Luke Fleischer was just a boy in a white robe when he got started in Martial Arts. Now, his instructor called him a leading example for others.
Luke Fleischer makes breaking 3 inches of pine look easy.
But the 13-year-old knows its wasn't. Passing his first-degree black belt test was a goal he's been working toward, and the last two and a half years have all been geared toward preparing for that moment. This summer alone, he's spent almost 12 hours at United Martial Arts every day, and on Saturday, July 27, as his instructor tied his new belt around his waist, Luke saw his efforts come to fruition.
“It’s kind of satisfying," Luke said.
Stan Lee, chief instructor and founder of United Martial Arts, said it's been some time since the school's last black belt test. That's why he believes in the importance of the rest of his students witnessing the moment, especially those who are wondering if they could ever reach the same goal. He said Luke can be an inspiration to them.
“The most powerful form of leadership is through example," Lee said.
There aren't many children who stick with a set goal in mind for over half a decade, he added. This shows what can happen if an individual sets their mind to something and follows through. Lee teaches a mixed martial arts based self-defense course at his school.
Six years ago, Luke Fleischer and his sister Madison were two of 12 campers attending the United Martial Arts Summer Camp. Back then, they wore white robes, known as karategi. Luke was a yellow belt, and Madison was just getting started with mixed martial arts as a white belt. The Ormond Beach Observer captured a moment during that summer camp with both siblings practicing how to defend against a headlock. Luke was 6, and Madison was 5.
Now, 11-year-old Madison watched as Lee tied her brother's new belt around his waist. Soon, it'll be her turn.
“It kind of shows me that I can achieve it in the timeframe he did," Madison said.
The black belt test at United Martial Arts consists of four parts: grappling, striking, self-defense choreography and board breaking. Both Madison and Luke have spent years learning all those components, but in addition to that, Lee said they've also developed the principles of good character and how to be a leader.
It's come full-circle, as Madison and Luke now help teach other 5 and 6-year-olds.
Luke's overcome obstacles to obtain his black belt, but stayed motivated because of the support he received from his family and Lee.
“I’ve been encouraged by Mr. Stan because he tells me that I can do it," Luke said.
For Luke to obtain his black belt, he had to perform every martial arts skill he'd ever learn. Perfectly. Twice — first one-on-one with Lee earlier in the day, and then in front of his family, friends and fellow students.
It's an example of the perseverance Luke has learned through the years.
“One of the most important ancient sayings about martial arts is the idea of ‘fall down seven times. Get up eight,’" Lee said "... The idea that you learn from your mistakes and you move forward, and you keep moving forward and you don’t give up.”
This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, July 29, to clarify that United Martial Arts school teaches a mixed martial arts based self-defense course.