Jason Smith, Ashton Kirkland with Believe Martial Arts achieve Hyper black belt status

Special to Washington County News 

Two martial arts instructors from Chipley traveled across the country to reach a higher level of martial arts recognition.

Jason Smith and Ashton Kirkland of Believe Martial Arts received a designation of Hyper black belt from a panel of notable martial artists in Huntington Beach, a coastal surfing town in Southern California, on Jan. 13. Smith and Kirkland were already black belts in other styles at the time of the recognition. 

“Believe Martial Arts extends its heartfelt gratitude to all martial arts enthusiasts, fans, and the media who witnessed this extraordinary event,” a news release from the dojo said.

Believe Martial Arts instructors Jason Smith (left) and Ashton Kirkland (right) received a hyper black belt recognition in Huntington Beach, California, on Jan. 13. [CONTRIBUTED] 

Smith said the experience was “humbling.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to do it,” Smith said. 

The Hyper style is a curriculum developed from input by mixed martial arts fighters, military service members, and weapons competitors. 

The panel was comprised of John Hackleman, who coached former UFC champion Chuck Liddell and Chris Casamassa, a martial artist who portrayed the character Scorpion in the 1995 “Mortal Kombat” movie and recently held an anti-bullying workshop at Believe Martial Arts.

“Adding to the star-studded lineup was Brannon Beliso, a champion fighter, author, and speaker, alongside multiple Olympic Gold medalists and other revered figures from the martial arts world,” Believe’s announcement stated.

Smith said the journey towards a Hyper black belt is an “arduous one, demanding not only exceptional physical prowess but also a profound understanding of martial arts philosophy and principles.”

Smith also said the visit to Huntington Beach–noted for its laid-back sunny atmosphere and chic, scenic appearance–was relaxing.

“It was a calm feeling,” Smith said. “I didn’t have a constant rush of adrenaline.”