For a few moments, during his black belt test, the endurance, strength and stress of the requirements caused Sunset's Brady Colvin to break down.
That's not an uncommon occurrence. Achieving a black belt is tough, a task that takes years of practice and resolve to attain. Encouraged by family and friends, Brady, 19, collected his emotions and resumed the test. For the breaking of boards, usually the last task, Brady chose to break six boards, rather than the required four. He achieved that goal swiftly and powerfully, the requirement suited well for his 6-foot tall, 290-pound frame.
After he earned the belt, after congratulations from spectators, Brady handed an orange belt to the family of Brian Fields, a friend of Brady's who committed suicide last June. The pair had been close friends for years, often training together in the dojo. Brian's sister, Ciara Anderson, 19, who considers Brady a best friend, appreciated the gesture.
"It was monumental. The fact that he went and did it in my brother's memory was amazing," she said.
"(The black belt) it was as much a mental battle as a physical battle," said Brady. Speaking of his late friend, Brian, Brady added, "There were times I actually felt him pick me up and say, 'You're not done.'"
As mentioned, Brady does not fit the stereotype of a black belt in karate. The agility and speed that karate requires did not come easily to his big, bulky frame. However, he faced a bigger challenge in 2008. In the dojo training, he noticed that when rolling on the mat, his right side appeared bigger than his left. A trip to the doctor revealed some bad news. Brady had scoliosis, a bone disease where the spine curves too much. His case was bad enough to where it could not be ignored.
"The curve was so bad, it was pushing at his spine. ... There was a concern it could puncture his ribs," said Brady's father, Kevin.
In October of 2008, Brady and his family decided that surgery was the best option to deal with the scoliosis. It was a tough call, given that his doctors were doubtful Brady could resume karate after the operation.
Kevin Colvin, as well as his ex-wife, Brady's mom, Carrie McConkie, were understandably scared for their son. "We both started crying. We don't want our kid to go through that," said Kevin.
Although he took nearly a year off after the surgery, getting back into the dojo, making sure that the scoliosis would not deter his karate, was on his mind. "I'm a motivated person. I don't like letting people give up," said Brady. It wasn't long before he was working out with his sensei, Adam Butcher, in Kaysville, and another sensei, Janice Delgado, in North Ogden.
Steadily, Brady moved toward his goal of attaining a black belt. "Brady has always had an uncanny determination to rise above his obstacles. For a big man he is incredibly agile and always the last person to quit," said Butcher, who trained Brady in Kaysville's Luv2Dance studios.
Once the scoliosis had been treated, it was considered a finished issue, and no longer something to be overcome, explains sensai Janice Delgado, who operates KOA Martial Arts studio in North Ogden. "We never ever treated him as if he had a problem," explains Delgado. The curvature in his spine was not regarded as an overwhelming obstacle. After he was treated, Delgado says that the next step was, "and ...," with the idea that it was time to attain the goal.
Jumping, kicking, punching exercises were not big concerns for Brady after the operation and recovery, but he had to work hard to regain balance skills, which had been affected by the past curvature of the spine. Delgado recalls Brady doing many balance exercises. "I was pretty aggressive ... Brady was very upbeat about it. I don't ever recall him complaining about it," she added.
"Scoliosis taught me not to sell myself short," says Brady. His outlook on it, which he says karate helped instill in him, was changing the word "can't" in response to his scoliosis to "will" as to the goal of progressing and earning the black belt. Despite being diagnosed with epilepsy after dealing with scoliosis, he never considered stopping his training.
Last summer, as Brady was getting closer to his goal, he was relaxing at home with his girlfriend, Baleigh Chapman, when his mom, Carrie, called him with the news of Brian's suicide. It's still tough for Brady to talk about that day. "I started screaming, punching walls. After I calmed down we drove to Brian's house. We saw them bring a body bag out," he recalls.
"(Suicide), it's a permanent solution to a temporary problem," said Brian's sister Ciara, who describes her late brother as someone "who put everything and everybody before himself." She described Brian as one who loved to take care of her, and loved practicing karate with Brady. One final motivation for Brady as he prepared for the black belt test was to arrange, as a surprise, the orange belt presentation for Brian's family.
"We've been close for a long time. There were a lot of tears the day" that Brady earned his black belt, adds Ciara.
Shawn Barker, another sensei who works with Brady, equates being a champion with someone who traverses a hard path. Brady fits that definition, he says. "I am very blessed to have been a witness to his courage and determination," he says.
Earning the black belt does not signal the end of Brady's karate. He has plans to get a second-degree black belt. Long-term, he has a goal of working in law enforcement. "I want to be a police officer so I can help people," he says, adding that the challenges he's experiences in karate will be an advantage in that goal.
For Ciara, working to have others avoid the fate her brother Brian experienced is now a career goal. She's studying to become a crisis counselor. "I want to try to prevent (suicides) from happening," she said. For a lot of kids who have suicidal thoughts, helping them get through high school is one part of prevention. "Kids are vicious. If you can survive high school, you can survive anything," she adds.
"Watching Brady receive his black belt was more than a moment of pride. It was a lesson in perseverance, a realization that anyone and everyone, with enough drive, can become a black belt, a doctor, an Olympian, whatever they have passion for," says sensei Adam Butcher.
To Ciara, the black belt, and her friend Brady's ability to overcome many obstacles, was a victory for more than person. It was a win for her brother, Brian, who continues to have an impact after he has left the earth.