Black belt at age 11 makes her sensei proud

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St Mary’s School pupil Samantha Marsh (11) is thought to be New Zealand’s youngest junior black belt as of this week.

Samantha was awarded her black belt after seven years of learning karate at the West Otago Karate Club.

“It took ages. It’s not just fighting either, it’s different from all of the other belts. It takes skill and commitment, too,” Samantha said.

Samantha said she would wake up at 6am each day and do push-ups, sit-ups and step-ups.

‘I knew if I wanted the black belt I would have to really commit . . . I had to give up sports I really enjoyed so I could commit to it.”

“I would do it every day. I even did push-ups on my birthday. Nobody wants to do push-ups on their birthday.”

Samantha said was it all worth it to get her black belt.

“The judges said I was the fittest in the competition, too.”

Samantha said she was 4 when she began her involvement with the club and karate.

“My twin brothers started karate. I had no choice about going because otherwise I would be alone. I would copy their moves as they did it, then one day my sensei said I could join.”

Samantha said her older brother Ryan Horrell was also a black belt and helped her with her training.

“He would drive me to competitions and exercise with me.”

Samantha’s sensei, founder and owner of the West Otago Karate Club Gabriel Phillips, said people under 12 did not usually have the chance to compete for their black belt.

“The structure of Samantha’s training meant she was able to compete,” Phillips said.

He had not seen a black belt that young in any of the organisations he was a part of.

“Samantha is determined and it shows that it’s all about the person and the effort they want to put in.

“She totally made me proud.”

Phillips said his youngest student was 2 years old and all were welcome at the karate club.

“There is no age barrier.”