Tyler Lehmann is a typical 6-year-old boy. He likes weapons, things that go fast and he’s always moving. The difference between Tyler and your average 6-year-old is Tyler has his black belt.
Tyler, a first-grader at Garfield Elementary School, started his journey toward earning his black belt at Ultimate Martial Arts (UMA) in Baxter at the age of 4. “He was just a natural at it,” said his father, Ty Lehmann.
Lehmann said his son’s involvement in karate was somewhat coincidental. Lehmann himself practiced karate as a boy earning five belts of the 12 required before a black belt.
The younger Lehmann found his way to UMA in Baxter after winning a free trial month while trick-or-treating in 2011.
Two years later, Tyler has earned his place as the youngest black belt in UMA’s karate school and the youngest student in the history of UMA to receive his black belt. “It’s very uncommon,” said UMA owner and Master Instructor Rob Nelson. Nelson said in his 30 years of teaching, he has only seen one other 6-year-old complete his black belt training. Nelson pointed out that the belt Tyler earned is not a junior black belt — it is the same belt earned by adults and required all of the same training.
“That’s the big thing — that’s just huge,” Nelson said. “It’s like getting a college degree as a 6-year-old.”
Nelson said he attributes Tyler’s success to his high drive and self discipline. “He’s always challenging himself to do better,” he said.
Nelson said UMA’s kids program, called Super Kids is unique because they start training kids as young as 2 and 3 years old. Nelson said Tyler’s maturity is what has made it possible for him to succeed at such a young age. “He’s very well disciplined with the adults,” Nelson said. “That’s the future of our community right there — in this boy. With leaders like him growing up in our area, we have a lot to look forward to.”
Like most kids his age, Tyler’s take on his accomplishments are pretty simple: “I did it,” he said. “I did the class and I got my belt.”
Training for success has meant training four tofive5 days a week for the last two years. He spends most of his time training with adults and kids twice his age, but he isn’t phased by that. “I don’t really notice,” he said.
The test required to earn a black belt requires 10 different form with a series of moves, plus a self defense combination and a musical form, among others. In all the test takes about three and a half hours.
Tyler said it wasn’t his age or his size that was intimidating to him. Not even his adult counterparts looking to earn their blackbelts made him anxious. Tyler said it was the musical portion that made him sweat. “I was nervous I would forget it,” he said.
Ty Lehmann said after it was confirmed that his son had earned his black belt, Tyler got to sign the black belt registry. “It was this list of adult signatures and then Tyler’s name is big block letters,” Lehmann recalled.
Tyler has won three championships in the last three years and even earned himself a sword as tall as he is after winning the under-10 grand championship. Despite his wins and titles, Tyler said he favorite part of karate is breaking boards with his feet.
When he’s not busy perfecting his karate, Lehmann spends his time training for motocross. And he wins that, too.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Tyler’s mom, Michelle. “He does it all by himself.”
Tyler said when he grows up he wants to be a school teacher. As for his karate, he plans to continue studying for the foreseeable future. He said he is continuing to learn new disicplines in his black belt classes. While Tyler is still too young to be an instructor — he’ll be eligible at the age of 16 — his dad joked that when Tyler is old enough to teach, he has no doubt he’ll be good at that too. “Maybe when he’s a little older I’ll let him teach me.”
SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.