Graduation Letter February 2020

In Events, Kids Martial Arts Classes, Leadership, Personal Stories, Training by Don Alley

I can’t remember the last time I fought back so many tears at a graduation. Every so often it hits me, but on Saturday, by the end of the evening, I was a ball of emotions. 

JOY: I watched 10 students earn the rank of 1st-degree black belt, and the smiles on their faces and the tears in their eyes gave me such a sense of pride for what our team helped them accomplish.

FAILURE: Two students almost failed the testing procedure. Imagine all the hard work put in, family watching, only to be met with extreme disappointment by not walking out of the gym with your black belt. 

TOUGH LOVE: I had conversations in real-time with these two, pushing and encouraging them, helping them appreciate what was on the line. I reminded them of our standards. I reminded them of what they worked for. I told them I wouldn’t give them their black belt unless they finished the test correctly and powerfully. 

COMPASSION: Seeing them about to retest, several other students jumped at the opportunity to perform Universals 1-9 AGAIN, just so they weren’t by themselves. They knew the testers had to put in the work, but they didn’t have to do it alone. 

VICTORY: Even as I write this, I have tears welling, remembering the face of a young man standing in the middle of the gym, crying as he completed his form, experiencing the realization that he did what he thought was impossible—performing in front of a group. He succeeded. He triumphed. His emotions were laid bare as he knew he earned his black belt, and he was immediately embraced by others around him who knew the feat he had just accomplished.

INSPIRATION: I’m not sure when the shift happened, but something has changed at Super Kicks over the last few years, and I’m completely inspired by it: 

☑️ We have a community. 

☑️ We support each other. 

☑️ We push each other. 

☑️ We are stronger. 

☑️ Our standards matter. 

I’ve always believed in what we do, but it’s different now. It’s powerful, and I can’t describe it. This tribe—our tribe, Team Super Kicks— I truly feel like we are living our mission: Changing Lives with Martial Arts. 

To my students and families, I am humbled that you give me the opportunity to lead. But I am 100% aware that our team of instructors, black belts, CIT students, and parents and students that are cheering and encouraging and pushing everyone along—these are the ones to celebrate. 

YOU make Super Kicks, Super Kicks. You are inspiring those around you to grow and achieve, and it’s amazing. And I love you all. Congratulations to everyone for achieving your new rank! You looked amazing, and I can’t wait to teach our next cycle of the curriculum. 

Much love and respect,

Master Don Alley

Don Alley
Don Alley is the owner and chief instructor at Super Kicks Karate in Ashburn and Leesburg, and has been training in the martial arts for 28 years. He is currently a 6th degree black belt, and has dedicated the entirety of his adult life to teaching children and families martial arts. He is also the owner of Center Stage Preschool, a Montessori-based, performing arts preschool; and co-founder of Testudo Addiction Recovery, a non-profit organization serving families in the Northern Virginia area.