Black belts a family affair

Posted 9/23/10

“They came to me and challenged me to come do this with them,” Vickie recalled of the moment more than four years ago. “So I did.”

Those journeys, which all began with different reasons so many months ago, arrived at a …

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Black belts a family affair


Three Prantes receive taekwondo's top beltFive and a half years ago, Jacob Prante was listening as some of his friends talked about taekwondo. It sounded fun, so he decided to give it a try. Roughly six months later, his younger brother Tucker tired of sitting on the sidelines watching Jacob and decided to get involved in classes as well. About half a year later, the pair approached their mother, Vickie, with a challenge.

“They came to me and challenged me to come do this with them,” Vickie recalled of the moment more than four years ago. “So I did.”

Those journeys, which all began with different reasons so many months ago, arrived at a similar destination as Vickie, Jacob (age 13) and Tucker (age 11) were awarded black belts during a ceremony with Lone Wolf Taekwondo last Friday. The trio had successfully tested to receive the sport's highest belt level over the summer while attending a taekwondo summer camp in Idaho.

“I had never imagined that I would do this, especially at my age,” Vickie said of the achievement. “Jacob had set the goal of getting a black belt when he first started, but I never imagined that I would get there.”

Working together though, the family made its way through the various stages of development and achievement in taekwondo, progressing from yellow belts through the various color stages. Each test required the trio to learn a new poomse, or form —choreographed sequences of moves and techniques that form the building blocks in a variety of martial arts systems.

Mastery of specific hand, kick and counter-attack techniques was also a requirement from the beginning.

Once at the green belt level, each was required to participate in tournaments and demonstrate proficiency at board breaking.

At the red belt level, they had to do book reports on various martial arts topics and submit an introspective analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. Still more reports were required to achieve the black belt level, as well as designing a personal training schedule.

“It's quite a time commitment,” said Vickie. “We spend three one-hour classes each week, and then as we got higher, we began to get involved in assisting other classes. We practice at home for probably an hour —more if one of us had a test coming up.”

Completing the climb to the black belt level as a family did have its advantages, though.

“If there was a technique you didn't get or were having trouble with, I could ask Jacob or I could ask mom to help me with it,” said Tucker. “You could always go home and ask to get help rather than waiting for the next class.”

“It was challenging getting here,” Jacob said, sheepishly admitting that one of his earliest motivations for trying to earn a black belt was for bragging rights, but who now acknowledges that he shared the news of his achievement with very few of his friends. “I'm happy to get it.”

Additionally, the quest brought the Prantes together as a family.

“From my perspective, it has been good because it has helped me to build a relationship with them,” Vickie said of her two sons. “It has given me something in common with them and they've been a huge support for me. I could have quit many times and they were there, standing behind me and helping to push me through it.”

With their black belts, the Prantes will have their names registered with the World Taekwondo Federation headquarters in South Korea, which considers taekwondo its national sport. The trio will receive official certificates from the WTF acknowledging their achievement.

That doesn't mean the family's journey has come to an end, however. Just like progressing through the various belt ranks helped inspire the threesome to continue during their early stages, holders of the black belt rank are allowed to continue by earning additional black-belt degrees. Robert Hunt, who also was honored during the Friday ceremony, received his third-degree black belt, for instance. Lone Wolf instructor Chris Ivanoff holds the rank of sixth-degree black belt.

“I want to keep doing this for as long as I can,” notes Jacob, with Tucker quickly nodding in agreement.

“When we were in Idaho, there was a gentleman that was there who was in his 70s doing this, and he was keeping up with the 30-year-olds,” Vickie said. “That's a good incentive for me to keep going.”

It will be at least two years before any of the three will be allowed to test for their second-degree black belt, giving them plenty of time to ponder the future.