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EUGENE, Ore -- A Eugene karate teacher has earned her way into an elite group by becoming one of a handful of instructors in the U.S. to earn a 6th degree black belt.
Sensei Elida Wagner, owner of Family Karate Center, achieved the milestone in December 2017. Her students notified KEZI 9 News about her 6th degree black belt in Shudokan Karate. Wagner says she knows of only seven other instructors who have achieved the black belt, which is actually red and white.
"It's a belt you get when you are a Shihan, which means professor teacher. It's like a master teacher and you have to be sixth degree or higher to get the belt," Wagner said.
Wagner, 50, began to study Shudokan Karate at age 15 and hasn't taken a break. That adds up to 35 years of practice and 30 years of teaching. Wagner says when she first started karate lessons she was the only girl in the class, but a lot has changed since then. At Family Karate Center, Wagner says about 70 percent of students are women and young girls.
"To give an environment and a place that is safe for women and their goals, to be like, 'OK, we can come here and be comfortable and train with other women,' is really a rewarding thing to do," added Wagner.
Wagner's journey to earn the coveted belt has been long and arduous and what makes it even more impressive are the physical obstacles she's overcome. Wagner was born with hearing loss and at age 15, she was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, which causes hearing and vision loss.
"I'm losing my vision, and so it's a challenge. It's easy being hard of hearing and knowing you are going to go blind to say, 'Oh, I can't run a karate school or I can't do this or do that,' and that's not how I want to live my life." Wagner added, "I have try to teach that to my students so that they understand even if they are a single mom, or whatever challenge you may have, you can still find a way to thrive."
Wagner is now training for her next black belt. Per Shudokan Karate regulations, she must wait seven years to test for a seventh degree belt.