MEXICO — Daniel T. Barnett of Mexico recently achieved a pinnacle in his martial arts training when he was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in Newark, N.J.

The 27-year-old Mexico native, who works as a greeter at the Mexico Wal-Mart, began learning karate at the age of 5 at the Greater Rumford Community Center.

A second-degree black belt student, Barnett now trains in Shaolin Kempo karate, Kung-Fu and Ju jitsu with sensei Stanley A. Crockett III at the Farmington Martial Arts Academy in Farmington. Barnett is also doing weight training with world-record weight lifter Dick Austin of Rumford.

So when Barnett was inducted on March 21, he was stunned.

“I was shocked,” Barnett said Tuesday at his parents’ house on Carlton Avenue where he lives.

 “I honestly didn’t think I would be put into a Hall of Fame for anything. To be quite honest, I didn’t know until a few years ago there was a Hall of Fame.”

His parents, Daniel R. Barnett, a local locomotive engineer, and Lorna Barnett, a retired waitress, spoke of his accomplishment.

“We were so proud of him,” Lorna Barnett said. “He never saw himself getting inducted, because he kept going to classes and quitting and starting again. I think he felt proud to be able to go to that and become it without giving up. I know we were proud of him and his sensei was proud of him.”

“It’s just nice to see the accomplishments he’s made, because through his school years, he may have been picked on, but it’s a great achievement to me that he’s done this,” Daniel R. Barnett said.

To get into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, one has to do something exceptional, like working hard for it, Daniel T. Barnett said. At a minimum, one must also hold a second-degree black belt.

Crockett said Wednesday that he is the Hall of Fame state representative for Maine and that more than 100 people from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and Guatemala applied for induction this year. However, only 55 such awards are given annually. His student, Barnett, was the only one from Maine to be inducted. Crockett nominated him.

“He’s a good kid who’s not into drugs,” Crockett said. Additionally, Crockett said he weighs attendance, attitude, increased ability and other factors before nominating someone for induction. “I look at the whole picture.”

After learning karate off and on since the age of 5, when he didn’t have much of an attention span, Barnett got into Tae Kwon Do at the community center while attending middle school.

“I did Tae Kwon Do until I was halfway through high school,” he said. “School was starting to get heavy and I stopped doing it. I’ve been in and out of (martial arts) just about all my life.”

By his junior year at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Barnett said he started getting into mixed martial arts with his friend, Dawson Walton, who runs the community center gym.

About three years ago, Barnett decided to return to martial arts by taking a class at the community center. It was offered on Tuesday nights by Crockett.

“I signed up for this class, well, what they had down was karate/judo and that was not even close,” he said. “It was called Shaolin Kempo. It focuses a lot on hand work and striking. It has the essential variation of kicks, but we focus mostly on hand actions.”

Shaolin Kempo is offensive and defensive karate, Crockett said. “Most of it is using your upper body. Your hands move very fast. You don’t hit someone once. You hit them seven, eight, nine, or 10 times. I teach Kung-Fu, Tae Kwon Do and Shaolin Kempo, because that’s what I was taught.”

As a second-degree black belt, Barnett said he can now teach Shaoplin Kempo karate to ranks below his degree and has taught a class at the community center.

In Shaolin Kempo, Barnett began at the lowest rank — the white belt — in the adult class.

“Eventually, I caught up with the class, and then during the summer, I went to (Crockett’s school) and I eventually got a little higher than most of the people in the class,” he said.

He kept at it for the rest of the year.

“And then, several months later, I had my very first black belt test ever, and that’s where I got my first degree,” Barnett said.

Then, Crockett told him that he had spoken with one of his superiors who was in charge of the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame ceremony.

“He kind of threw my name in there,” Barnett said. “He said there was a chance I would be inducted. It was actually probably six months before my second black belt test that he told me I was going to be inducted.”

“And while we were there, Daniel’s sensei got his eighth-degree black belt, which is just about as high up as you can go,” Lorna Barnett said.

Their son left the family dining room and proudly returned with a large plaque that he received at the induction and his second-degree black belt, which sported two red stripes, each denoting a degree.

Daniel T. Barnett’s only other life recognitions came when he was a Boy Scout in high school with Troop No. 580 and won his Eagle Scout badge by cleaning the Mexico Baptist Church Cemetery and repairing and righting gravestones.

“That shows commitment,” his father said of his son’s achievement in martial arts. “Staying with it like he did for his Eagle Scout badge.”

In the spring 2006, former Maine Reps. Ted Hotham and John Patrick of Rumford, and Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield, presented Barnett with a Legislative sentiment for attaining the highest award in Boy Scouting. Eagle Scout is given for excellence in skills development, personal growth, leadership and community service.

Additionally, Mexico Town Manager John Madigan presented Barnett with an award that spring.

Barnett said Crockett is already teaching him what he needs to know to achieve his third-degree black belt, which takes three years to master.

“He could take you down in like a heartbeat,” Lorna Barnett said of her son.

“But being inducted gives him a sense of accomplishment and a sense of confidence. He’s come a long way. He’s done very good from when he first started it,” she said.

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