3 generations of martial mastery

Not many kids likely can say they've shared a karate belt rank with their grandmother.

But Shaylee Richey, 10, of Richland, can. She and her grandmother, Beverley Raffety, 79, also of Richland, were green belts until last week, when Raffety earned her brown belt, which is two ranks below the black belt, and Shaylee moved on to the black-striped green belt.

Shaylee was the first to try karate about five years ago at Richland's Trinity Martial Arts Academy. A month later, her mother and grandmother joined in.

Raffety said she already was taking kickboxing at the dojo, when her sensei, which means "teacher" in Japanese, suggested she would be good at karate. She stuck with it and found that it was not as strenuous, but gave her goals, in the form of belt rankings.

And Gina Richey, Shaylee's mom, said she quickly determined that if she was going to be at the dojo when Shaylee was training, it only made sense for her to learn too.

Richey, 40, said taking karate together has helped them all to stay accountable with lessons and practicing.

Shaylee, a fifth-grader at Richland's Liberty Christian School, said one of her favorite things to do is break boards.

Shaylee's grandmother admits she enjoys it too: "That's the only reason I went for a brown belt."

To get her brown belt, Raffety had to break three boards, one with her hand, one with her elbow and the last with her foot.

Of the three of them, Raffety, an elder at Richland's West Side Church, said she and Shaylee are the ones who like sparring and breaking boards, the "rough stuff."

Shaylee has enjoyed the competitive nature of karate, her mother said. This year, she plans to travel to tournaments. So far, Shaylee has competed at two tournaments at the Richland dojo.

Shaylee said it feels good to beat someone else at karate "and not go home as a loser."

Shaylee gets focused when she tests or competes, and her mother said her katas, or sequences of moves, are better than when she is practicing without the immediate incentive.

Karate is mentally as well as physically difficult because students memorize katas, said Richey, an editor at CH2M Hill in Richland. Everything is important, from the stance to where the person is looking.

That gets more difficult as they have progressed to higher belts, said Richey, who is testing for her black belt on Jan. 7. She is a red belt with a black stripe.

Raffety is behind her daughter in law in ranks because she had to take two years off after she suffered a dissected aorta that caused blood to flow between the layers of the artery's wall. Most people who have the condition die from it, Raffety said.

But Raffety went to Richland's Kadlec Regional Medical Center as soon as she started feeling poorly and a doctor there was able to repair her aorta in surgery. Raffety said it was only about the sixth time he had done the operation.

She picked up training again this last year, and she and Shaylee were green belts at the same time.

Now that she has received her brown belt, Raffety said she no longer will take karate. Her doctor is concerned about what could happen if Raffety receives a blow to the chest.

Raffety said she might attend competitions and compete with katas.

Raffety has worked hard to get her brown belt, her daughter-in-law said. She trained seven days a week, including four days at the dojo. And Raffety said other students helped her train, including Richey and Shaylee.

Shaylee said she was able to help her grandmother relearn some of the katas from previous levels that she had forgotten.

Richey almost has reached her goal too -- a black belt. Once she's accomplished that, she said she plans to help out other students, but doesn't intend to train for higher rank.

Shaylee said she would like to get a first-degree black belt, which is one rank higher than the basic black belt.

That's when people start getting called sensei.