Tiana Barnum has been working toward her black belt since she began karate six years ago.
On April 27, she earned it.
And at just 9 years old, the Mesa resident did so as the youngest student at East Mesa Karate.
“It felt really good,” Tiana said. “It was nice to lift all of that pressure off my chest.”
Tiana began karate when she was 3, but had been in and out of studios since she was born. Her brother, Brandon, began karate classes when he was 12.
In order to earn her first-degree black belt, Tiana had to go through an exercise called “The Big 300.”
The exercise consists of 100 sit-ups, 100 push-ups and 100 squats. Students must complete the gauntlet in 18 minutes. Tiana did it in just over 12.
“Her graduating class was 54 people,” said Kris Barnum, Tiana’s mother. “There were all ages, kids through adults. I think people in their 50’s were trying to get their black belt.”
Tiana often finds time to train in the afternoon. She is a fourth grader at Arizona Connections Academy, an online-based school.
Having all of her coursework online allows her to have flexibility in her schedule. She usually spends her mornings finishing up school work online before heading to dance classes at Rhythm & Motion Dance Center in Mesa or karate practice.
Sometimes, she does both.
Since graduating, Tiana has moved on to the adult classes at East Mesa Karate. She has also begun instructor training, and helps teach younger kids two days a week.
Tiana insists she doesn’t like karate or dance more than the other. She plans to stick with both and continue to make her family proud.
“We are so proud of her,” Kris said. “She has worked so hard toward this. Her being able to get her first-degree really meant a lot to her so we were extremely happy.”