Sun and Moon Karate Test brings out best of students

Published 12:01 am Thursday, July 7, 2022

CHINA GROVE — Karate students put on their best performances during the 24th annual Sun and Moon Karate Test on Saturday at the Main Street Baptist Church property in China Grove.

“The weather was perfect and the spirit was strong,” said Ricky Smith, who owns SideKick Karate of Salisbury with his wife, Edie.

SideKick Karate hosts the annual karate test every year on the last weekend in June for karate students of Salisbury and Concord. Ricky and his twin brother Randy were joined by karate teacher Grandmaster Jerry Piddington of Oregon. He pioneered the first American karate style and came to help conduct the test, along with his wife. Eva, and his black belts, Joey Harrington of Oregon and Denise Jensen of Las Vegas.  There were 36 young ranks, called Screaming Eagles, and 77 adult ranks who participated in the all-day test from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The test started with the younger ranks performing their belt material for two and a half hours. There test included basics, kata, karate weapons, self-defense and sparring. It ended with a ninja course competition by age group. The division winners were Renaldo Pratt from Concord (age 6 division), Cameron Szalay from Salisbury (age 7-8) and Renayla Pratt from Concord (age 9 and up) with Cameron Szalay winning overall with a time of 37.32 seconds.

The adult ranks lined up at 1 p.m. and their test ended at 9 p.m. The test included students performing their rank material, running a half-mile cross country race, breaking boards and performing their kata in a ring of fire with tiki torches honoring the forefathers of Ricky and Randy’s American Open Karate System who have passed away, including their first karate teacher, Gary Basinger, a native of Spencer.

“It is important that our students understand our lineage and history,” said Ricky.

The test ended with the higher ranks talking around the campfire about how martial arts has changed their life, called a Talking Stick Ceremony.

Jerry Piddington, founder of the American Karate Academies National Association, said, “I have implemented the outdoors into our karate tests for a simple reason, students need to connect to God’s natural elements and get off those electronics. I have also incorporated some of the American Native Indian traditions into our tests, such as the Talking Stick Ceremony and Warrior Sweat.”

This year’s test was dedicated to Jim MacDonald of Concord who passed away on Oct. 11, 2021. “He always trained and looked forward to testing here,” said Jeff Dixon, instructor of SideKick Karate of Concord. Promotions were also given by Jerry Piddington including, an 8th-degree black belt to Cliff Kinchen from Cornelius, a 4th-degree black belt to Jeff Dixon from Concord, a 4th-degree black belt to Denise Jensen from Las Vegas, and an honorary 1st-degree black belt to Brandon Levi Spiker, pastor of Cornerstone Church of Salisbury from Granite Quarry.

Black Belts who will be promoted from the test are Shawn Bolick (Sr. 2nd Degree), Ben Bolick (Advanced Jr. 3rd Degree), Ryan Stopper (Sr. 1st Degree), Christine Ruff (Sr. 2nd Degree), James Bristol (Sr. 1st Degree), John Bristol (Advanced Jr. 3rd Dan), and Kenny Chavarria (Sr. 1st Degree).