After years of study in N. Laurel, karate students get black belts


March 22, 2002|By Betsy Diehl | Betsy Diehl,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THEY SEEMED to defy gravity with twists, spins and kicks. Controlled movements, precisely executed and impeccably timed, looked like well-choreographed dances. Had there been ice, they could have been figure skaters; were it not for their belted Gi uniforms, they could have been dancers. Instead, they were karate students, testing for their black belts Saturday at D&S Karate.

Earning a black belt in karate is a notable achievement; students spend years preparing. But there is added significance to this group: They are the first students to have started at the North Laurel studio as beginners and followed the program to the top level.

"It's rewarding to see them go from white belts all the way up to black belts," said Seth Ismart, 27, the studio's owner and master instructor. "It was a lot of work. They had special classes to prepare them. I was nervous, too, for them, but they did well."

Most of the seven students who earned black belt status last weekend started studying martial arts at D&S shortly after it opened in June 1998.

"It's a good diverse group," said Ismart, who graduated from Hammond High School and has been practicing karate since age 6.

Part of the diversity is from the wide age range of the students, which includes a 9-year-old elementary school pupil and her 36-year-old mother.

Courtney Murdock of Scaggsville started karate lessons at D&S when she was 5. Her enthusiasm soon rubbed off on her mother, Shirley, and sister, Sam, 15. After two months of driving Courtney to karate lessons and then sitting on the sidelines to watch, Shirley and Sam decided to join.

"If I'm going to be up there with you, I'm going to do it myself," Murdock recalls telling Courtney. The three earned their black belts together Saturday.

"I love being able to do this with my kids," Murdock said. "You don't get to be on the same soccer team or softball team. I liked that we could do an activity together."

For Scaggsville resident Cassie Smoot, a senior at UMBC, convenience played a part in her decision to take karate lessons. "I used to take dance and gymnastics," she said. "When I started college, I needed something that was close to home." Now that she has a black belt, she plans to teach a modified karate program to preschool-age children, she said.

Others earning black belts Saturday were Bryan Miller, 10, of Scaggsville and Daniel Bankman, 12, of Clarksville. Tim Pierce, 33, of North Laurel, already had a first degree black belt; he earned his second degree that day.

"I'm proud of each one of them," Ismart said. "It was fun. I got to see them all work hard. Each one of them has a strength, and it really came through during testing."

Scout soars

Daniel Greeley, son of Laurel and Richard Greeley of Jessup, earned the rank of Eagle Scout and was honored with an Eagle Scout Court of Honor this month. Daniel, 15, is a sophomore at Long Reach High School and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 424 in Savage.

Daniel's Eagle Scout project was a revitalization of the outdoor courtyard at his alma mater, Guilford Elementary School. "He said he wanted to do something at the school," Laurel Greeley said. Guilford Principal Andrew Barshinger suggested the renovation, which required extensive research and 100 hours of labor.

Last winter, Daniel and a bevy of helpers cleaned out and winterized the small pond; they returned in the spring to weed, fertilize, prune and repot plants. They also sanded and repainted the outdoor furniture.

Daniel took an extra step to ensure that the courtyard gardens don't go to pot in the future - he put together a maintenance booklet for the school, his mother said.

Community concert

The Columbia Pro Cantare will perform in Baltimore on Sunday as part of the Community Concerts at Second series in Baltimore. Singing with the group will be Jessup residents Donald Butler and Mandy Wilson.

The performance begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Second Presbyterian Church, 4200 St. Paul St. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted.

Information: 410-465-5744.

Parting words

Forest Ridge Elementary Principal Allan Olchowski had a recent kiss that he is not likely to forget. As a reward to pupils for reaching their reading goals, he planted a wet one on a piglet.

"It was a little fuzzier than most of the women I've kissed," Olchowski said. "I kiss my dog frequently, but this was my first pig."

School secretary Chris Traini says that it could have been worse. "We thought about getting a llama, but they spit," she said.

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