By Kelly Gilbert

Note: Kelly Gilbert is a 9-year-old junior yellow belt who attends school in St.Catharines. She was assigned the task of writing and performing a speech to her peers. She chose the topic of karate and this is what she presented. I didn't ask what her teacher gave her as a final mark, but I gave her an A+.

(Bow) I know you usually bow at the end of speeches, but I am bowing as a sign of respect, like karate people do.

Honorable judges staff and students, respect is the number one thing in karate, because it isn't just respect for the sensei it is respect for your opponent and your peers. For those of you that don't know what a sensei is, he or she is the teacher or master of karate. To be a sensei you have to be a black belt. I am going to be a sensei when I reach black belt, right now I am a yellow belt. The order of kyu belts which are the colored belts goes, white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, red and last but not least black. To get your yellow, orange, green or blue belt you have to pass a required kata and you have to have at least 4 months or 50 hours minimum training time. To get your brown, red or black belt you have to do the same, except you need a minimum of 6 months or 75 hours training time. A kata is a form of stances and movements, a red belt is awarded to a person who is 15 or under and has all the requirements to be a black belt but isn't old enough. A sensei or black belt has to be 16 years or older. Just because you have passed the minimum time requirements it doesn't mean you have the right to your next belt, you have to earn that right, not just show up.

When you are a sensei you have degrees, the highest degree is 10th. Karate people are called karateka. Karateka train in a dojo and were a pajama-like garment called a gi. Karate is related to judo and jujitsu. There are different schools that teach karate, my school is called St.Catharines Wado Kai Karate and is a part of the Shintani Wado Kai Karate Federation. Wado means "Way of Harmony." In Wado Kai we do exercises, breathing warmups, bow to our peers, our sensei and also bow to pictures of Sensei Ohtsuka and Sensei Shintani. Sensei Ohtsuka is the founder of Wado Kai. Sensei Shintani and Sensei Ohtsuka were very good friends until Sensei Ohtsuka died in 1982. Sensei Shintani was one of Sensei Ohtsuka's karateka. Sensei Shintani was appointed to the head of Wado Kai for North America. Sensei Shintani has trained for over 50 years and is still teaching and training!! Right now he is a Sensei of 9th degree and is also the highest ranking sensei in North America. Karate is more than 1000 years old and originated in Eastern Asia. During the 17th century it became highly developed as an art in Okinawa (O-kin-ow-ah), Japan.

I hope my speech encourages you to learn self-defense, self-discipline, self-respect, respect for other people and to always, always have a positive attitude.

I would like to finish up right now with a saying from Gichin Funakoshi (Gee-shin Foona-ko-she), the founder of modern day karate:

"I come to you with only karate, empty hands. I have no weapons but should I be forced to defend myself, my principals or my honor, should it be a matter of life or death, of right or wrong, then here are my weapons… KARATE, MY EMPTY HANDS".

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