2023 was such an exciting year! We launched the Red Fury brand with a brand-new website and social media accounts. We put together a tournament schedule that we jokingly
called the “Red Fury World Domination Tour.” Then we started in earnest, training and competing like never before. Along the way, we posted almost daily about my progress in tournaments, training, and working toward my black belt. We also included some fun stuff like my deep love for Mexican food and Cow Tales candy, and some content about things that matter a great deal to me: my Christianity and epilepsy advocacy.
You responded overwhelmingly with love and support and encouragement, and it was such a boost to go into tournaments feeling like I had all of Red Fury Nation behind me. As the year progressed, those 3rd and 4th place finishes gradually started becoming 2nd and 1st place finishes. I met a lot of new friends and grew in my martial arts. I got to train with some of the most amazing people in sport karate. By the last tournament of the regular season, I’m happy to say that I competed in six events and brought home six 1st Place finishes! Along the way, I earned a Grand Championship and a Triple Crown award in the West Kentucky Sport Karate Circuit, and an invitation to the PROMAC National Championship. The PROMAC National Championship was a surreal experience: I got to compete against the best from each region in PROMAC and came away with the National Championships in weapons and overall sparring for the Advanced Underbelt division. The awards event was unlike anything I have ever experienced!
As soon as we got home from the National Championships, it was time for last-minute preparations for my black belt test. On December 9, I passed and my Sensei tied a black belt around my waist, checking the box on my last goal for the year! There were a lot of
hugs and happy tears that day, and you all were so encouraging and supportive. I really don’t know how 2023 could have gone much better. But all good things must come to an end, and that’s true of years, too.
A lot of people asked me, “After a year like this, what’s next for you?” The answer is: a lot! 2024 brings a whole new set of challenges for me. For one thing, I will be competing in the black belt divisions in every tournament this year. That’s a whole new level of tough. The people who take gold medals in the 14–17-year-olds black belt division are among the best in the world! I definitely have my work cut out to compete with them!
Secondly, we are taking on a more challenging tournament schedule this year, too. In addition to the PROMAC Southern region tournaments, we’re aiming to compete in 6 of the 12 NASKA World tournaments! That means half of the toughest tournaments in North America are on my itinerary for this year! To compete at that level, I’m going to have to focus more than ever on physical fitness as well as perfecting my karate techniques and stances.
Besides my own martial arts training and competing, my Sensei surprised me by fulfilling one of my biggest dreams: he offered me the opportunity to teach the Little Dragons class at our dojo! In our dojo, the instructors wear a black gi, and so I will be putting on the black gi this year and challenging myself to teach my martial arts to our youngest students!
Then there are challenges that are not karate related. There is a lot I want to do this year related to my Christianity. Our youth group has a loaded year planned with lots of spiritual growth and service activities, as well as some fun stuff, too! I want to increase my work in epilepsy advocacy, helping raise awareness about epilepsy and how it affects people, and how non-epileptic people can help. My schoolwork is also very challenging. In the fall of 2023, I switched to homeschooling. There were a lot of reasons for that, but one was that we wanted to find a curriculum that was challenging and would give me a well-rounded education. I believe we found that in Classical Conversations, and boy, is it giving me a mental workout! Some days it feels like drinking from a firehose, but I am learning more than I ever have, and I have the freedom to learn in ways that work best for me.
As I write this, 2024 is already underway. We attended the first tournament of the year: the legendary Warrior Cup in Chicago, IL. I learned right quick just how tough it’s going to be competing in the black belt division! When I finished last year, I was winning gold medals in the advanced underbelt division. At Warrior Cup, I was near the back of the pack in every event! I know I have a lot of work to do, but I'm excited for the challenge. I’m looking forward to traveling and experiencing new places almost as much as the competitions! In 2023, we took on a big challenge but by the year’s end, we had met our goals. This year, we’re taking on even bigger challenges. I need your support and encouragement more than ever! Are you with me, Red Fury Nation? Then LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!!