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Paynesville Press - May 17, 2006

PAHS junior earns black belt in karate

By Addi Larson

Bryce Fischbach earned his black belt in shotokan karate at a ceremony on Sunday, May 7, in St. Cloud

A junior at PAHS, Fischbach was 12 years old when he started learning karate. "I haven't remembered not being in karate," he said.

During his first two years of karate, he practiced on Mondays in Paynesville, and since his third year, he has also practiced on Wednesdays and Fridays in St. Cloud. He has earned a total of 10 shotokan karate belts, including white, yellow, orange, green, purple, and brown, before earning his black belt this month.

Fischbach earned his yellow belt at age 12 and was tested about every six months. There are ten levels of black belts. Fischbach has a shodan, which is a first-degree black belt, and is now considered a senpai to his fellow students, white belts through brown belts.

Fischbach, who has not failed a karate test, said that earning his black belt is, "just the beginning." He intends to keep studying karate.

Fischbach said that he was not "black-belt oriented" nor has he gotten in a fight since he has taken up karate. "I just want to improve my karate for myself," he remarked, noting irony in the fact that he is not learning karate for the glory or to learn how to fight.

He attributes this to a heightened sense of character and confidence these martial arts have taught him. "When I started out, I never even thought of being a black belt," he said. Fischbach said that he was shy in the seventh and eighth grades, and referred to himself as "a nerd." "I wouldn't tell anyone for the first couple of years that I was in karate," he said of his apprehension to share his new interest with peers.

Now, Fischbach has delivered speeches on karate in high school classes. "The teachers, they've been supportive." he said.

Fischbach also said that karate has made him more laid back. Now, if he dropped all of his books in the hallway at school, he would simply shrug it off with a mellow response, he said.

He said his style of karate is not the same as the style developed by Gichin Funakoshi - the founder of karate - in Okinawa, Japan, where karate originated, yet it is very similar. Fischbach said, "They normally have a picture of the founder at the front," and explained that students are required to bow before it when entering and leaving the building and kneel before it if they are late. "Humility and respect are two big things," Fischbach said.

Additionally, some of the first things he learned with a white belt were blocking, bowing, etiquette, physical stance, and punching.

During his rigorous black-belt test, his teachers verbally commanded him to perform basic defenses, emphasizing form and technique. The long combinations were requested in English. The short combinations in Japanese.

Fischbach competes in track and field at PAHS and considers this sport to be his cross-training for karate. He said that he had to miss a track event for his black-belt test, which his track coach was not overly elated about. Dedication has been the cornerstone to Fischbach's success in earning a black belt, and he noted that one thing he has learned has been, "You have to go to karate. Karate won't come to you."

Fischbach said that from purple belt to mid-brown belt he became frustrated with his karate. "I noticed what everybody was doing right and what I was doing wrong," he explained. "We have so many people quit at brown belt because they're too afraid to become a black belt."

Those who have earned black belts can be especially rough on those working to earn their own, noted Fischbach, who said his parents "helped me a lot." His parents, Michelle and Scott Fischbach, have supported him by helping to pay for his lessons and through encouragement of his efforts to attain this honor.

Fischbach said his sensei (principal teacher) in Paynesville, Tom Klavetter, and his sensei in St. Cloud, Tim Kiel, as well as his four senpais (co-teachers) in St.Cloud have also been extremely supportive throughout this experience.

Fischbach recently learned some tae kwon do by studying it on the Internet and cited a back injury among the reasons why he truly appreciates shotokan karate.

Fischbach has worked with youth in Paynesville through karate and said he might volunteer to teach karate in the near future, passing on his gifts of distinction to those eager to learn as he once was.

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