By Nick May ’13
Children and adults competing in and watching a martial arts tournament Nov. 10 fill a quiet, dully lit conference room at the Hilton Scottsdale hotel.
After waiting for her peers to display their skills, Ms. Jessie Mason stepped up to show off her black belt karate abilities.
“I’m a first degree black belt,” Ms. Mason said. “Black belt is the highest rank you can achieve, but within the black belt, there are 10 different degrees. First degree is the lowest, that’s what I am, and 10th degree is the highest.
Ms. Mason practices a specific type of martial arts known as Shaolin Kempo.
“I do Shaolin Kempo through Z-Ultimate studios of Self Defense. It’s based out of China, and the studio travels to China every few years to train with the monks there. I haven’t gone on the trip yet, but I plan to in the future,” Ms. Mason said.
Mason has only just recently begun practicing Shaolin Kempo.
“I first started martial arts when I was about 19. I had gone to pick up my youngest brother from martial arts and I’d shown up early to watch him practice. As I watched, I immediately knew that I wanted to join martial arts too,” Ms. Mason said.
Ms. Mason has been able to compete and win at a high level after just a few years of training.
“I’ve competed in tournaments twice now. In the most recent one, I took fourth in black belt women’s sparring. Honestly I don’t remember how I did in the first competition, that was years ago, when I was a lowly orange belt,” Ms. Mason said. She has accelerated at her sport quickly but said it has not been easy.
“The black belt tests are pretty intense. My test was eight hours with six of them outside in a black, heavy weight uniform, on a day that was over 100 degrees,” she said.
Achieving her black belt took a toll on Ms. Mason physically.
“At the end, I was on such an adrenaline high that I only felt the exhilaration of becoming a black belt. The exhaustion, soreness and inability to move a muscle without extreme pain didn’t hit until two days later,” she said.
While martial arts takes up a large amount of Ms. Mason’s time, she also has other hobbies.
“I have a couple of other hobbies, the main ones are writing and rock climbing. I’m editing the final draft of a novel that I’ve been working on since grad school, and hope to have it published in the next year or so,” Ms. Mason said.
Being trained in the martial arts might also help Ms. Mason gain respect from her students.
“I think it’s cool that Ms. Mason practices karate. I definitely try to be good in her class in case she uses her skills on me,” said Mark Esslinger ’13.
Fortunately for her students, Ms. Mason has never used her skills on one of them.
“Nope, I’ve never used my martial arts on a student. I wonder if the administration would let me,” Ms. Mason said.