After eight years of commitment and dedication, Seabreeze graduate Breanna Blackwood successfully tested for her first-degree black belt Saturday, July 30 at Stan Lee's United Martial Arts studio.
“Headlock-takedown,” Stan Lee said.
Breanna Blackwood listened to the command and executed the move perfectly with the assistance of her grappling partner, Jonathan Johnson. That became the kickoff to her first degree black belt test Saturday, July 30 at Stan Lee’s United Martial Arts studio on Granada Avenue.
Testing consists of four parts: grappling, striking, self-defense choreography and board breaking which must be completed without any errors. Blackwood conquered all in just under one hour.
“For eight years, she has been pursuing this goal,” Lee said. “I don’t think I need to say anything more than that about how special an individual Miss Breanna is in today’s world. Most children want to quit a sport in the first week, if they don’t get it right.”
Blackwood started in Lee’s after-school program with her twin brother Brian eight years ago after a stint at the YMCA. She attributes her involvement in martial arts to her mom who wanted to give them the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves.
“I am incredibly grateful to my mom,” she said. “She’s always wanted to give us opportunities she never had when she was a kid. This really changed a lot of things for me when I started coming here.”
“For eight years, she has been pursuing this goal. I don’t think I need to say anything more than that about how special an individual Miss Breanna is in today’s world. Most children want to quit a sport in the first week, if they don’t get it right.”
STAN LEE, owner of Stan Lee's United Martial Arts
Initially, Blackwood had stage fright and was prone to tears. Doing basic martial arts moves made her feel anxious if she thought they would injure her training partner. Lee’s program helped her overcome anxiety and offered a means to tackle failure, which is a key component to success. Students are required to test perfectly in order to earn a belt. Blackwood believes this taught her that failure is a positive aspect of reaching goals by revealing the error and making it unforgettable; therefore, fixable.
“One of the problems with the world, right now, is people are so afraid to fail that they won’t even try,” Lee said. “You can’t succeed if you don’t try.”
By eighth grade, Blackwood had attained her deputy black belt, then began her freshman year at Seabreeze High School. She joined the marching band, which entailed after-school practice and Friday night football games. Martial arts began to take a back seat to her frenzied schedule and she questioned whether she should continue. COVID hit in her sophomore year and her family took a year off from all extracurricular activities.
In June 2021, Blackwood returned to Lee’s. It took her six months to re-introduce herself to the intricacies of martial arts and to train for her first degree black belt test.
“If you had to look at one common denominator from the students that have managed to earn a black belt here, it’s that they had strong parental support who were guiding them and explaining the importance of not giving up on their goals” Lee said. “It’s the parents that continue to support their kids who help them become successful.”
Blackwood credits the program for boosting her self-discipline and confidence in herself.
“If you’re not confident in yourself, who’s going to be confident in you,” she said.
This fall, Blackwood heads to the University of Florida to pursue a degree in public health. She has already researched several martial arts clubs on campus and plans on going “club shopping” when she arrives.