GUEST BLOG, written by Ms. Jen

GUEST BLOG, written by Ms. Jen:

Pictured above is a flyer we are handing out, with an offer of two weeks of free classes at our school. I wanted to give a little bit of backstory about why we created this flyer in particular…

Some of you know me as one of the black belts at Ambition Taekwondo; some of you have been in classes taught by me. But you may not know the reason I am a black belt. Or the reason I am in Taekwondo at all. That reason is the two little girls in the picture above.

The girl on the right is Sunny. She was my first child. When I adopted her at age 4.5, she was tiny. 28 pounds and wearing 18-month clothing. I didn’t know this before I adopted her, but she also had cerebral palsy. I was afraid for her: of the kids in school who might tease her, bullies that might try to push her around, and boys (boyfriends or strangers) that might someday try to take advantage of her.

I put Sunny and her sister Maisy, and later my other two kids, in Taekwondo classes because I knew they would be vulnerable targets for people who might want to harm them. The statistics are scary. As this image says, “Nearly 1 in 5 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.” I have 3 girls, and I don’t like those odds.

What my kids have learned from Taekwondo goes far beyond technique and curriculum. Though they are small for their age, they are physically strong. Much more so than their peers. But more than that, they are confident in their abilities. They will tell you themselves that they are strong. They know it. They are determined. They have learned through their experiences here that anything worth doing is worth working for. Even when they struggle with something, they believe that it is possible with hard work.

I think about Sunny, working on her double roundhouse break for her brown belt test. Her cerebral palsy meant that her standing leg was weak, and it was difficult for her to do the first break, maintain her balance, then generate enough power to break the second board with the same leg. She worked on it for months. For me, it was heartbreaking to watch because she just wanted to do it so badly. I wanted to fix it for her, or let her off the hook. But she did not give up. She really believed – because that’s what she has been told here all along – that she could do it if she kept working. And when she finally did, damn, it was beautiful.

Those moments are the reason I have them in Taekwondo. No one is ever going to make those girls do anything they don’t want to do. Because not only are they physically strong and trained in self-defense, but because they value themselves.

As for me, I started Taekwondo because I was at the school every day with the girls, watching class, and I just kind of wondered how hard it was. I never meant to stay past maybe yellow or green belt. But that was more than five years ago.

It was not natural to me. In a family of athletes, I was the small, nerdy one. 5’3”, 115 pounds; read lots and lots of books but never played a single sport. (At least not willingly.) Growing up, I was good at a lot of things – school, art, music – none of them of any use at all when it came to breaking a brick or doing a backspin. It was shocking to me how hard it was, since I was used to things coming easily. There were many, and I mean MANY, times that I wanted to quit. Intended to quit. Times spent sitting on the mat crying at 11pm. But the reason I never did ultimately came down to the two little girls in that photo.

How could I ask my daughters to do something I could not do myself? How could I give them something I didn’t have? And if I was asking them to believe in themselves enough to work on something that seemed impossible, I should be able to do the same. That is why I have my black belt now. That is why I want to be a part of the school. Because of what it has done for my kids, and for me.

A year or so ago, Sunny was working on her hammerfist break, down on cinder blocks. On the first strike, she cheese-grated her knuckles along the side of the block. Didn’t say a word, and hit it several more times until she could reliably break it every time. Then came to be with her bloody hand, and told me, “It not matter if your hand hurt, just if the board break. You have to be tough! I am a Taekwondo girl!” And that attitude is what I wish all girls (and women) could have.

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