Delaware Budokan recently held a ceremonial exhibition and test of the martial arts karate and kenjutsu, honoring Jeffrey Quillen, William Bails and Matthew Atkins with two black belts and a third-degree scroll, respectively. The ceremony was held on March 20, in front of friends, family, fellow students and the instructors who oversee the students’ test routines.
Quillen is the owner of Coastal Wellness Center in Berlin, Md., and earned his third-degree black belt in karate. To obtain the honor, he had to demonstrate a series of coordinated moves side by side with Bails, exhibit weaponry self-defense, spar with Bails and crack several boards consecutively, followed by punching through a cinder cap.
He executed the moves precisely and showed outstanding quickness when sparring with the bigger Bails, but the highlight demonstrating Quillen’s toughness was when he broke the cinder cap with a direct, precise punch.
Quillen made contact with the cinder cap at such a high velocity that his follow-through actually caused him to chip his tooth and scrape his chin. But Quillen was filled with such adrenaline that he did not feel any immediate pain.
“I didn’t feel anything until my mouth hit the holder stones. I was so psyched up, I went through it like it was nothing.”
Earning his third-degree black belt wasn’t something Quillen did overnight.
“I have been working with the martial arts off and on since I was 16. I’ve been with this dojo since 2007, and it’s been seven years of constant hard work,” Quillen explained of the commitment required.
Bails, owner of Coastal Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine in Salisbury, Md., demonstrated his routines just as impressively and showed tremendous balance throughout the difficult kicks and jumps that must be executed during the black belt test.
Bails, however, was working towards his fifth-degree black belt and was required to do just a bit more than Quillen. When it came time for Bails to crack the cinder caps, he stacked up four, each separated by wood chips, and after kicking and elbowing through sets of wood held up by instructors, Bails demolished the four cinder caps into a pile of dust and crumbling cinder.
“It’s just amazing. When you’re a martial artist, it’s sometimes very hard to achieve that level ever. You know, some people never get to that point. So it’s an amazing opportunity,” Bails said enthusiastically about how it feels to earn a fifth-degree belt.
That honor carries with it an increased level of responsibility within the Delaware Budokan dojo. Younger students training to earn their black belts in karate will be looking up to him. Bails said he sees it as an opportunity to properly give back to the dojo that has given him so much.
Up next for him, he said: “Just to continue to work with students and promote them and try and progress them so they can get to their next level to earn their degrees.”
Karate wasn’t the only form of martial arts on display that evening, as Matthew Atkins demonstrated his skill in the art of kenjutsu — Japanese swordsmanship — and earned his mid-lower-level degree, or scroll, as it is known in kenjutsu. Atkins demonstrated focus and patience when his sword was drawn, and he sliced through the air with ease.
“With kenjutsu, there isn’t a belt. You just get different scroll levels, different levels of proficiency,” Atkins explained following the ceremony of the scrolls.
Atkins, a farmer, has been working to master the art of kenjutsu for two years and has already earned his third degree, less than a year after earning his first. In kenjutsu, he said, the rate of progression varies from student to student. Accomplishing three scrolls in a matter of two years is considered quite impressive.
Delaware Budokan’s facility includes an authentic Japanese-style dojo, training area, archery range and meditation gardens. It is located at 37221 Johnson Road, Selbyville, just off Route 54 near West Fenwick. Classes for adults and children focusing on self-defense and self-improvement are offered, and they specialize in weaponry used by samurai warriors and samurai law-enforcement, including archery, naginata, jutte and swordsmanship. More information can be found online at Delawarebudokan.net, by emailing Budokan33@hotmail.com or calling (302) 436-8189.