On Dec. 21, a day when Mayan legend questioned if the world would end, there was a new beginning at Mastery Martial Arts in Johnston.
Located in a shopping plaza at 39 Putnam Pike (Route 44), Mastery Martial Arts is a self-defense school that specializes in Aikido. Last Friday evening, the school was jam-packed with proud parents, relatives and friends who turned to support their favorite students and to witness a candlelight ceremony that culminated with presentations of various degrees of black belts.
Anthony Pezzillo, the chief instructor at Mastery Martial Arts that has other locations throughout Rhode Island, headlined the ceremony and presented children he called “deserving students” with their respective black belts.
“These students have been working for three years to achieve this goal,” Pezzillo told an attentive audience that filled just about every available space around the mat used for training.
The ceremony began with the recitation of the student creed that was followed by each student lighting and placing a candle in front of themselves.
After reflecting on what Pezzillo called “their individual journeys,” the instructor asked each of the students to picture where they would be one year from now as well as five and 10 years in the future. He went on to say that if the students were satisfied with those future goals, they should blow out their candle.
Pezzillo then called each of the 33 students to the center of the mat and asked if they would accept the responsibility of their black belt.
If they said yes, he proceeded to remove their belts and replace them with a neatly tied black belt.
“This was an emotional ceremony,” said Lori DeVito, a Johnston resident and president of the Manton Seniors who was on hand to see her great-grandson Austin Wheeler receive his black belt. “Tonight was really special for parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents.
Austin Wheeler is the son of Jeff and Amy Wheeler and grandson of JoAnn Krzyzek, whose late husband passed away two years ago this month. Austin Wheeler, who is now 6 years old, has been going to Mastery Martial Arts for three years. He earned his black belt in the Little Dragons category.
“Each and every day we all read or listen to the craziness that is going on in our world,” said DeVito. “It is so heartwarming to know that message ‘Peace on Earth – Goodwill towards Men’ still remains when we witness a ceremony such as this one tonight.”
There were a total of 33 students who received Black Belts during last Friday evening’s ceremony. They and their respective classes are:
Little Dragons: Anthony Desmarais, Tristan Kennedy, Autumn McIntyre, Lincoln Tiernan and Austin Wheeler
Apprentice: Adam Allen, Brandon Darelius, Carlos Dos Santos, Joshua Farrell, Imani Givens, Heather Hall, Jacob Hall, Juliana Hall, Liz LaFrance, Frank Pagano, John Pagano, Madison Perez, Joshua Raposo and Klare Ruiz
Apprentice: Brandon Ruiz, Taylor Ruiz, Kyle Sullivan, Alvaro Tudela, Stephanie Tudela and Brandon Turbitt
Certified: Gillian Austin, William Hilton, Phillip Lemoi and Juliana Manchester
First Degree: Ronald Pezzuco
Second Degree: Ashley Zannini