Connor Bubela is one of Quesnel’s newest black belt martial artists.
Quite an accomplishment in itself.
All the more remarkable, Bubela is barely seven-years-old.
“To my knowledge, he is the youngest black belt ever in British Columbia,” master teacher and owner of Deane’s Black Belt Academy Bob Deane said.
“Very unusual, and to do it as quick as he did,” an impressed Deane said.
It took Bubela two years to earn his apprentice black belt.
Quite the feat for the Grade 2 student at Carson elementary school who also plays minor hockey.
The internet is littered with stories about eight and nine-year-olds earning their black belt, but very few stories about seven year olds, with one exception.
Yes, Connor’s older brother also earned his black belt when he was seven-years-old.
It might seem odd that a seven-year-old is awarded the black belt when it is clear from his stature that he could not defend himself against adults.
But that is not the point, Deane said.
“The public views people with black belts as the ultimate, they can do anything,” he said.
But that is a common misconception about martial arts.
Instead of comparing Connor to an older, bigger and stronger black belt student, Deane compared him to his peers.
“Does he have enough power and technique to defend himself against two or three kids of the same age?” Deane asked.
“From that point of view I have no doubt he could defend himself against two, three, maybe even four kids his age.”
Earning a black belt in any martial art, including Taekwondo is not an easy matter.
There are several components to the exam that leads to the black belt which Connor detailed as, “Patterns, push ups and stuff.”
Connor’s description makes it sound easy, but that isn’t the case.
For instance, Choong Moo, the requisite pattern for the black belt consists of 30 prescribed movements that must be performed in the proper sequence and the movements must also be executed with precision.
Other requirements for the black belt include some sparring, self-defence movements and physical fitness such as 55 push ups, real push ups, in 60 seconds.
For many, never mind a seven-year-old, learning a 30-movement pattern, or even doing 55 push ups would present an important challenge, but for Connor, there was only one particular requirement he found difficult.
“Kicking really high, over my waist,” he said.
“At the black belt level we expect the feet to be over your head,” Deane said.
Connor is a veteran on the Taekwondo competition circuit and has had success.
At a competition in Kamloops last year he earned two gold medals, one for patterns and the other for Chambarra, a form of sword fighting. He also earned a silver medal for contact sparring, his favourite part about Taekwondo.
As with every endeavour, success requires practice and dedication both of which Connor has.
“Connor is a model student, and he is dedicated to the sport of Taekwondo,” Deane said.
“He also has an ability to focus that is beyond his age.”
As for practice, Connor in a sense is lucky to have his brother Thomas as a practice and sparring partner, even though sometimes those sparring practices can lead to a bit of trouble.
“They do a lot of sparring, Connor and Thomas’ mother Debbie-Jo said.
“But it’s not always practice sparring,” she added with a smile that all mothers would recognize.
Other than the occasional dust-up, Debbie-Jo sees the benefits derived from her boys participating in Taekwondo.
“It really helps them in school, it gives them a lot of confidence,” Debbie-Jo said.
“It teaches them to set goals for themselves.”
Indeed Connor has set a clear goal for himself when he grows up.
“I want to be exactly like my dad, he’s a forester.”