Kicking’ while distancing: Martial artists maneuver around pandemic to get their black belts

SAN DIEGO — From graduations to proms and other school ceremonies, the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed many plans.

But for these students, they’ll keep their guards up while fighting their way to fulfill their goals.

Practicing their social distancing and limiting their class size, Neylani Macasadia and her cousins Jacob and Kayla Santiago, took their black belt tests.

Despite these punches and swift kicks, there was no contact among these family members or their sensei.

The family has been part of the class together for the past five years.

“After 5 years of teakwood I’m very excited to receive my black belt, at first I was nervous about joining the Blue Dragons, there were many kids I didn’t know — I felt they were going to kick my butt. That’s why I asked my cousins Jacob and Kyla to join me, because I knew I could kick their butts and they would not hurt me because I’m the youngest cousin. After attending more and more classes at Blue Dragon, I achieved more confidence and attained my goal.”

When it was time to receive their belts, these martial artists had to break away from the tradition in where the senseis actually place the belts — they had to go with a more airborne method.

These fighters said sparring is among their favorite activities, and they can’t wait to get back to it as soon as the limitations on gatherings is lifted.

“I want to continue to lead the competition team and hopefully compete in a tournament soon so I can showcase my skills.”

For this family, it was a much-needed celebration moment of joy and accomplishment, especially for Meylani’s mom Maritess, who works in the medical field — dealing with the increased number of patients, while trying to keep her own guard up against the virus.

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