Local Andrew Roberts recently earned his black belt after more than seven years of dedicated training with the Cobar Judo Club under the guidance of Sensei Ray Chandler.
Obtaining a black belt in any form of martial arts is a major achievement with statistics showing that only 10 students out of every 10,000 students who join a martial arts academy go on to achieve their 1st degree black belt.
Gaining a black belt in Judo when you train in a small regional town like Cobar (where there’s not much opportunity for competition)makes that achievement even more significant.
Andrew began prepping for his black belt the day after achieving his brown belt.
Without access to regular competitions, Sensei Ray said in order to move onto the next Judo grade, the focus for his students needs to be on tightening up their techniques.
“They are already good but they need to make it better.
“To achieve a black belt, those techniques have to be flawless,” Sensei Ray explained.
“In order to achieve his black belt Andrew was also required to learn a new Kata [a pattern of martial arts movements].
“It was one that I had never learnt but had only heard of and so it took a lot of watching Youtube clips and reading books with me giving the boys critique to get it right.”
Both Andrew and Sensei Ray said some of the success can also be attributed to Andrew’s training partner, Connor Caton.
During their training Connor was a green belt and has since been promoted to brown belt, and has a black belt in his sights for next year.
Although students are generally required to be over 18 years of age for black belt grading, Andrew was 17 years old when he attended his sanctioned grading test in Toowoomba last December and Sensei Ray was confident he was up to the task.
“There are some exceptions to the rule,” Sensei Ray said.
Cobar Judo Club’s first female to achieve black belt status, Kaitlyn Raffaele, was only 15 when she achieved her black belt.
Andrew took up Judo with a group of friends when he was in primary school.
“Doing some sort of physical sport indoors with air conditioning in summer and heating in winter really appealed to me,” Andrew said.
He said he also had a desire to overcome his older brother Tyler, who was also a Judo student.
Andrew said preparing for his black belt grading was one of the hardest things he’s had to do.
“There was also a lot of pressure too,” he said.
Along with nerves, Andrew also had to deal with a case of “jet-lag” after driving 10 hours to Toowoomba for his test.
Achieving a black belt does not make Andrew invincible, it does however demonstrate his dedication to the sport and a “never gave up” attitude.
Andrew is the sixth student from the Cobar club to earn his 1st Dan black belt grading under the guidance of Sensei Ray.
Sensei Ray has been involved in the sport for over 30 years and has been teaching for the past 14 years.
He said it’s mostly kids who are not into team sports who find their way into Judo and it’s the ones who struggle at first that stay the longest.
“The students who excel straight away seem to get bored and move on.
“There’s lots of repetition and it’s very disciplined and that doesn’t appeal to everyone,” Sensei Ray said.
Andrew was to have been presented with his black belt and certificate at the Australian Judo Union Nationals competition later this month, however this year’s event has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The restrictions have also prevented students from training for most of this year.
The Cobar club has re-started training this week under the guidance of a COVID-19 safety plan.