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Chance's Champs: Black Belt Affair

Posted at 6:38 PM, Dec 17, 2019

Under the watchful eye of The Pit's owner, John Hackleman, there is no such thing as easy training, especially when you're in pursuit of one of martial arts' highest honors.

"These 14-year-old to 19-year-old kids were training like they were training for UFC," Hackleman said about his six newest black belt members. "So when they got those black belts, they deserved them. There's no gimmes here."

Tanner Georgii (19), Blake Georgii (16), Vaughn Rostermundt (17), Axel Stanton (15), Alex Perez (14), and Jaden Ermocida (14), all under the age of 20, received their black belts in early November. While Hackleman vowed to never award a black belt to someone that young, these six changed his tune with their work ethic.

"It gets emotional. It's pride," Hackleman said emphatically. "I can't imagine most kids being willing enough to train that hard five days a week."

For the boys, all the blood, sweat, and tears were totally worth it.

"I didn't even think that it was something that I wanted this much, but when I got it, it was the satisfaction of actually being able to achieve something that awesome," Blake said.

"Every time I look down at this thing, I keep getting reminded of the 12 years that I've been here," Vaughn added. "I just keep going at it and at it over and over each and every class."

But every journey toward a black belt is different. Tanner, the oldest, quit martial arts when he was younger. When he returned to the The Pit, he had something to prove to his instructors.

"I'm sure they never thought I'd get a black belt, but now they see me and are proud of me," Tanner exclaimed. "They still treat me like I'm a little kid, just like they did back then."

The boys joined elite company which includes UFC greats Chuck Liddell and Glover Teixeira. Hackleman's ceremony in Hawaii forms a special bond with black belts from the past and the present.

"We call it 'Ohana' because we're like a family," Hackleman said. "When we promote our guys to black belt, it's like a right of passage."

"It shows how much people can really bond over martial arts and Hawaiian Kenpo."

Family means even more for Tanner and Blake as Hackleman is also their step-dad. All three worked together every step, punch, and kick in the process.

"Yeah, if John wasn't there, I probably wouldn't have been able to do it myself," Blake explained.

"It made it a lot more fun and a lot harder on us because we all wanted to improve each other and make ourselves better," Tanner added.

"I trained them here, yelled at them, then we'd go home and have dinner," Hackleman joked. "We'd come back here training and sweating, and we're practicing all these techniques so nobody ever takes our lunch money. It's a family."