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My Journey ( Black Belt & 1st Nationals)

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Life is a journey. A wild one, to be honest. It teaches you the importance of going through the grind of hardships and fear. But life is also just as wonderful, for when you feel that nothing else can be done and that this is it, that is when it shows you that everything you went thru wasn’t in vain. Today you’re going to be reading the story of my life.

Ten years ago, when I had just entered 1st grade, I set foot in my karate dojo for the first time. At the time, it always was a push to send me there. I never liked it. I never made friends there. I always felt I was being forced into it against my will.

Fear of hurting or getting hurt was constant. There were times when I cried due to the fear of going for it. During my 4th and 5th grades, I started gaining much weight. This made me look different. I was made fun of at times. Most of my friends were there by my side through this phase, while some disappeared. Someone who helped me the most was my grandmother, every day, she used to take me to my karate class and sit there till it was over so that I never felt alone, which otherwise I would’ve felt. My karate came to the rescue in these times as well. Unknowingly due to the practice, I started losing much weight. I became more solid and confident about myself. At 13, I was a golden brown belt in Karate, something most people are never able to reach, and yet I wouldn’t say I liked it ……but this was because of the fear of giving my 13 hours long exam for my black belt. I was so close, and I wanted to give up. I used to make the lamest excuses to avoid class and act as if I wasn’t well. But then, one day, my mom and dad sat with me. I remember it was when we were deciding whether I must continue or not. And while discussing this, my dad suddenly stopped; he looked at me and said, ‘Keegan, if u give up today, you will regret for the rest of your life that u were so close to being a black belt, an achiever, but then because of fear of an exam you quit.’ And that statement changed me. It ignited this lost fire within me. I didn’t want to be mediocre or someone who quit cause he was scared. I wanted to stand out of the crowd and be known as the one who never gave up. And that’s when my real journey began; I started practicing more, each day putting more effort than the previous one. I started winning tournaments, and my confidence was boosted. This new crazy fire in me made the difference. I was so motivated that I gave my black belt exam without any trouble. Thirteen hours had just flown by, and even though it was the most challenging thing I’d ever faced, I still knew that whatever happened, even the thought of giving up, was not an option. I remember the day I received my black belt and when Mehul Sir told me he was proud of me. That line completely changed me as a person. My sirs never gave up on me; they were constantly there by my side, encouraging me to continue throughout; without them, I would not have been where I am today. I also remembered the sacrifices made by my family over the nine years till I was a black belt, especially by my mother, who was with me through all the summers and Christmases at my karate camps just so that I never felt left out or alone there.

Three months after receiving my black belt, I got a call from Jatin sir and Vipul sir, both of whom wanted me to enroll in the Kudo DSO tournament; now, the thing was that I didn’t want to participate, for everything seemed to be going well, and I didn’t want to lose and ruin it. But my sirs believed in me and told me to give it a shot. My DSO and Zonal tournament went in a breeze. And then came the state-level championship. After sitting through the DSO and Zonal tournaments, I was motivated to give my best no matter what. I remember the moment I received my state champion medal, and the feeling of pride surged through my veins. And then, I realized that having become the state champion, I was directly selected for the nationals, where I would be representing my state. It was a moment of pride for me. From that day, I trained very hard for my Nationals. Yet I still felt nervous; I knew I was being watched by everyone, from my coaches to family to my friends who believed in me.

I remember the day I left for Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, where my tournament was to be held from the 15th to the 20th of December 2019. As I went in our train specially allotted for the Maharashtra team, I remember pride and enthusiasm surging through me, telling me that I could win this. The entire national’s trip was about being a team. I took charge of my group of friends traveling from Mumbai. We were there for each other throughout the journey. I remember us cheering, motivating, and giving each other tips during our fights. And then, finally, the day came. I was to fight in the under 17 years age group in the +65 weight category, which was indirectly an open category. I was nervous since I had just crossed 14 years of age; each was 16+ and much heavier and well-built than me. Before any of my fights started, I remember a specific incident. My dad was worried about me after seeing my opponents. He thought I was under much pressure, affecting me negatively during the fight. I remember him coming up to me and saying, it's ok if you don’t win anything; whatever happens today, whether you win or lose, doesn’t matter to me; I want you to know that I am proud of you. And I remember the following statement I made, which ultimately surprised my dad. I said, today I'm only going to aim for the gold, and no matter what, I'm going to achieve it and saying that, I stepped into the ring. Before each fight, I motivated myself by saying Keegan, you have won this; this is your fight. My first two fights went well though I was injured a lot in my second fight. But that didn’t stop me at all. My finals were against a guy from Gujrat, who was heavily built and strong. He hardly gave me a chance to score. In the last 15 seconds, I remember losing faith in winning, but then I heard my friends and family cheer for me, and I felt my energy and power amplifying. I was one point down, and if only I could land one kick, I would win. There were 5 seconds left; I remember waiting till the very last second, confusing him, and then, just as they were about to stop the fight, I landed a hard and perfect thigh kick sealing the win. At that moment, there was complete silence in the ring. The Gujrat team was stunned; they thought they had one, but the tables had finally turned. I leaped into the air with pure joy and a sense of victory. The Maharashtra team went wild, cheering for me, shouting the praises of Shivaji Maharaj and the other Great Maratha warriors. Our Maharashtra team came second in the tournament; we had some of the best fighters. In the end, our support for each other did pay off. And that’s how I, someone who despised this sport, today am India’s national kudo champion who also went on to win the best player of the national Kudo tournament under the age of 17. It all seems like a dream now when I look back. I especially want to thank my Head instructor, Mehul Sir, also the Kudo president of India, for never losing faith in me and all of my karate sirs who never gave up on me even when I was at my lowest when I didn’t want to continue. But through this story of mine, I wanted to say that miracles do happen, and opportunities do knock at our doors; we need to grab them as they come.

In the end, ill conclude by saying it’s all about believing in yourself, cause if you don’t, no one ever will!

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