Local martial arts studio kicking into high gear

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; For students of most any martial art, the black belt is the ultimate goal.

Be it Karate, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, or any other form, martial artists spend years training for the chance to earn their black belt.

Two Natchez residents have now gotten to that point multiple times over.

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Moo Sul Kwan Martial Arts School instructor Ken Rogers attained his sixth-degree black belt, while 15-year-old student Eryn Secrest earned her second-degree black belt recently at training in Murphysboro, Ill.

Rogers took a light-hearted approach to achieving the honor.

&8220;Shoot, I&8217;m getting old,&8221; he said. &8220;You have to wait six years from the time you get your fifth-degree black belt until you can try out for the sixth-degree. You have to wait five years to try out for your fourth. It goes down like that. I&8217;ve been at it a long time. (Eryn) won&8217;t be eligible to try out for the third-degree until she&8217;s 18. But getting this second-degree has made her able to be a full instructor. She&8217;s embraced that. She&8217;s dove right in and helped.&8221;

Secrest said she was incredibly happy to earn her second-degree black belt.

&8220;I was very excited about it,&8221; she said. &8220;I&8217;m glad I&8217;ve reached this level and I hope I get to a higher one eventually.&8221;

For the students at Moo Sul Kwan, which teaches a form of martial arts known as Hapkido, there are plenty of opportunities to learn the craft.

&8220;We just got through with summer camp,&8221; Rogers said. &8220;Eryn showed her ability as an instructor there. We had a great summer camp. We&8217;ve got classes in the morning and at night. Our kids&8217; classes are full. They are running out of space. I might have to start a waiting list. But with people on vacation and everything else this summer, it works out nicely.&8221;

Rogers said he had lots of goals for his school &8212; as well as himself &8212; in the coming year.

&8220;I&8217;d like our adults class to grow,&8221; he said. &8220;We need to develop that one more. It&8217;s a class that has a lot of state troopers, sheriff&8217;s department employees, police, and firemen. Hopefully the word can get out more. I want to continue teaching kids, and hopefully finding more that can stay with us for a while. I just got my sixth-degree black belt, which is the second-highest in Moo Sul Kwan. Our grand master is a seventh-degree black belt. I&8217;d like to get there at some point, but that&8217;s a few years and a lot of studying away.&8221;

For those who are tough enough, however, Secrest feels that Hapkido can provide virtually limitless benefits.

&8220;When I started I used to have seizures a lot,&8221; said Secrest, who has been involved in various martial arts for seven years and in hapkido for four. &8220;I don&8217;t have them anymore. I also used to have a really bad temper, but it&8217;s helped me get it under contol. It&8217;s helped me in a lot of ways.&8221;

Rogers agreed that she had improved greatly in the time she had been under his tutelage.

&8220;Her technical capabilities and speed have just gone through the roof,&8221; he said. &8220;Her athleticism has improved so much. She has so much fluid movement she&8217;s really tough. She has learned all our requirements. She&8217;s done a lot.&8221;

While there may be plenty more to learn, as well as a while to go before she can test for her next black belt, Secrest said she is happy to be where she is.

&8220;I will continue to do this until I can&8217;t do it anymore,&8221; she said.