Ben Mann is possibly Mid North’s youngest person to achieve a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Freestyle Martial Arts, and he already has his eyes on the next level.
On the cusp of his 23rd birthday, the Hamley Bridge resident gained what he described as one of his “hardest gradings of his life so far”, yet said it was worth every bit of the training.
The honour, Mann believes, means he is the youngest person in his club to achieve the award.
He explained that after the 1st black belt ranking, students then work towards their 2nd Degree Black Belt and so on until they reach a final level.
“In between the first and second you have a teacher’s rank, which is what I also got awarded,” Mann said.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting that because you never know when you will be presented with this as it comes from either a teacher or instructor,” he said.
Mann, who joined the Mind, Body, Soul (MBS) Freestyle Martial Arts Club in Gawler as a 12-year-old, has gone on to successfully run his own club in Hamley Bridge, which has ticked over a year.
“I wasn’t interested in football and similar sports, I was more interested in wrestling,” he said.
“I’m unsure how I found out about the club but I wanted to give it a go and I wanted to keep fit.”
Looking back, Mann said he initially wasn’t fazed about moving through the ranks but the first few levels soon cemented his love of the sport.
“I just wanted to keep going,” he said.
While Mann said he didn’t necessarily have the skill to begin with, he explained that persistence and focus led him to where he is today.
“Each rank definitely gets harder … the journey is quite challenging and you do have doubts along the way, but you just keep that at the back of your mind and move forward.”
And while working towards his 2rd Degree Black Belt, he was already thinking about the 3rd, which he says is more than a year away.
Mann credits a number of teachers and instructors across the years including his second cousin Jason Polkinghorne.
He said in order to move through the ranks he established the Mixed Martial Arts Club in Hamley Bridge which boasts helping students work towards their black belt.
The club currently supports between 10-15 children and about five-10 adults, and Mann is assisted by two instructors to help run the classes.
Mann admits he would like to continue the sport as long as his body enables him.
“The highest rank I believe is 6th degree. My instructor holds his 4th Degree Black Belt from the Lyndoch club, which has been established for about 30 years,” he said.
Mann devotes several hours of his week to martial arts, which is on top of his involvement with Hamley Bridge CFS.
“Mondays I have CFS training and Wednesdays I teach the cadets, so I have a bit to juggle,” he laughed.
The knife-hand at Port Wakefield Abattoir added that following the 3rd Degree Black Belt he will now begin to work with weapons.
“It gets pretty complicated but the physical side of it is mostly done, now it’s more about the mental challenge.”
Mann also works towards refining his teaching skills to align with other instructors.
“But I definitely recommend this journey to anyone,” he said.