Red Dragon’s Conor Soule and Cade Hackman receive black belts

The black belt has a certain mystique about it, something people don’t fully understand, and perhaps think only middle-aged martial arts movie stars have. In reality, a black belt is open to whoever is dedicated enough to put in the work and see themselves through to the goal.

On June 23, two Red Dragon Martial Arts Taekwondo students, 12-year-old Conor Soule and 10-year-old Cade Hackman, completed their formal testing in front of family and friends to receive their first poom junior black belts.

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“It represents five to six years of training, and is the main goal they’ve been working towards since they started with us. Not everybody gets there, and it’s something you really have to sacrifice for,” said Master Ben Marsh.

Marsh said the reason Soule and Hackman were in this position was because of their talent, and their self motivation.

Both students were very happy to earn a black belt, while relieved that they could go home and sleep.

“It’s amazing. It’s taken me six years,” said Soule.

“I started when I was five. This is a really big accomplishment that’s been my goal for a long time,” Hackman said.

The formal testing was an hour-long showcase of their skills and ability to break certain boards when asked, but the full process began the night before. On Friday evening, June 22, Hackman and Soule did a half hour of training followed by a half hour of meditation, repeating that cycle all night.

Both Marsh and the students agreed that the meditation was the hardest part, as they had to sit cross legged on the floor and not speak for a half hour.

“It’s pretty painful to meditate for half hour at a time, and really challenging to stay up all night,” said Marsh.

Both Soule and Hackman agreed that while the formal testing was very pressure-filled, the overnight portion was the hardest part.

“We’ve worked so hard to get here it would be a shame if we didn’t try it,” Soule said.

Conducting the overnight portion of the testing was second degree black belt Stacey Edwards. After the testing, Marsh presented Edwards, who is moving away for university, with the Red Dragon Taekwondo School Spirit Award, for her dedication to Red Dragon.

“She’s been an assistant instructor for five years, and we wanted to acknowldge all the work she’s put in. She’s very self motivated, and very deserving,” Marsh said.

Edwards didn’t know she was receiving the award, and was very grateful.

“It was really special. (Red Dragon) has given me a lot of courage and is like another family and it really means a lot,” Edwards said.

Hackman and Soule plan to keep moving forward in taekwondo, with Soule saying he wants to get his second poom black belt and get to the top.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Hackman.

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at

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