Junior at Hershey High School Earns 3rd Dan Black Belt

Mia Caldonetti, Reporter

Hershey High School junior Noah Demopoulos recently earned his 3rd Dan at Kim’s Institute of Martial Arts (KIMA). 

But what is a “Dan”? Dan, pronounced “don” meaning stairs or levels, is a level of rank as a black belt in the Korean martial art of Taekwondo. This is a major accomplishment that he achieved after 12 years of hard work. 

Black belt tests and other lower-ranked tests are regulated by the students’ academy, but legitimate taekwondo institutions are regulated by the World Taekwondo Federation and Kukkiwon.  These have standardized tests that incorporate Korean memorization and physical abilities. 

There are about 5000 taekwondo masters in the world today with no more than 300 grandmasters. Master is achieved at 4th dan, grandmaster is achieved at 7th dan, and supreme grandmaster is achieved at 10th. 

Now that Noah has earned his 3rd dan he will have to train another four years to test for his master, or 4th dan. At such a young age Demopoulos has incredible potential if he chooses to continue pursuing taekwondo. 

To earn the 3rd dan, Demopoulos had to pass a number of physical and mental tests.  He had to run two miles in under 18 minutes, which he completed in 15. He then had to do 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups, 100 lunge front snap kicks, 50 squat roundhouse kicks, and 50 squat side kicks. 

The next part was memorization based: He had to count to 100 in Korean, recite and do over 30 escape techniques and over 30 step-sparring, then was responding to the Korean names of poomsae forms with their correct steps. Once the “no contact” aspect was complete it was time to put on sparring gear. 

Poomsae and Sparring are the two main competitive sections of taekwondo, with other options for demonstrations with a variety of weapons. Noah had to also demonstrate his use of nunchucks, swords, and bo-staff. Then sparring, he started with a one-on-one fight against Reggie Chen, HHS senior, and was also testing for his third dan. After a 2-minute water break, he took on three black belts around the same size and level at once and had to prove he could stay in control and in the ring. 

For the finale, Noah had to complete 6 consecutive wooden board-breaking spin kicks, a board-breaking tornado kick, and a hammer fist that broke two bricks stacked on top of each other.

At the end of the test, Master SukJong Kim congratulated his students saying, “It takes heart to become KIMA black belt. It takes hard work to become KIMA black belt. And you did it.” Those who passed will have a Korean tea ceremony a few months from now and be presented with their embroidered belts. 

Noah plans on continuing his training until graduation, after he goes to college he isn’t sure of what he will do, but one thing he is confident in is that KIMA has been and always will be a memorable part of his life.