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 7, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Deshler Davies likes to run his mouth. &uot;I thought I was really tough when I first started taking karate,&uot; recalls the 18-year-old Nansemond River High School student. &uot;I once told someone that I could beat them with my hands tied behind my back.&uot;

When Davies’ instructors (or senseis, as they are addressed in class) at Jeff Bateman’s School of Karate found out what he’d said, they took him up on the offer, tying his hands behind his back before he battled a fellow student.

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Davies didn’t get beaten up, but he learned a valuable lesson about karate. &uot;It taught me to keep my mouth shut,&uot; he says.

Or did it? &uot;Hey,&uot; Davies calls to Bateman’s blonde stepson Jeremy Hall, 12, who received his black belt at age eight. &uot;You look like Billy Idol!&uot;

Yes, Davies does have a big mouth. But it’s nowhere near as big as his heart. That’s what he’s been proving to his senseis, Renshi (highest instructor) Bateman, and himself for the past 10 years.

&uot;I was really into the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I was younger,&uot; he recalls. &uot;When I saw them on TV, I said, ‘Hey, I want to do that!’&uot;

The then-8-year-old enrolled at Bateman’s school. But for about the first year, he could only come once a week. &uot;I was out of town a lot on test days,&uot; he remembers, referring to the days in which the school’s students are tested for promotion to the next belt. Missing a testing day can prove very costly to participants; blue belt tests, for example, are held only every third month.

Eventually, Davies stepped up his attendance to two and three nights a week. &uot;It was instilled in me,&uot; he says. &uot;I was always a very competitive kid, and my parents always taught me never to quite anything. No matter how bad it gets, see it through.&uot;

Bateman estimates that an average time to earn one’s black belt is between four and five years. After taking lessons for just over six years, Davies kicked (literally) himself into high gear. &uot;I always thought that a black belt was in my reach, but up until three or four years ago, it wasn’t my highest goal ever.&uot; On Aug. 2, two days after Davies turned 18, his goal started to become a reality.

After getting off work at 2 p.m., Davies rushed home, gulped down two huge glasses of water, and took a power nap. A few hours later, he began his black belt test on a Holland farm owned by another of Bateman’s students.

The first part of the test was a five-mile run. Davies, who claims to be immune to cramping, received a natural refreshment during his jog; a thunderstorm dumped gallons on water down on him. &uot;I was drinking the rainwater and feeling it cool me down,&uot; he said.

But Davies’ thirst wasn’t quite quenched by the second part of his test; 500 situps and 500 pushups. &uot;I was so thirsty that I was drinking water out of the puddles when I went down during my pushups!&uot; he exclaims.

Following his extensive aerobic routine, Davies climbed onto a wall and did 2000 kicks, all of which had to be above waist level. He then took a 30-minute run through the farm’s cornfields, many of which were covered in three-inch-deep mud.

Because karate is as much about developing oneself spiritually and mentally as physically, the test didn’t only measure Davies’ physical prowess. Attempting to goad the young man into losing his temper and quitting, several of the school senseis took him on in hand-to-hand (and mouth) combat. &uot;I started off fighting one-on-one, then two-on-one, then three, then four!&uot; he said. During Davies’ entire ordeal, several other black belts had been heaping verbal abuse upon him.

But he wasn’t alone. Bateman’s wife Susan, who was conducting the examination as a way of qualifying for her second-degree black belt, kept Davies under control. &uot;I was pepping him up,&uot; Susan remembers. &uot;The rest of them were trying to intimidate him, and I was pulling him aside and talking to him, reassuring him. It was my job to make sure that he didn’t get to the point where he quit. He had to pass for me to pass.&uot;

Her methods worked. After the skirmishes, the bruised and exhausted Davies went through his katas (form demonstrations) and showed his skills with the bo and nunchuck weapons.

Though he and Susan passed their respective night-long tribulations, Davies still had one more wrangle to take care of. On Tuesday night, he and Bateman went fist to gloved fist at the school. &uot;By the end of it, he had me pinned against the ground,&uot; Davies says. &uot;It’s hard to fight someone who’s been watching you fight for 10 years and knows exactly what you’re going to do.&uot; He was effective enough; Davies became Bateman’s 19th student to earn karate’s highest belt.

Susan, who had aggravated an old knee injury during the first trial, ran through a 54-move kata as the final step toward the second degree. &uot;I was trying to block out the pain,&uot; she says. &uot;But kata just comes with practice. I did the routine 10 or 11 times a night.&uot;

Even after his painful trial, Davies is already looking forward to his second-degree test, which he can take in 2005. &uot;I’d do it all again! I’d do even more if I have to.&uot;

But there’s just one problem; karate might keep Davies from following his folks’ advice to see things through to the end. &uot;There’s no end to karate! No matter how good you get, there’s always something else to learn!&uot;

In other local martial arts news, Wayne Spencer’s Warrior Club put on a demonstration at Triple T Gymnastics to celebrate National Gymnastics Day on Saturday. 19 of Spencer’s tae kwon do and hapkido students took part in the event.

&uot;I really appreciate all the parents that brought their children to participate,&uot; Spencer said. &uot;The kids really like the breaking of the boards, especially the ones that can do the flying side kick-jump in the air and break one or more boards and land on their feet.&uot; Participants from white to black belt from ages five to 37 broke boards for the crowd.