Mom gets kicks by setting example

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 24, 2005

It would be intimidating enough to take a black belt test from one’s karate instructor, who just happens to be a sixth-degree black belt himself. But to have to take the test from the person that the instructor (or sensei, as he’d be referred to in class) calls master? Absolutely gut-wrenching.

Maybe, but that’s the situation in which Brenda Peters found herself Sept. 9 at the YMCA in Virginia Beach. In front of her instructor Jeff Bateman, her son Alex (himself a green belt), her husband Chris and another student, the Windsor homemaker was ready to test for karate’s top belt, and she’d have to impress Master Tadashi Yamashita, a ninth-degree black belt and one of the world’s most well-known authorities on the martial art.

&uot;I knew it was coming up,&uot; she said of the test. &uot;It was a thrill. It was an absolute honor to them to know how much it meant to me. There was lots of pressure. I was standing up there representing five years of my life.&uot;

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Four nights a week, Peters heads to class with Bateman, once at his Hampton school and three at his Portsmouth Boulevard location. She’s been an assistant instructor since obtaining her green belt in 2002.

&uot;I love it,&uot; said Peters, who’s overcome two knee operations to stick with karate. &uot;I love the physical fitness; I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. It teaches me to defend myself, which is important in this day and age.&uot; Fortunately, she continues, she’s never been in such a situation.

Yamashita asked Peters to perform a series of open-handed katas (forms). Then she worked with a bo stick, one of several weapons she’s trained in. Finally, Yamashita asked her about her personal philosophy on the importance of karate.

She told him about the fitness and self-defense aspects. Then she went a little deeper into her personal feelings.

&uot;It helps me set a good example for my boys,&uot; she said (she has two sons). &uot;This hasn’t been something that’s easy. I’ve had to work really hard at it. But if you want something bad enough, if you work really hard, it’ll happen.&uot;

Yamashita and Bateman went into a short mini-huddle. Then they came back and told Peters she’d passed.

&uot;I had a huge smile,&uot; she said. &uot;I felt fantastic. I’m a huge critic of myself; I always think there were things I could have done better. It was a relief that it was over.&uot;

Bateman and Chris had another surprise; at a banquet the next night, Bateman presented Peters with a black belt that Chris had asked him to purchase on a 2003 trip to Japan.

&uot;We knew she’d stick with it,&uot; Bateman said. &uot;If anybody needs any help, they know they can go to her, because she knows everything. I’m privileged to have her.&uot;

In December, Peters will finish out her test, and it’s going to be physical – she’ll have to run five miles, do 2,000 kicks, 500 pushups and situps, and then spar with up to four black belts at a time, and Bateman.

&uot;That’s going to be very, very hard,&uot; she said. &uot;Not only will it be physically tough, but mentally too. I’ll have to tell myself to keep getting up.&uot;