Bethany Teen Achieves New Heights
Karate Kid Erica Wivagg
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Most adults can't say we've stuck with something for 13 years, but 18-year-old Erica Wivagg can. She was just five-years-old when she started taking karate classes at Pereira's Academy of Karate in Bethany. Wednesday night she was promoted to her 4th degree black belt.
"This is a major accomplishment for anyone, but she was the youngest to test for that rank," Pereira says. "I think she serves as a role model, especially for young women."
Erica has had fun, but admits it has required very hard work: "I think it was cool going from a little kid looking up (literally) to having the little kids look up at me."
The Amity senior has been to karate class at least once or twice a week since she was five. When she's felt like giving up, she draws on the strength of other people who keep her going.
As Erica was training for her 4th degree black belt, Pereira was training for his 6th degree black belt.
"She threw every punch I did and kicked every kick I did," said Pereira.
"It was ridiculously vigorous," she says. "We worked 13-14 hours a day. We needed that mental strength to get through it." Qualifying for a higher degree black belt requires four days of hard core training and one day of testing.
Erica was Pereira's 22nd student back 13 years ago. She joined his school just three months after he opened.
The mission at Pereira's Academy of Karate is to empower members—child or adult—with the physical, mental and emotional skills necessary to be successful in life. By emphasizing self-defense, health, fitness and life skills in a friendly, safe, positive environment, the school inspires students to become more confident, successful contributing members of their community.
"I've enjoyed watching her from the time she was a little kid, working her way up through the classes. I brought her up from a white belt," the proud instructor says. "She's the first to get this far--the youngest to have ever done this." From here, Erica can keep going.
"I'm a fourth Dan Master now, but I can keep going to infinity. i can go forever," she says.