Karate students take part in Sun and Moon Test

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2021

Staff report

SALISBURY — SideKick Karate of Salisbury held the 23rd annual Sun and Moon Test on Saturday, June 26, for all ranks and ages at a camp on the property of Main Street Baptist Church in China Grove.

The karate studio, owned by Ricky and Edie Smith, had 85 students who tested along with 34 students from SideKick Karate of Concord, owned by Jeff and Tammy Dixon.

“The Sun and Moon Test is an all-day martial arts test that is based on performing outdoors incorporating the natural elements of fire, earth, wood, water and wind,” Ricky Smith said.  “This event was created by our karate teacher for over 45 years, Jerry Piddington, and is sanctioned by his organization, American Karate Academies National Association.

“The Sun and Moon Test includes ancient martial art exercises honoring our karate forefathers and American Native traditions honoring the indigenous ancestors of our land.”

The test began at 10 a.m. and continued until 10 p.m. Students must show a “warrior spirit” with a positive attitude to pass the test and receive a Sun and Moon patch.

Thirty-five younger students, called Screaming Eagles, began their karate test at 10 a.m. and finished at 12:30 p.m.  It included kneeling position exercise, karate basics, kata, traditional weapons kata, self-defense techniques, and ended with a ninja obstacle course.  Each participant broke a board at the end of the course and received a medal.  The age division winners of the ninja course were: Emily Bristol (5 year old), Josiah Martin (6 year old), Cameron Szalay (7 year old), Major Harris (8-9 year old), and Josh Burleson (10 year old).  The overall winner was Major Harris.

Amanda Burleson, an instructor at SideKick Karate from Richfield said, “I am a blessed mama! My babies, Josh and Sadie, did an amazing job at the Sun and Moon Test. I’ve been a part of this test for many years.  I was seventeen years old when I first participated in this event and loved sharing this experience with my kiddos.” 

Dan Lefler, manager of Spanky’s Homemade Ice Cream and Deli in Salisbury and student of SideKick Karate used the Sun and Moon test as leverage to motivate his five year old son, Xander, to focus more.  “He wanted to do it and I promised he could if he would get serious, and he did.” 

Xander’s sister Danica, a nine year old blue belt also tested.  Sensei Jeff Dixon explained, “It is priceless to see the expressions on the kids’ faces when they break their board; it is a look of surprise which quickly turns to confidence.”

Eighty-five of the junior and adult students began their test at 1:00 p.m. and finished at 9:30 p.m.  Their long enduring challenge began with kneeling position exercise, karate basics, weapon and empty-hand kata, self-defense, circle sparring, and lots of board breaking with palm heel strikes and flying sidekicks.  Immediately after sparring, students completed a cross-country run.  Nathan Overcash was the male winner and Lilah Singleton was the female winner.  After the run, students gathered sitting in a large circle called, The Ring of Fire, to honor their lineage of American Open Karate.

As the sunlight changed to moonlight, Ricky lit torches positioned in a circle for each of the deceased martial art instructors who paved the way for the American Open Karate System of Study, which included Ricky and Randy’s first karate teacher, Gary Basinger from Salisbury, who passed away in September of 2010. 

“If it were not for Gary teaching us karate, these students would not be here now,” said Ricky Smith.  “These students are the fruits of his labor.  It is important that students and parents understand and remember his legacy.  This is honoring the ones who have gone before us and dedicated their life to teaching martial arts; they are the ones who never quit.”  P

aying tribute to these pioneers of karatedo, each student performed their favorite kata in the Ring of Fire.

Allison Parks reflected on her daughter’s performance saying, “Today Laylah took her first Sun and Moon Test.  It started at 1:00 p.m. and ended at 9:30 p.m.  Long day, but it was amazing to watch all the students, younger and older, showcase their karate skills and knowledge.  This was also a learning experience for me as Sensei Ricky spoke around the Ring of Fire about the history of American Open Karate.  I’m proud of this youngin’ for sticking in there and having a warrior spirit to the end!” 

Ronnie Campbell, a 51-year-old yellow belt student from China Grove testing for the first time stated, “It was life changing to be part of something as special as this was.  Not only did this test make a difference in the lives of these students, but these students will make a difference in someone else’s life.”

The test ended with red, brown, and black belt students participating in a Talking Stick Ceremony around the campfire.  Students passed the talking stick sharing their martial art experiences on how karate made a difference in their life. 

“Each student has a different journey, explained Edie Smith.  “Not every student is going to become a black belt, but we are here to help prepare each student with the confidence to succeed wherever their journey leads them.”

Ryan Stopper, a 14 year old from Salisbury, testing for second degree advanced junior black belt and American Open Junior Teaching Credentials said, “The test was very challenging.  It prepares you for not only defending yourself, but challenges in life.  If it were not for karate, I do not know where I would be in life.  Karate gave me the confidence and focus to enter in early college.”  Ryan’s sister, Anylisa, an eleven year old blue belt, also tested.  Their parents are Craig and Leslie Stopper, owners of the Salisbury Salon and Spa.  Ryan tied for the kata grand championship of the Carolina Martial Arts Open in Columbia, South Carolina on May 26.

Tom Bristol, a 17 year old from Rockwell, testing for second degree black belt and American Open Junior Teaching Credentials said, “The kneeling position exercise for fifty minutes without moving was definitely the most challenging part of the test.  But, it was fun.  This year was the best one”  Tom and his brothers, Michael, James, and John, have participated in five Sun and Moon tests, but their sister Emily, a Screaming Eagle participated in her first one.  John, 13 years old, tested for second degree advanced junior black belt.  Michael, 11 years old, tested for third degree junior black belt, the highest junior level in American Open Karate.  Tom is attending N.C. State University this fall.

Thirty-nine year old, Shawn Bolick from Salisbury tested for second degree black belt and American Open Senior Teaching Credentials.  Shawn has lost 70 pounds since his martial arts journey began.  “I have 10 more pounds to go to reach my goal,” said Shawn.  His son, fourteen year old Ben, tested for second degree advanced junior black belt.

Gabriel Montoya, 11 years old from Salisbury, will receive his first degree junior black belt.  He is in the fifth year of his martial arts journey and performed his first Sun and Moon Test.

Jeff Dixon received his fourth degree black belt.  “Jeff has been involved in American Open Karate since 1994 and has operated a successful school in Concord for five years.  He is producing a good core of students who performed well at the test.  He is more than ready for this promotion.”  Jeff has worked with Hendrick Motorsports in Concord for 24 years.

Kimberly Garcia, the mother of Jaxen, a seven year old gold belt who tested, was very appreciative stating, “Mrs. Edie is the First Lady of SideKick Karate.  She is the backbone of our Dojo.   She’s strong, loving, protective, and ALWAYS willing to serve and to be an assistant. She’s an asset and she’s loved by all of us. Mrs. Edie is always prepared and ready to jump into action when needed. She’s always cheering our children on.  She’s the soft behind the tough which makes a perfect yin and yang pairing for a karate dojo event.  I am eternally thankful that God has placed this family: Ricky, Randy, and Edie, into our lives because they speak truth and love into it.  They are a blessing to our Community.

“We are proud of all the students who tested and thankful for the faithful support from all the SideKick Karate families,” said Edie Smith. 

“One hundred and twenty students, along with ten black belt instructors, left this campsite changed forever,” added Ricky. “The students tested their mind, body, and spirit in the way of karate.  It is called karatedo.”

SideKick Karate of Salisbury is located at 520 South Main St. Visit sidekickdojo.com or call 704-216-2258.