Teenager earns black belt in Soo Bahk Do martial arts

Tarrance Bryant joins brother in training to be a karate instructor

Courtesy photo Brothers Tristyn Bryant, bottom left, and Tarrence Bryant, bottom right, are now both black belts in the Korean style of Soo Bahk Do. Also in the photo, standing from left, are Masters Ballard, Drehs, Lee and Walcher.

Gardena Soo Bahk Do continues to help its students learn, grow, and achieve and there is no better example of that than Tarrence Bryant who earned his 1st degree black belt known as Cho Dan on June 9 at the age of 16. Bryant began training in Soo Bahk Do in 2013 and throughout the course of his study and training has earned the respect of his trainers Master Larry Drehs and Master John Ballard. However, just as nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy, Tarrence had to put in the work to achieve his goal of a 1st degree black belt, especially considering that he is training alongside his younger brother Tristan who had already earned his black belt. “We are extremely proud of both students and it’s been extremely gratifying watching them grow from children to respectful and disciplined young men,” said Master Larry Drehs. “Their parents Tarrence and Tanika Bryant are advocates of the Soo Bahk Do program and supported the demanding training schedule.” While training in a competitive program together might ordinarily cause some friction among siblings, Tarrence proved himself to be worthy of his new status by exhibiting an incredible capacity for humility, something that did not go unnoticed by his trainers. “Tarrence displayed a lot of humility when his younger brother got promoted before he did,” said Master John Ballard. “But Tarrence still continued with it instead of curling up into a little ball and hiding from the world out of embarrassment and shame. At the same time he showed a lot of courage in that he continued to train until he achieved the objective of becoming First Dan.” As a newly minted 1st degree black belt, Bryant will enter the Jo Kyo program where he will learn how to become a teacher. Master Ballard will be assisting Bryant in that effort as he has made the young black belt has teaching assistant. In this new role, Bryant will assist in teaching the kinder level classes Soo Bahk Do techniques and philosophy. “It [achieving 1st degree black belt] means a lot,” Bryant said. “It’s a relief because I worked hard for Dan and I just got accepted into the program where I will be teaching new students.” Earning a black belt in Soo Bahk Do is an achievement that requires a significant amount of dedication and discipline. Students are tested and graded by various judges on their proficiency in basics, forms, grabs, attacks, and sparring. The higher one climbs up the black belt ladder, the more one will have to call upon discipline and dedication to reach success. “After your first degree you have to maintain that for two years before you can test for your second degree,” Master Ballard said. “When you have your second degree, you have to maintain that for 3 years to test for your third degree. When you have your third degree, you have to maintain that for 4 years to test for your fourth degree. After the fourth degree, the testing becomes an 8-day test where you train for 7 days starting at 5:30 a.m. and go until 10 p.m. or midnight and then on the 8th day the student performs his test.” Master Drehs saw the dedication of both Bryant boys during the height of COVID. “Due to COVID, we were not allowed in the studio at Thornburg Park for two years,” Master Drehs said. “As a result, Tarrence and Tristan trained outside at the park. It could be muddy, sprinkling, or very hot outside and it did not stop them from training. That in itself shows commitment.” With Bryant’s new promotion, he will be dedicating 15 hours a week to his Soo Bahk Do teaching and training, which he says won’t interfere with his schoolwork as he attends California Virtual Academies and is usually done with all of his schoolwork for the day by no later than 4 p.m. In addition to attending his normal Monday, Wednesday, Thursday nightly schedule at Thornburg Park, for the past six weeks, Bryant has been attending an additional Tuesday, Friday, Sunday classes at other Soo Bahk Do studios in Torrance and Lomita. Gardena Soo Bahk Do has been serving the Gardena community since 1981. Soo Bahk Do emphasizes the philosophy to prevent conflict, both external and internal, concentrating on anti-bullying and incorporating discipline and respect for oneself and others. Gardena Soo Bahk Do has a strong focus on their fi ve Moo Do Values. These values are considered the backbone in promoting Founder Hwang Kee’s ‘President’s Vision’ of improving human relations first through individual connections then to a broader view of national connections. The values coexist with each other and each element itself strengthens the meaning and relationship with the other four. The fi ve Moo Do Values are: History, Tradition, Philosophy, Discipline/Respect and Technique. Training at Gardena Soo Bahk Do not only prepares you to defend yourself, but also promotes self-confi dence, which in turn improves the ability to perform in stressful situations. For more information on Gardena Soo Bahk Do or on how to sign up for classes, please visit their website at www.gardenasoobahk do.com.

Courtesy photo
Larry Drehs, head Soo Bahk Do Master, beams with pride as his student Tarrence Bryant earned his black belt in June.
Photo by Adryana Davis
The Bryant brothers, Tristyn, left, and Tarrence show their forms during a workout.