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Local Picayune karate student ready for black belt test

At the young age of just 6-years-old Dakota Ketchens is preparing to test for something the majority of karate practitioners never achieve.

On Dec. 17 Ketchens will test for his first recommended black belt.

The youngster attends Picayune taekwondo and is under the tutelage of Master Bret Barras, who holds an 8th degree black belt.

Dakota’s father, Devin Ketchens, said Dakota’s interest in taekwondo came from martial arts movies.

Ketchens said his son would watch the movies and then try to imitate the moves as a toddler and that’s what led to Dakota beginning his martial arts journey at the age of 4.

Dakota has learned a variety of techniques and skills from practicing taekonwdo for the past two years, but his father said the sport has taught him important lessons outside the dojo as well.

“Participating in karate has given him a better understanding of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit,” Ketchens said.

The upcoming test will be a difficult one for Dakota involving multiple challenges.

The young student will be required to perform his current senior brown belt form, his previous red belt form, show his advances in sparring, break two boards using a hand and foot technique, while also possibly having to answer various questions about his current form.

If Dakota is successful, two days later on Dec. 19 there will be an awards ceremony where he’s given his new belt and a certificate.

Devin Ketchens said his son has aspirations to accomplish more within taekwondo as a practice while also using the martial art to pursue other opportunities.

“His aspirations are aimed towards acting and landing a spot on the big screen as of now. His plan is also to keep pursuing the black belt ranks to achieve and receive 1st degree black belt,” Ketchens said.

The accolades are coming thick and fast for Dakota as he’s competed in numerous out-of-state tournaments focused on taekwondo.

Dakota’s talent has seen him earn multiple first place finishes in both form and sparring during competitions.

Ketchens said his son also skipped his red belt and went straight to senior red, a rare achievement.

Dakota was even given a 100-form patch during his last round of testing after completing his form 100 times correctly.

With the black belt test approaching fast Dakota will use his remaining days to prepare and practice in hopes of earning a black belt at the age of 6.