• 45°

Locals earn black belts

NATCHEZ — Jacob Hamilton kept getting picked on by bullies, so he decided to try out martial arts.

Six years later and a second-degree black belt in hand, it’s probably not a good idea for any bullies to try and mess with Hamilton now.

Hamilton, 13, a student at Ken Rogers’ Moo Sul Kwan martial arts school, completed his testing for the second-degree black belt in Murphysboro, Ill., this past weekend. The testing required him to show memorization of three forms, as well as his abilities to spar with an opponent.

“I had more people supporting me this time when I went for second degree, and Master Rogers said it was a big improvement on my past tests,” Hamilton said.

“Getting (second-degree) means I’m capable of doing more techniques and defending myself than when I was a younger rank.”

Hamilton got his black belt three years ago, and said belts white through red only required one form, or a series of punches and kicks, to memorize. For each black belt rank, however, Hamilton said he’s required to memorize three forms.

“They were hard for me to memorize when I was little, because it was harder for me to pay attention,” Hamilton said.

“As I got older, though, I had a longer attention span, and my mind developed more. I don’t have a problem messing them up if I’ve practiced them enough. I used to have problems (messing up) when I wouldn’t practice them at home.”

Although Hamilton started martial arts to keep from getting picked on, he said he’s only had to use it once — and that was to protect others, not himself.

“Some younger kids got into an argument with some 13-year-olds, and I was 9 at the time. It wasn’t that bad of a fight, I just didn’t want them to be in trouble, since they were younger. Me and a friend took on the two of (the 13-year-olds),” Hamilton said.

With six years of experience under his belt, Hamilton said he has no plans of quitting anytime soon.

“I’m going to do this as long as my body can stand it. When I get to the age where I’m mature enough to run my own business and be able to keep it steady, I want to start my own (martial arts) school,” he said.

And he’s not alone in that endeavor. Fellow black belt Eryn Secrest, 19, also wants to open her own martial arts school one day.

“I already teach the morning class here, and I feel like I’m slowly going toward my goals. I’m a third-degree black belt, and when I go for my fourth degree in three years, I’ll have to test other people in order to move up,” Secrest said.

For Rogers, seeing his young students move up to the point where they can teach at their own school is a very rewarding experience, he said.

“It’s wonderful, hearing that from them. I started a school up in Vicksburg 15 years ago, and I have a couple of fourth-, third- and second-degree black belts there,” Rogers said.

“When I decided I’d come back to Natchez, I told them, ‘Guys, y’all take the school.’ There’s no greater feeling than seeing your students grow up and be successful.”

Rogers, whose school teaches both Hapkido and Taekwondo, also received his first-degree black belt this past weekend in Hapkido, something he takes great pride in being able to accomplish.

“I already have a sixth-degree black belt in Taekwondo, and I’m really happy to finally make first-degree in Hapkido. Now I have to go back and polish the stuff I already know,” Rogers said.

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