"Wax on, wax off. Breathe in, breathe out."
The movies made it look easy, so like most boys who watched The Karate Kid, Austin Guidry wanted to become an expert in martial arts.
Four years ago, Austin began taking karate lessons. During the summer, the 14-year-old earned his black belt, but the simplistic instructions given to the movie character Daniel - "breathe in, breathe out" - took more effort than Austin imagined.
"I always watched karate in movies, and I liked it, and I wanted to try it," Austin said. "But let me tell you, it's harder in real life than it is in the movies."
He learned that movie fight scenes are choreographed, but for fights in competition, "you have to have more endurance," something Austin said he struggled with.
He was born with subaortic stenosis, which he describes as a blocked artery, along with a hole in his heart that caused a murmur. Austin said his doctor told him the condition caused a lack of oxygen in his bloodstream, making his heart work harder, which meant he had less stamina.
Having been told he needed open-heart surgery, Austin made the decision to first test for his black belt. His instructor, Bobby Wilson, called Warrior Jiu-Jitsu at Patriots Park Gym, scheduled the black belt test for June 12, and his surgery was scheduled for June 15.
"If you could've seen him out there on the floor fighting for that black belt, you couldn't tell he was supposed to have surgery in three days," Wilson said. "No one would believe what all he went through during the test to get that black belt."
During his test, Austin had to spar against five people at one time, with his back against the wall. Austin said he had sparred two-on-one before, but never five. After the test, Austin said he was surprised to learn he had achieved an adult-level black belt - he thought he was testing for the junior black belt.
"This required a whole new range of vision,'' Austin said. "I thought there was no way I could get out of that. I fell down and kicked the leg of one guy and he fell, but everybody else just kept coming at me. I don't remember exactly how I did it, but I got back up and kept fighting."
Austin Guidry, 14, earned an adult-level black belt three days before undergoing open-heart surgery last summer. He said the karate training helped him get back on his feet.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Wilson described the type of martial arts Austin is learning as a combination of kempo and jiu-jitsu. Wilson said he felt that fighting five people at once is important because it is realistic.
"I train them to handle themselves in situations that might happen outside the martial-arts class. It's more than just knowledge and technique; it's what's in your heart. If you give up in a test, then you will give up outside the class with other things in life."
Wilson said he has watched Austin's maturity level through the years and Austin is not the average young man.
"He's more than a handful, he's very deceiving. You get fooled by his (small) size, but that young man has a lot of knowledge, and he trains hard," Wilson said.
Mike Guidry, Austin's father, said the martial-arts training helped Austin during his surgery. Guidry said the doctors commented that they could see what good shape he was in.
"He had open-heart surgery on Tuesday, and he was home on Friday, so you could see he was in good shape," Guidry said.
Students at Warrior Jiu-Jitsu are taught not to brag about their fighting skills because martial arts are used not to start fights, but for discipline and defense. Austin agrees and said he would rather influence people by speaking about those who go through physical suffering like he did.
"Karate helped me after surgery because it gave me the strength and confidence to get up and walk when they told me to. But the real reason I got through the surgery was because I have faith in God," he said. "The surgery was a good experience in that it taught me to trust people I didn't know. I want to tell people to be grateful if they are healthy. Nobody wants to go through surgery like I did. I was at the Medical College of Georgia, and I saw so many people with worse stuff than I had. I saw other kids there also having surgery like me. I pray for them all."
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