Soo Bahk Do students move up in belt rank

By Gary Luster

Courtesy Photo SKILLFUL—Students of the Gardena Soo Bahk Do martial arts show their skills. They are students of Larry Drehs and John Ballard.

Three students of the Gardena Soo Bahk Do program took the next step in their martial arts training in April 2021. Adryana Davis tested for 2nd degree black belt, Anastasya Davis tested for 1st degree black belt and Tristyn Bryant tested for 1st degree black belt. Tarrance Bryant will test for his first degree black belt this April. Soo Bahk Do, which is one of the traditional Korean martial arts, is both a hard and softstyle classical martial art which dates back centuries to ancient Korea. Its modern history begins in 1945 when Kwan Jin Nim (Grandmaster) Hwang Kee founded his first school under the name of Moo Duk Kwan. Soo Bahk Do came to Gardena in 1981 when Grandmaster Tommy Reyes opened his studio in the hopes of establishing a martial arts school that offered students of all ages an environment that would help them achieve their goals and live a virtuous life. Reyes taught his students the power and importance of humility, showing respect for one another, and providing charity toward the elderly and needy. The values of brotherhood and equality are also important values that Reyes taught his students. Today, Gardena Soo Bahk Do’s masters and instructors continue what Reyes started by training those of all ages so that they will become masters themselves one day. SBD Master Larry Drehs is especially proud of the four students who have distinguished themselves thanks to their dedication and discipline that they all learned because of their involvement with Soo Bahk Do. “The Davises and Bryants have spent 90 percent of their training time outside in a wide range of weather, hot, cold, damp, muddy, etc. but persevered,” Soo Bahk Do Master Larry Drehs said. “It’s their strong commitment to the Art that I’m the most proud of.” Internationally Certified Instructor John Ballard said that Soo Bahk Do is not like other martial arts in that there is a mandatory wait between testing periods and in between testing periods, students are expected to continue their training and even add new techniques and movements to their repertoire. “If you’re this [at one of the basic levels] then you have to wait three months to test for your first stripe,” Ballard said. “Three months to test for this, three months to test for your green belt and it’s the same until you get to your red belt with a stripe and then it’s six months to test for your red belt with two stripes. Then you have to wait one year before you test for your first black belt. Once you achieve this level, then you have to wait two years to test for your second degree and after that, you have to wait three years before you can test for your third degree.” Anastasya Davis, 11, has been training in Soo Bahk Do for the past six years. Seeing her cousin participate in the martial arts prompted her to do the same. Although Davis loves learning Soo Bahk Do, she does admit that it can get tiring, especially when it comes to learning all of the correct techniques and movements. She said that sometimes she doesn’t always know what to do but says that the instructors are quick to help her learn and remember her drills and other martial art movements. She also gets help from her older sister Adryana who is also in the program. “My sister is a big motivator for me,” Davis said. Davis’ sister Adryana, 14, has been training since 2015 and said that Soo Bahk Do has benefited her in many ways such as giving her the opportunity to meet lots of new people and learn new techniques from them, and travel to tournaments in Oregon and Utah. Soo Bahk Do training was also a big confidence booster. “It has helped with my confidence in that I know what I’m doing and I’m sure of what I am doing,” Adryana said. In fact, Adryana’s confidence led her to teach classes with Master Steve Tracy who recently relocated to Michigan. Adryana continues to teach some of the younger students whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tarrence Bryant, Jr., 15, began his training in 2015 but wasn’t sure he wanted to continue training when he started but slowly began to become more interested as he opened himself up to making new friends. He said that discipline and obedience were the two biggest things he has learned as a student of Soo Bahk Do. “I continue to do this because I mostly love hanging out with my friends and it has become part of my life now,” Bryant said. Bryant’s younger brother Tristyn, 14, has been training for nine years said that the biggest benefit of learning Soo Bahk Do was gaining the courage to face any adversity “The biggest benefit was courage,” Tristyn said. “If somebody were to just come into my house, I would know how to deal with it.” Tristyn, who hopes to one day become a master and open his own martial arts studio, is a student of not only the martial art itself but of its history as well. “Soo Bahk Do is really good to learn because it’s based on self-defense and I actually did a research report on this art and it turns out Chuck Norris did a whole bunch of dojos and different kinds of martial arts and he stopped here [at Soo Bahk Do] I don’t know the reason why but I thought that was really great because that shows how the art impacted him,” Tristyn said. “Now I have so much more energy and ambition to continue this art.” For more information on Gardena Soo Bahk Do, or how to sign up for classes, please visit their website at https://gardenasoobahkdo. com.

Photo courtesy of Larry Drehs
Pictured from left are Anastasya Davis, Adryana Davis, Candace Lee,
John Ballard, Tristyn Bryant and Tarrence Bryant.