by Trulynd W. Hall

First place, Nonfiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2022


Imagine, two slabs of concrete around three inches thick, so six total when combined. The task is to break both of these with your bare hand, the only buffer being a t-shirt or towel. This is the 2nd degree black belt test final obstacle.


Getting a black belt is a momentous moment that less than 30% of students at a studio reach. It’s a difficult mountain to climb but also just the beginning of a martial arts journey. Many stop at first degree but there’s over ten degrees to black belt. Each degree taking more time than the last, for reference it takes around one and a half to two years to normally obtain a black belt.


It was time for me to take my second degree test. I was told I’m to break two slabs of concrete. This worried me more than the over seven hundred push-ups and sit-ups or the multi man sparring. If I hadn’t seen my Master break 10 concrete blocks consecutively, I would’ve never taken the test.


To prepare I take one of the slabs home. Every day and every night I see it. I woke up and went to sleep with it as my last seen item. This continued for four months. Any longer and I might’ve considered it a relationship.


After two hours of physical torture, it’s time to break the concrete. Many might believe that if you weight were more or have bigger muscles then it’s a cake walk, they’d be wrong. I’m 5’5” and around 155 lbs at the time of my test. Breaking the concrete is about technique. Which is a result of strict discipline, to maintain your training.


I stand over the blocks. Everyone is shouting and cheering for me to break it. I hear none of it at the time. The world around me whites out and it’s nothing but me and my task. My focus at its all time high. My Master watches dubiously as I let out a scream. Jump. Swing! The sound of stones smashing together as they hit the floor echo. I give a thumbs up and and have a seat. My only thought.


“First try baby!”