This will be my eighth promotion, but in a lot of ways it means the most. When I started as a white belt, there was Kyoshi teaching the class, and a bunch of other beginners -- and then there was Senpai Cliff. At the time, Cliff was a brown belt, and he was also assisting Kyoshi with the white belts and with the kids' classes (he still does). It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted to be Cliff when I grew up. *chuckle* (I even Tuckerized him, putting him into StarCraft: Ghost: Nova as the man responsible for ordering the deaths of the title character's family. He was thrilled. At least I think he was. Not sure how he felt about the character's rather craven death, but what the hey....)
Since then, Cliff has become a black belt, having gotten his advanced brown belt in May 2005 (same time I got my blue belt) and his black belt in October 2006. As for me, I've clawed my way up the ranks, consistently being inspired by Cliff's magnificent example. As much or more than any of Kyoshi's students, he exemplifies all the best qualities of a karateka, and it is more of an honor than I can possibly say to be invited to be at the same level he was at when I started.
I feel like I've accomplished something important with this invitation. I hope I'm worthy of what Kyoshi has taught me, and of the example that Cliff has set for all of us.
Cliff, if you're reading this: Osu, Senpai. Thank you.