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Brother, sister team up for Karate

by Nancy Hamlett, Staff Writer

For Tammi and Royce Kennerley, the journey to achieving their black belt took five years. It isn’t an unusual length of time. The unusual aspect is that Tammi and Royce are brother and sister, and they’ve achieved each degree on their road to a black belt together.

“This is about teamwork, not competition,” said Royce as he fiddled with the belt on his uniform. “It doesn’t matter to us that someone makes it first, we made it together.”

“With both of us taking Tae Kwon Do we were able to practice at home,” said Tammi. “It helped both of us get better together.”

According to their father, Ken, Tammi and Royce committed to 580 lessons before achieving black belt status. But when they first started taking lessons, Tammi said that maybe it wasn’t for the right reasons.

“It was because of Royce. He thought it looked cool on TV, and I did it so he wouldn’t be able to beat me up,” said Tammi.

Tae Kwon Do means “the ways of the hands and feet,” according to Tammi. But to the Kennerley’s it represents much more.

“It’s about self discipline, respect, self esteem, and hard work,” said Royce.

“And being steady and physically and mentally prepared,” added Tammi. “And it is also a way to defend yourself, but it should be used only as a way of defense.”

Tammi, who at 15 will be a junior at Douglas High School, and Royce, an 11 year old who will be entering his sixth year at Jacks Valley Elementary School, took the test for their black belts in November. The test consisted of various elements, from basics and forms and sparring, to board breaking, stick fighting and a strenuous physical endurance course. For many students, breaking the boards is the hardest aspect of the test.

“It’s a mind thing. You have to remember that the board isn’t really there,” said Royce. “It’s not the real object of your focus.”

“You have to look past the boards,” said Tammi. “You are reaching for the abdomen, not the board.

“To me, the hardest part of the test was the mental preparation. If you’re not prepared you can’t do it physically. Part of being mentally prepared is overcoming stage fright. And in my mind, I know I could have done better. That’s part of moving to the next level.”

“Being mentally prepared is putting your mind to something and finishing it,” said Royce. “Earning the black belt is nice, but there is always something else to accomplish. You can’t quit just because you earned your black belt.”

Tammi quickly agreed. “It’s a passed element, just like in life. You pass from second grade to third or into high school or college. There is always another step. It keeps on building.”

Although Tammi and Royce are committed to martial arts, other pastimes demand their attention. Tammi is in band and until last year, competed in wrestling.

“I couldn’t fit all three in my schedule, so I put wrestling to the back this year,” said Tammi. “I really wanted to focus on earning my black belt.”

“I want to rest a little bit before going on to the next level, said Royce. “I’ll be in band next year and I really want to try football,” said Royce.

According to George Fuji and Jill Kuckhoff who are partners in West Coast Martial Arts on Industrial Way, the Kennerley’s exhibited commitment during the past five years.

“They made the decision to improve, to achieve, and that’s outstanding,” said Fuji. “And when they discovered weak areas, they didn’t flinch, but were determined to work harder and never give up.”

“I think their teamwork helped,” said Kuckhoff. “There was nobody else at their level to train with.”

“They have a sisterly – brotherly love thing, but it was a healthy competition where each person motivates the other to rise to the next level,” said Fuji.

“They pushed each other. Tammi and Royce have an indomitable spirit to never give up.”