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Don’t mess with success — especially when it involves smart teenagers with black belts.
The academic top three for Rockwood High School’s class of 2013 all have first-degree black belts in taekwondo. First-degree is the highest rank achievable.
Peyton Robinette, Seth Emmert and Michael Grigsby, in top academic order, worked hard to earn them at Kingston Martial Arts Center, formerly Tennessee Tae Kwon Do Judo Center.
Grigsby called his black belt “a symbol of perseverance, determination and endurance.”
“Martial arts wasn’t only a physical endurance. You’re training your mind as well,” he said. “It is easy to relate this to other aspects of your life.”
“We make it as difficult as possible. A black belt is a prestigious thing. Not everyone earns one,” said instructor Shelton McCullough, who taught Emmert and Robinette at Kingston Martial Arts.
Grigsby’s instructor was Steven Robinette, who is no relation to Peyton.
The test is four hours long and includes a focus on endurance.
“It was a very personal experience. You were competing against yourself,” Robinette said.
The three started martial arts training at different times, but did spend some time together.
“I say about three years — us fighting together, fighting against each other,” Grigsby said.
Grigsby started taking martial arts at the urging of his father, who got deployed just after he started.
“He took me there to get me started into it,” Grigsby said. His father, James Grigsby, also took martial arts with his son.
Peyton said his mother, Heather Robinette, encouraged him to try it. His grandfather Keith Henley also is a first-degree black belt.
Despite the competitive nature of the sport, martial arts also had a supportive atmosphere.
“I think actually black belt was more of a personal thing. You are rooting for each other regardless,” said Emmert.
“I think having two peers in competition with pushed me further toward my goals,” Robinette said.
Robinette is planning to attend the University of Tennessee and earn a degree in biology. He wants to get into medical school and hopes to go into general practice.
“I would like to be able to come back to Rockwood and practice here,” he said.
Emmert is planning to attend Johnson University and may go into worship and music ministry.
“Music has always been sort of sacred for me,” Emmert said.
Grigsby is planning to attend University of Tennessee and pursue a degree in nuclear engineering.
“I want to grow a mustache and have really cool hair,” Grigsby joked.
“I was captivated by the entire world still considered unknown of the nuclear power and nuclear energy.”