Good Sports: Mark Topoozian

FRESNO, Calif.

You can excuse 10-year-old Mark Topoozian of Fresno for being too tired to say much after one of the biggest moments of his life this past weekend.

You see, Topoozian was a little busy earning his junior black belt in karate, and had to test for two hours straight, sparring against one opponent, then two, and even three at a time.

"I'll walk a little taller, because I'll feel more confident in myself," said Mark Topoozian. "It makes me feel really happy."

"Mental discipline. Mental toughness," said Matt Smith, Mark's Sensei. "You saw watching the testing that he had to spar guys that were a lot bigger than him. And that takes the ability to do things sometimes and overcome things you don't want to."

Then came the fun stuff, breaking three straight wooden blocks with a variety of strikes, with no hesitation, a result of the confidence, Topoozian says karate has instilled in him. "All the years I put into it paid off and that was my main goal: to get a black belt."

"Very emotional," Mark's father told Action News. "I had tears in my eyes when he broke those boards. It was a dream come true."

His Sensei at the Pacific Martial Arts Center has been teaching karate for more than 20 years, to thousands of students, and says Mark, is the youngest junior black belt he has ever worked with. Smith said, "Most junior black belts I've promoted have been 12-13-14. They've been teenagers he's 10. And yeah, he's put in six plus years. But still, that's an incredible accomplishment for six years to go that far."

And it's all the result of six years' worth of blood, sweat and tears. Topoozian has practiced karate since the tender age of four, the same age as some of the martial artists that look up to him today.

"It makes me feel good because other people are looking up to me and what I do," said Topoozian. "It makes me feel like I was them - looking up to someone else."

And he's already looking ahead, to the distant future. Topoozian says he's actually got a lot more training ahead of him, working towards an adult black belt. "I just have to work harder for another six more years. Now I want to be an adult black belt."

Mark's father said, "Just a tougher kid. But he doesn't show it. Most of his schoolmates don't even know he's a karate expert. He just doesn't promote it."

But considering all he has done before the sixth grade, the next few years should be a breeze for this black belt.

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