Hello. My name is Aeryn Mei-Ling Smith. I was born in Anhui Province in China and was adopted by my parents, Russ & Marley, when I was only 14 months old. I will be turning 9 years old in the next couple of weeks. I started karate at AmeriKick Karate Langhorne during the summer of 2008, when I was only 4 years old. I had taken a class with Sensei Chris Goffman when he came to my preschool to teach the kids. That August, my parents signed me up for regular classes. In the fall of 2010, I joined the Black Belt Club after I earned by Purple Belt. In the fall of 2011, I joined the Master Club after earning my 2nd Kyu Brown Belt and being asked to join the Langhorne Demo Team by Sensei Chris Millares. I have earned my way up to the rank of Red Belt, which I earned last fall. I placed in the AKL Tournament Top 10 for AmeriKick Langhorne in 2010-2011, and the AKL Tournament Top 10 for both AmeriKick Langhorne and AKL Pennsylvania in 2011-2012. I’m now into my 5th year of karate as I approach my Junior Black Belt.
I have been very fortunate in my years of taking karate to have worked with Senseis who have shown me what it means to be a Black Belt, and the things I can accomplish as a Black Belt. In my early days, my Senseis at AmeriKick Langhorne (Justin Smith, Chris Goffman and Melody Waterhouse) helped me grow into a talented young martial artist, as I earned my way from my White Belt up through my Blue Belt. In 2011, Sensei Chris Millares came to AmeriKick Langhorne and took me under his wing and helped me to grow faster. I went from Green Belt at the start of 2011 to Red Belt by the end of the year. This year, Sensei Chris M. has been helping me prepare for my Black Belt testing, as well as refine my musical and creative katas. I have also had the honor of working with other Senseis. Grand Master Dennis Tosten taught my class the power of using our minds in addition to our karate. He taught me some sparring techniques that will help to protect me. I have also worked with Sensei Mark Gallagher each month during the sparring and tricking sessions he holds at his school. He has shown me how to use my height as an advantage during sparring and how to protect myself from quick strikes while I’m attacking. He has also shown me warm-up exercises that work well when I’m going to be tricking. I met Sensei Emily Cid there, too, and she has been really helpful with my sparring.
As I approach my Black Belt testing, my dad and mom have been helping me to understand the importance of this achievement. I have loved doing karate since I started, especially the tournaments, Demo Team, and the friendships I am making with other students at AmeriKick. I have been learning so much, from the katas, weapons and sparring, as well as tricking. I am working very hard, taking about 6 – 8 classes a week as I learn more in preparation for testing. However, it hasn’t always been easy for me. Being shorter than most of the kids in my classes, it can be harder for me especially during sparring. I have strived to overcome this disadvantage. My Senseis have helped me to overcome this and worked with me to turn it into an advantage. When we practice self-defense, it is harder for me to do some techniques when my partner is taller than me. I know going forward my training will only get tougher. Having friends who are already Junior or Senior Black Belts, I see how hard they work in their classes and I know that I must do the same. One thing I really enjoy is the AmeriKick tournaments. I get to meet kids from other AmeriKick Karate schools, and I have been fortunate to do well. I hope to continue as I move into the Black Belt division.
What Are You Planning to Achieve on the Quest Towards Your Next Degree:
Once I get my Junior Black Belt, I do not plan to stop there. I want to keep working toward my Senior Black Belt and eventually to 1st Degree, and maybe even 2nd Degree Black Belt before I go off to college. I know that is a lot of work, and with the support of my parents and my Senseis, I think this is something that I can accomplish. It will be a lot of hard work over the next 8 to 10 years, but this is a goal that I want to achieve. One thing I look forward to doing as a Junior Black Belt is to be able to help the Senseis in teaching the younger students at AmeriKick Langhorne. I have wanted to do this for a while, and once I have my Junior Black Belt, I think this is something that I would be able to do, to give back to AmeriKick. I also look forward to learning the advanced katas I see the other Black Belts learning. It means working harder and practicing more frequently and for longer to reach the levels of discipline Black Belts should demonstrate.
Do I deserve the honor of a Junior Black Belt?
I believe I have demonstrated the discipline and desire to attain this honor. I have been looking forward to this since I received my Red Belt last fall, and I have been working very hard with all the Senseis to understand and exhibit the skills necessary to be considered for receiving my Junior Black Belt. I can only hope I have impressed upon them my desire to attain this goal.
I would like to give my thanks to many of the Senseis that have been there for me on my journey and helped me along the way:
Sensei Justin Smith
Sensei Chris Goffman
Sensei Melody Waterhouse
Sensei Chris Millares
Sensei Andrew Bacchus
Grand Master Dennis Tosten
Sensei Mark Gallagher
Sensei Vince Little
Sensei Doug Shaffer Jr.
Sensei Alicia Gallagher
Sensei Mike Sautner
Sensei Emily Cid
Sensei Juliette Rihl
Sensei Tessa Lukacs
Sensei Amanda Laverde