CCLP/BRITTANY FHOLER Copperas Cove firefighter Stephen Clendenen joins his Self Defense America classmates in a demonstration at the ceremony held Friday evening at Self Defense America located in the Cove Terrace Shopping Center.

Clendenen receives black belt in Taekwondo

Cove Leader-Press

Copperas Cove firefighter Stephen Clendenen received his first-degree Black belt in Taekwondo under Master Jimmy Hogberg at Self Defense America in the Cove Terrace Shopping Center Friday evening. 
Clendenen was one of 36 students to be promoted at Self Defense America. He joined Nicole and Nathan Wheeler, who received their second-degree Black belts at the same ceremony, and Clendenen became the 79th person to receive a black belt under Hogberg’s instruction. 
Clendenen’s sons, Miles, 8, and Micah, 5, presented their dad with his black belt and certificate at Friday’s ceremony, as Gloria Estefan’s “Reach” played in the background. The song was the song that was playing when Hogberg was promoted to Black belt in Hapkido in 1996, Hogberg said. 
Hogberg took each Black belt and wiped the sweat off his brow on to one side and directed each Black belt student to wipe their sweat on the other side. This is an adaptation of a tradition that his mentor, Grandmaster James McMurray, of House of Discipline Martial Arts Group, has for students who get promoted to Master, Hogberg said. 
“My sweat is going to your sweat,” Hogberg said. “My knowledge to your knowledge through the belt.”
Hogberg explained how tough it is for an adult to reach the level of Black belt, not because of the level of difficulty technique-wise, but due to responsibilities adults may have as parents or because of work. 
“You know, we got to go to work, we got to take care of our kids,” Hogberg said. “If you got to get to your kid’s baseball game, or soccer game or football game, that comes before your martial arts training.”
Hogberg also mentioned the struggle with time and money and sometimes working multiple jobs. 
“It’s actually more rare, believe it or not, for an adult to get the Black belt,” Hogberg said. “Because if a kid says they want to do it, the parents will do whatever they got to do to get them here, but if it’s an adult, they got to still do whatever else they got to do to take care of their kids.”
The adults that do make it to Black belt are the parents who are bringing their kids, who think that since they are already at the class, they might as well join, Hogberg said. 
Clendenen said getting his Black belt was a good feeling. 
“When I put my mind to something, I finish it,” Clendenen said. “It’s an accomplishment. It’s a starting point to moving on and doing bigger and better things in Tae Kwan Do.”
Clendenen started practicing Taekwondo more than three years ago to help his son Miles progress, he said. When Miles was 4 ½ years old, his parents got him involved in Taekwondo because he wanted an activity to do, Clendenen said. Micah started taking classes last year, joining his brother and dad. He was promoted to Orange belt at Friday’s ceremony. 
Clendenen’s wife, Rachel, was a student of Hogberg’s nearly 20 years ago but stopped. She said she plans to start taking classes again, making it an activity for the whole family. 
“It’s a good bonding experience and it is a life skill that can be used possibly. You hold yourself with more confidence. You know, people tend not to mess with people who exude confidence,” Rachel Clendenen said. “You know, if you’re cowering and you don’t feel real confident, people mess with you but when you kind of present yourself in a certain way, which I believe Taekwondo helps you with, that makes you kind of more confident with yourself and the abilities that you have.”
At the end of the ceremony, Hogberg played “Letters from Home” by John Michael Montgomery to honor Grandmaster James McMurray and Hogberg’s father, both Vietnam War veterans 
McMurray’s students wear red undershirts, to show remembrance for deployed soldiers, Hogberg said. When it came time for Hogberg to order shirts for his own students, he chose red as well. One of the reasons Hogberg wanted to have McMurry at the ceremony event was to show him that he followed in another one of his traditions with the red shirts, he said. 
In addition to the three Black belt students, there were also dozens of students promoted. In Hapkido, two students were promoted to Orange belt and Blue belt. In Taekwondo, five students were promoted to Yellow belt; seven students to Orange belt; three students to Advanced Purple belt; eight students to Green belt; two to Advanced Green belt; one to Blue belt; two to Red belt; and three to Deputy Black belt. 

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