Two student martial artists obtain second degree black belts


Eric Swenson (12) participates in a portion of the test focusing on a technique called flow drill. This test, which took place at West Valley College, was hosted by the Ernie Reyes West Coast World Martial Arts. Ernie Reyes, according to Eric Swenson, “is an 8th degree black belt, founded the association in 65, and still kicking.”

by Jessica Fred Chang

Kicks, punches, and beads of sweat flying everywhere. Such intensity was present at the martial arts second-degree-black belt test this past weekend, which sophomore Ashwini Iyer and senior Eric Swenson (12) attended.

Held at West Valley College by Ernie Reyes West Coast World Martial Arts, the test took place over three days: 9/24, 9/28, and 9/29. On the first day, boxing and grappling material were tested. On the second, a written portion was administered as well as tests on kicks, forms, and knife and hand disarms. The last day’s events included board breaking, open forms, a show, and conditioning.

“I had a ridiculous amount of adrenaline going. I honestly don’t know what I was looking like, what I was seeing,” Eric said. “It’s kind of just a memory for me. I honestly didn’t feel like I was in my body when I did it.”

According to Ashwini, the test was taken in three different days due to the sheer number of testers, and she found the first to be the most stressful.

“Tryouts is when you actually perform,” she said. “That’s where they cut you, depending on whether you’re good enough to actually test. That is actually the highest pressure I’ve ever gone through because that’s where all my training pays off.”

Besides all the physical training, performing, and testing, a written portion of the test is important to the overall evaluation.

“The written test [is] where you talk about your mental position and what you’ve learned throughout your time,” Ashwini said. “You write small paragraphs, and you have to memorize certain concepts you’ve learned throughout your training.”

The hardest aspect of the testing varied greatly for Ashwini and Eric. Ashwini found the boxing portion most challenging.

“I would definitely train harder in boxing,” she said. “I [felt] like I slacked off on that because I didn’t think I did as well as I wanted to on the test. There’s so much new material in that section that’s different from first degree.”

The most challenging part for Eric, however, was less about technique and more regarding the setting of the testing.

“[The test was] all on the hardwood floor, barefoot, which is probably the most painful part of the test. My feet are still killing me, and it’s been a couple days,” Eric said.

After the testing, a sleepover was held in celebration of the completion of the test.

“First degree candidates and second degree candidates just kind of mesh together for the night of integration,” Eric said. “You just be weird, dance around, and you specifically take off your different belts so that you’re not marked as a specific rank.”

As of now, Ashwini and Eric have different plans for their future involvement in martial arts.

“Martial arts [is] my life. It’s made me who I am,” Ashwini said. “It’s not like I was somebody, and I went into martial arts and it changed me. It’s shaped me. I can’t imagine not doing martial arts.”

As for her black-belt goals, Ashwini wants to test for the third-degree by senior year and is unsure about her martial arts career in college.

Eric, on the other hand, intends to focus on teaching martial arts for now.

“I’m going to be teaching. I’m not planning on going for my third degree anytime soon because it takes at least two years generally, and I’ll be in college,” he said.

He plans on continuing martial arts through his life, possibly even after college.