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Love and Determination Earn Black Belt
Love and Determination Earn Black Belt

He licked his suddenly dry lips, blinked a few times as he tried to focus, paused several seconds before positioning his body and...then...with another blink and a slump of the shoulders, he slipped back out of sync. After a few more lengthy resets, he finally shot his right leg up and out and brought his bare foot crashing down " an axe kick " onto the wooden board held up by a white-robed fellow student. And "for the 12th straight time" the board did not break, causing many in the small crowd to let out a barely audible, but fully embracing sigh. Jesse Richardson "who had prepared seven years for this moment" was testing for his black belt in front of Master George Bleil, head of the Dayton Area Taekwondo Center, last Sunday, June 7, at the Boonshoft Center for Jewish Culture and Education. Jesse who is 29 and has spent a lifetime kicking right through the limitations that come with Down syndrome had worked his way up through 10 different belts and just a few nights earlier, in front of another crowd, had slowly read his written report on what tae kwon do meant to him. It had taken him a half an hour to get through the 250 words, but his sincerity and determined effort had brought many to tears. Sunday he had begun his test, first by showing off various kicking, blocking and punching skills, then splintering a few boards using different blows. But he was struggling with the axe kick. His mom, Cathy "Kat" Welde, sat there trying to catch his eye to tell him he was fine, even though on the ride to Centerville, she'd been so nervous she nearly asked her husband, Joe Daniel, to pull over because she was going to be sick. And Joe " Jesse's loving stepdad "was in worse shape. Cathy wouldn't let him sit next to her because she feared he'd break into tears "as he'd done at Jesse's oration " and then they'd both "be bawling like babies." Each of the belts Jesse has earned is displayed on a special rack " beneath his collection of elaborate horror masks " in his meticulously kept bedroom. Yet with each promotion, the one thing he kept longing for was a black belt, and finally [Master George Bleil, head of the Dayton Area Taekwondo Center] thought he was ready. Jesse practiced for weeks so he could read the tae kwon do paper his mom helped him with. And then came last Sunday's test and that troublesome axe kick. Bleil patiently waited through some 20 failed attempts, but would not give Jesse a pass. "This isn't a gift," he said. "A piece of wood is not going to defeat him." And then with one sharp blow, Jesse sent his heel crashing through the board. The crowd applauded and he closed his eyes tightly and shook his hands in sheer delight. Printed with permission from the Dayton Daily News/Tom ArchDeacon. To read the full article, visit:

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Tamara Rampold, United States, IL
12/3/2011 4:05:47 PM
This is a huge accomplishment - Congratulations, Jesse. My son with DS is thirteen, has earned his red belt with Premier Martial Arts and also dreams of earning his black belt some day.

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