Here's the speech I wanted to give when Ana Martin got her Black Belt, but couldn't get through... =========================
After 26+ years in the martial arts, 20 years as a black belt instructor, and over a thousand students, I have never once given a black belt myself... until now.
For 9 years, Ana Martin has been a dedicated, hardworking, loyal member of the school. More than just a student, she's been my co-instructor, my confidant, training partner, testing partner, and loyal friend.
Over the years, she has invested huge amounts of her personal time, effort, and talent to improve her own skill, that of our students, and even my own.
I have seen her face her own weaknesses in training and turn them into strengths, making her better at them than anyone else in the school (sometimes even me). It is my belief that a black belt is not an ending, but a beginning. It is a point that says a person has mastered the basics of a system and is ready for more. Ana truly embodies what it means to be a black belt as she continuously strives to improve herself, the school, the system, and all of those around her.
I couldn't be more proud and honored to call her my student, co-instructor, friend, and very first black belt.
Congratulations, Ana, and thank you for all that you do.