Two youths get belted

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 2, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

If the first-ever event at Jeff Bateman’s new school of karate was any indication, the Hampton martial arts institute should be a roaring success.

Last Friday, Bateman’s stepson Jeremy Hall and Lakeland student Joseph Jones were given black belt tests before the school’s grand opening (Bateman already owns a school on Portsmouth Boulevard). Hall, 14, who received his first degree belt at age eight, was going for the second degree, while Jones, 14, would be testing for the first one. Though students are normally not allowed to test for the second degree before the age of 16, tester Tadashi Yamashita, among the world’s best in the art of shorin ryu, gave Hall special permission.

Email newsletter signup

Three weeks ago, Bateman came into a class and told Hall and Jones that they’d soon be testing. Since then, the two youths stepped up their training.

&uot;We trained every day in kata (forms) and complexes (choreographed fighting),&uot; said Hall, a student at Kecoughtan High School. &uot;Practicing kata is like practicing football plays; you just drill until you just hear it and move.&uot;

For the past five years, Jones has been attending classes at Bateman’s three nights a week. &uot;In the beginning, I was just concentrating on getting the kata down,&uot; he said.

Finally, the day of the test arrived. &uot;The main thing was that I didn’t want to mess up,&uot; Hall said. &uot;I was ignoring it the whole day, up until the point that I saw (Yamashita). Then I got really nervous.&uot;

At about 3:30 p.m., things got going. The test started with a series of 10 katas. The boys filled the air with kicks, punches, and other moves, whipping through kihons, fukyus and naihanchis.

When they got to pinan shodans, however, things got unraveled – the boys performed several moves that aren’t in the kata.

&uot;What are you doing, sir?&uot; Yamashita asked. &uot;No mistakes!&uot;

&uot;We were on the money after that,&uot; Hall said with a laugh.

They improvised a brawl in complex action, and performed routines with a bo staff (long, thin piece of wood). A trip through kumite brought forth another acted fistfight, and Hall, per the second degree test, did a 52-move kata known as gojushiho.

&uot;There were no breaks,&uot; Jones said. &uot;After you did one thing, you tied your belt on and did another.&uot;

Though he’s adapt at running for miles at a time, not to mention hundreds and pushups and situps, Hall was surprised at the exhaustive nature of the 90-minute test.

&uot;I didn’t think it would be that hard from a physical aspect,&uot; he said. &uot;I knew the katas would be easy if I could just remember them, but we were both tired.&uot; Fortunately, it was all worth it; both passed their physical exams. But their night wasn’t over; as part of the school’s grand opening, they went out and performed several routines for those in attendance.

&uot;It’s going to be different,&uot; said Jones, who after years as a student can now move up to assistant instructor. &uot;I get to help out in class and tell them to do certain things.&uot;

Hall is one degree away from being an actual instructor, a rank open only to those that have at least a third degree belt. It’s a test that he’ll be able to take in as little as four years.

&uot;Ever since I got to first, I’ve been one step away from an instructor,&uot; he said. &uot;I can’t wait to make it there.&uot;