By Josh Sigler
A mother and father to six children, Jason and Denise Page began to run into your typical challenges associated with such a large family back in 2008, once the oldest children reached an age where they started to have desires to be involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.
As the commitments started to pile up, it didn’t seem like there were enough hours in the day to accomplish all the pitstops and still have time left over to fellowship as a family.
Karate to the rescue.
“We were doing football, baseball, etc., and that eats into family time when everyone is in different leagues and age groups,” Jason said. “We asked them if they would want to do martial arts, and they were all receptive. All six of our kids are into karate. We are involved in Brazilian jujitsu and Hawaiian Kempo kickboxing, and I do some of that with my kids. It’s a great family-oriented thing that maximizes family time.”
The oldest four Page siblings, 15-year-old Henly, 14-year-old Ely, 12-year-old Ethan and 11-year-old Ava, all enrolled in Sensei Terry Gruel’s marital arts program at Indiana Pit in Kokomo at the same time six years ago, and all have excelled at an incredible rate.
The four recently all earned their black belts at the same time, becoming the first set of four siblings in Gruel’s 32-year career to reach that level at the same time.
“I’m proud of each one of them because they each earned it,” Jason said. “It’s a character-building activity. The thing I like about karate is that it reinforces values that my wife and I want our kids to learn as they grow up and head out into the work force. It makes you be a good representative of your sport. I’m proud of each one of them because they’ve had to stand on their own two feet and go through the various workouts.”
The four Page children became the 29th, 30th, 31st and 32nd students to earn their black belts under Gruel. In over three decades of martial arts instruction, Gruel said he’s never seen a family with four members of the same generation attain their black belts in the same ceremony. He speculated that the feat is likely pretty rare in any martial-arts practicing part of the world, something he says is a testament to the family’s character and perseverance.
“The entire family is just a great family, Gruel said. “They are all just respectable children who do whatever you ask them to do. They’re mature and dependable. When you need help with anything, they are the first ones to jump up and help out. They’re a unique family with an impressive group of kids who work very hard. Jason and Denise are always making sure they’re doing the right things and following through on anything they begin. They’ve hardly ever missed classes throughout the years.”
The path to a black belt is more than just about applying taught martial arts skills in a competitive setting. Each child had to research and write, on their own, a history of karate. Students are also required to write an autobiography to submit to their sensei. Along with that, students partake in three 3.5-hour workouts per week and take part in one classroom session per week.
The entire process to rise from white belt to black belt takes between five and six years. The Pages started as white belts at the same time, working their way up through the various belts before spending the last 6-12 months making the journey from brown belt to black belt.
“Terry trains old-school and does it for the enjoyment,” Jason said of Gruel, who is a world-champion martial artist when he’s not teaching the sport. “Each one of the kids were not promoted because they were related. That’s unusual that all four were able to do it on the same day. I think Terry is the best instructor around. He’s the best kept secret in the state of Indiana.”