I joined my first karate class when I was eight years old, attending an outreach program put on by Dubuque Karate Club at Sinsinsawa Mound. I decided to join karate because it was something different from anything else I've ever done and I didn't know much about it. When the session at Sinsinawa ended, I decided to continue my lessons with cousins in Dubuque under Grandmaster Schmitt and Master Schmitt. At nine years old, I joined the adult class and I've been with Grandmaster Schmitt and the Dubuque Karate Club ever since. Easily the youngest and smallest, I was welcomed by my instructors and older classmates who helped me to become the best martial artist I could be. When I was about twelve years old, I was asked to join the Dubuque Karate Club Demonstration Team. I was excited and proud to have been chosen to be a part a part of the team that represented something that was quickly becoming such an important aspect of my life. We were able to share with others what we what we had learned and show them a small part of the amazing world of karate. Under Master Schmitt's guidance in the team, my attitude and skills not only as a martial artist, but as a person, grew and improved and helped me as I got older. And now, instructing the kid's classes, I am able to help kids grow as martial artists in the same way others have helped me. Teaching is always a rewarding experience, and hopefully I'm helping and encouraging them to keep going, just like my instructors did with me. Twenty years later, I am still an active member of the Dubuque Karate Club and can't imagine doing anything else. All of the people at the Dubuque Karate Club are a second family, and I know that if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have made it as far as I have. They are the main reason I stayed so long. I see good people come and go, but the friendships forged at the Dubuque Karate Club are strong and solid, as are my relationships with my instructors. We all help and push each other to become better. One of the main reasons I remained at this school with Grandmaster Schmitt is because he makes us work for every one of our belts, which makes it that much more satisfying when we finally achieve the next level. I have now earned my 3rd degree E Dan rank, because Grandmaster Schmitt would not have given it to me if I hadn't, and I am proud of that. Thousands of hours of training, years of sweat, hundreds of classes, countless bumps and bruises... earning a black belt makes all of that completely worthwhile.