Martial Arts Classes-Self Defense & Korean Karate in Asheville NC — Martial Arts, Self Defense & Taekwondo School in Asheville NC Mon, 18 May 2015 22:22:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Jarod Doster – An exemplary Black Belt at Asheville Sun Soo Wed, 06 May 2015 18:00:35 +0000 Jarod Doster started his Tae Kwon Do practice at Sun Soo as a way to rekindle his passion for martial arts after a break from practicing for many years. Despite having already received a 1st Degree Black Belt in Karate, he humbly started back at white belt in Tae Kwon Do. His previous practice prepared him well for classes at Sun Soo, and due to his prior experience and his consistent attendance and effort in classes here, he has progressed steadily to his 1st Degree Black Belt in Traditional Tae Kwon Do. More importantly, Jarod’s previous exposure to martial arts and his understanding of the culture of a do-jang has helped him to become an exceptional leader within the Sun Soo community. Jarod’s practice is characterized by patience, attention to detail, and exceptional speed – especially for his incredibly long legs. We all appreciate the overall commitment to health and wellness that Jarod brings to Sun Soo. A professional chiropractor by profession, Jarod’s extensive knowledge of the human body deepens his ability to move well in Tae Kwon Do. He frequently can be seen lending a hand during or after class to anyone with a minor injury who might benefit from the advice of a licensed medical professional. We appreciate all of Jarod’s contributions at Asheville Sun Soo. We are proud to have him among our black belt ranks and look forward to his ongoing progress.


How old are you?

What is your rank?
1st dan

What is your occupation?

Why do you practice?
I practice for my spirit, mind, and body. Having a discipline like this lets me express parts of my being that are strong physically and mentally and this supports me in every other aspect of my life.

How long have you been practicing?
2 years 8 months at Sun Soo, and 4 ½ years in American freestyle Karate.

What do you enjoy most about your practice so far?
All the new friends I have made since starting.
What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
Competitive water and snow skiing

What is something people at Tae Kwon Do probably don’t know about you?
I hold the South Carolina state slalom record in water skiing.

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
Earning my 1st degree black belt.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have loved every minute of the past “almost” 3 years at Sun Soo. I’m looking forward to the next “almost” 3 years!

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Master Marr to visit Asheville for April Testing Thu, 16 Apr 2015 18:30:03 +0000 This weekend at Asheville Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do, we would like to extend a warm welcome to 6th degree Master James Marr. When you see him in the studio this weekend, please introduce yourself and thank him for being here!
Master James Marr, 6th Dan, teaches traditional Taekwon-do as envisioned by its founder, General Choi Hong Hi. Master Marr opened his first school, Glen Ridge Taekwon-do, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey in 2002. Eleven years and over 1500 students later, Marr moved with his wife and two children to Shaker Heights, Ohio, to be closer to extended family. His first school continues to run under the leadership of Master John Meany.

Although Master Marr’s Taekwon-do is independently owned and operated, it maintains a close association with S.J. Kim’s Taekwon-Do in Manhattan and Glen Ridge Taekwon-do in NJ. Master Marr’s Taekwon-do is a member of Taekwon-do International, of which Marr is Vice President.

Always a dedicated athlete, Master James Marr competed in track and field, swimming, wrestling, football, and bicycling before discovering Taekwon-do in college. After earning an undergraduate degree in psychology and a masters degree in technical theatre, he moved to New York City to pursue a theatre career. Researching the numerous Taekwon-do schools in Manhattan, Master Marr found Grandmaster Suk Jun Kim, a direct disciple of Taekwon-do’s founder, General Choi Hong Hi.

Master Marr considers his school to be a place of learning, and his method of teaching emphasizes the traditional values of discipline, practice, hard work, and focus. He oversees all classes, and his goal is to help each student reach his or her full potential and therefore, he expects his students to learn and practice with diligence and sincerity.

When asked his favorite thing about practicing Tae Kwon Do, Master Marr says, “I don’t think about it anymore. I just do it.” He added that his favorite part of the traditional curriculum is the patterns (forms). Master Marr’s favorite teaching moments are the times when “a student’s face lights up because they suddenly get it!” He is excited to see Asheville Sun Soo students trying their hardest this weekend and shared that “best effort” is what he really cares about.

Thank you to Master Marr for making the journey to be with us this weekend – we greatly look forward to your visit!

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Max and Elliot Butterworth – A Dynamic TKD Duo! Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:03:03 +0000 Max and Elliot Butterworth are two fantastic teenage brothers who practice Tae Kwon Do together here at Asheville Sun Soo. Max and Elliot’s practice is strongly characterized by their amazing teamwork and mutual support. We appreciate the kind, friendly demeanor exhibited by these young men on and off the mat – they are courteous and genuine towards everyone they interact with. Max and Elliot are also strong academically. Their excellent habits around organization and time management reinforce their success at school and at Tae Kwon Do.

Max and Elliot ButterworthElliot has recently taken on a larger role as an assistant instructor at Asheville Sun Soo, helping out a couple days a week with kids classes. Elliot is remarkably mature for his age, and uses his practice as a way to stimulate excellence in the other areas of his life. Elliot is a fantastic martial artist, and moves with grace, power, and detail.

Max has also contributed many hours volunteering with kids classes at Asheville Sun Soo. He has a great sense of humor and a knack for including others socially. Max is also very mature and approaches his practice with intelligence and rigor. His great work ethic and ability to balance work and play have allowed Max to “maximize” the benefits of his Tae kwon Do practice. Pun intended.

Thanks Max and Elliot for being great role models here at Asheville Sun Soo!

Interview – Max
How old are you?

What is your rank?
“1st dan.”

What is your occupation?

Why do you practice?
“Because it keeps me fit and it is cool to learn new things.”

How long have you been practicing?
“4-5 years.”

What do you enjoy most about your practice so far?
“The community of the school.”

What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
“Playing soccer, camping, biking.”

What is something people at Tae Kwon Do probably don’t know about you?
“I can break dance.”

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
“When I broke my boards at my 1st degree testing.”

Interview – Elliot
How old are you?

What is your rank?
“1st dan.”

What is your occupation?

Why do you practice?
“To stay in shape and because it’s fun.”

How long have you been practicing?
“4-5 years.”

What do you enjoy most about your practice so far?
“It’s fun, and I’ve met so many cool people.”

What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
“Computer programming, biking, coffee, money.”

What is something people at Tae Kwon Do probably don’t know about you?
“I bike to school almost every morning.”

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
“The first Holiday parade I participated in as a black belt, when we demonstrated for TV.”

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Carolyn Suess – A TKD Mom turned Martial Artist! Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:33:56 +0000 Carolyn Suess began her Tae Kwon Do practice several months ago, after being inspired by the progress of her son Emery, who also excels in his practice. Despite having no previous experience, Carolyn jumped into her practice enthusiastically and demonstrated remarkable focus and coordination as a white belt. She continues to challenge herself as she moves up in belts by working hard in class to improve both her fitness level and technique. Carolyn is admired by her peers for her pleasant temperament, her positive attitude, and her clean technique. We look forward to seeing Carolyn and her son Emery work towards their green belt in the upcoming weeks. Thank you Carolyn for being so humble, open, and friendly to others, both on and off the mat. We are grateful to have you as a student at Asheville Sun Soo!

carolyn suess
What is your age?

What is your rank?

What is your occupation?
“My husband and I own and operate a mail-order medical supply company and pharmacy in Fletcher.”

Why do you practice Tae Kwon Do?
“I love always having a goal to reach (to get that next belt!).  It’s also such a fun, challenging and unique way to get both physical and mental exercise.  Although I have never been one to enjoy exercising (like a lot of people), I always look forward to going to TKD class!”

How long have you been practicing?
“About 7 months.”

What is your favorite part of you practice?
“The family-like atmosphere.  Everyone is so friendly and supportive.  It’s also a great stress reliever!”

What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
“I enjoy volunteering at my children’s school.”

What is something people at Asheville Sun Soo probably don’t know about you?
“I have visited 11 different countries in Europe, and got married in Austria.”

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
“Testing for and receiving my yellow-green belt.  Now my son and I are at the same belt level.  It’s fun to be learning the same material and being able to practice it together.  I look forward to us testing together in April.”

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Second Degree, 50 Years Old Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:52:43 +0000 I have made a career of speaking to groups of people, but none are as special as you are to me. And none are as meaningful and memorable. I’m honored to have Master Meanie here and simultaneously sad that he has only a couple days to be among this amazing community that I’ve been with for more than four years. And thanks to my family and friends in the VIP section.

During my tenure as a 1st degree black belt I learned three lessons and discovered three truths. The first lesson I learned was that I had a lot left to learn.

The second thing I learned was left-handed one-steps.

I often feel as if the left side of my body belongs to someone else. If I were choosing sides for any game, I would choose my left side last. The left side of my body is a necessary evil to prop up my right side–useful for cosmetic symmetry, but otherwise it just gets in the way. I am not and “ambi-turner.”

But the left-handed one-steps (along with an injured right shoulder) have given me an opportunity to explore the other side of me.  I had to cross over to the other side of the tracks that run down the center of Allantown. What I found there was…surprisingly familiar. A mirror image of myself. My right side began to teach my left side what it knows. A conversation was begun. Communication channels were opened. I’ve discovered my left side isn’t bad, just different.  And if my left side is awkward, timid, and embarrassed, it is more so from neglect than anything else.

While I have always considered my right side to be “dominant,” that’s really a misnomer. Because in a way it is our weak sides that actually dominate us. And really it is our perceived weaknesses that dominate us by cutting us off from all the unexplored parts of who we are and all the unused resources we harbor on the “other” neglected sides of ourselves.

My third lesson is that being a black belt is as much about revisiting old skills as it is learning new skills. A successful martial artist does not have a “been-there-done- that” attitude. The successful martial artist cannot get bored. This doesn’t mean doing Chun Jee (mindlessly) over and over a hundred times. It means doing it one time (mindfully), and always doing it better than the time before. I often say that the most innovative poets are those who see the world as if seeing it for the very first time. Maybe that’s what being a black belt is too. The more you know the more freedom you have to forget what you’ve learned, and re-learn it from a whole new perspective.

You begin to understand how every skill we learn is a scaffold allowing you to reach some higher place. Holding your stance a little deeper. Lifting your knee a little higher. Getting through the left side of Saju Maki. None of these accomplishments are an end in themselves, but a means to an even greater end. You begin to see how mastery is not a destination but a dance.

Three truths have remained constant from white belt to black belt and beyond. The first Truth is that Success is not the absence of mistakes, it is the presence of excellence. Bowing onto the mat is your opportunity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Stand up straight. Focus. Relax. Breath deeply. Kiyop loudly. Be present. Your martial arts practice is not something done to you; it is something that you do.

The second Truth is that, as a rule, growth and self-awareness can only be found somewhere outside your comfort zone. Like limits of a growing city, expanding and swallowing up the nearby boroughs, my comfort zone has grown from a quaint hamlet to a thriving metropolis. This expansion was gradual and imperceptible at the time. But from my 2nd Degree perspective I can look back to see how much the city limits of AllanTown have grown, and I can look ahead to see how much more is possible.

Truth number three. Master Morris uses the term “imprinting” to describe how we can envision ourselves moving like one of our fellow practitioners. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever imprinted Ethan Morris. Now imagine everyone else here who has inspired you in some way, through their skill or their commitment or their concentration or their smile or the way they help others or their family dynamic or the way they show up to every class.) By exhibiting excellence yourself and opening your eyes to the excellence in others, you establish relationships , on and off the mat, that impact your world for the better.

My main goal for the next stage of my practice is to stop worrying about all the things I do not know and start wondering about all the things I’ve yet to learn and accomplish . Amazingly enough, worry and wonder feel the same in your body. The same butterflies and uncertainty. You cannot change the feeling, but you can change how you name it. Maybe being a 2nd degree black belt for me will simply mean transforming worry into wonder. Skill-wise my aim is to add more vertical height to my jumps. To become more proficient with wrist-locks, throws, and escapes. To increase the power, speed, and accuracy of my kicks. To add more combinations to my sparring.

I also plan on practicing smarter. I will rely less on strength and more on technique .I want to incorporate greater breath control and relaxation in my movements. I will continue to increase my flexibility and balance with yoga, and increase my core strength and awareness through Pilates. I will continue to hug my kittens and get to know my tennis ball, really well.

Which is a good segue as I conclude with a few thank-yous. Thanks to two master instructors in their own respective disciplines, Amy Dowling and Donna

Hollingshead, who have allowed me to include yoga and Pilates as an essential part of my TKD practice.

Thanks to all of my fellow martial artists. Your feedback and friendship make my practice and my life complete. Typically the black belts are lined up in the front row with our backs turned. We are there, in part, as a model for the lower belts, but you may not be aware of how inspiring you are to us.

Thanks to the other black belts. There is no time to catalogue all the things I have learned from each one of you. I hope by now you know who you are. It is a slippery slope to start naming names, but here goes. To Lisa Phillips, who has been my friend, and official Bobbsey Twin, from White Belt to White Russian. To Tony Morris, Batsheva Meiri, and Michael Fortini whose guidance in our Master Mind group has helped me channel all the positivity of my practice into my personal and professional life.

Thanks to Mark Meiri and Ethan Morris, who have taught me a lot by explaining things verbally, and even more by simple example. Michael Dickinson, David Kerikan, and Thabiti Sabahiba: What can I say? Your lessons have been as meaningful and memorable as they have been, sometimes, painful. Whenever any one of you say, “Hey, Allan, check this out…” I know I’m about to receive a month of knowledge in a 5-minute lesson.

The official staff, Amy Dexter, Elizabeth Goyer, Michael Dickinson, and Tony Morris. All of you are exemplary practitioners and effective teachers. You are like the Martial Arts version of The Justice League: Each of you is a super hero in your own right, but working together you seem unstoppable and invincible.

And if the Sun Soo staff is the Justice League: who else is Super Man but Tony Morris. It takes a brilliant businessman to create a thriving, sustainable business. But it takes a visionary to create a thriving, sustainable community with the potential to grow into something larger than himself.

As for my family. Now, y’all know I am their father and I may be biased, but I think I have three of the coolest kids on the planet. Each of them is inspiring to me in his or her own right. I’m lucky to share a martial arts practice with my two boys. I must thank Simon and Ethan for a thousand one-steps in the living room, forms work on the back deck, and sparring in the kitchen. Those of you who are able to practice with family members have some idea what a once in a lifetime opportunity that is. Ethan was the child who first started at Sun Soo and who inspired the rest of us to join  as well. Testing for this 2nd degree black belt with Ethan will give us a common bond that will last both our lifetimes.

In our family of five, we have created a sort of sixth member, an entity made up of a little piece of each of us, and named JESGA, from the first letters of our names from youngest to oldest.

So in honor of my family I will break my boards in JESGA order. In all but the last I’ll be breaking through 2 boards at once. In honor of Jameson’s gymnastic acrobatics I will do a right jump spin sidekick. In honor of left-handed Ethan’s love of spinning breaks that look good but have questionable real-world application, I will do a left-footed spinning axe kick; in honor of Simon’s historic double-jump front kick, I will do a single jump front kick. In honor of my wife Ginger finishing graduate school, a left-handed hammer fist. In honor of myself, a right-handed knife hand. And finally, I will do a step-behind side kick power break through three boards, in honor of my other family, all of you at Sun Soo, who have been my friends and my inspiration both on and off the mat.

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First Degree Black Belt, 46 Years Old Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:09:33 +0000 My journey to black belt has been an interesting one at least for me. A journey filled with extended rest stops, detours and even changes in destination. To best understand the journey we need to take a trip in time. Back to the prehistoric ages. Back to the time of pre-Google, pre-Internet, pre-home computer or as my oldest son once asked…Dad did you have color TV back in the day?

I was 10 years old. I loved Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Kung Fu movies. After all, what kid doesn’t want to be a martial arts hero and I was fully committed to the 1 month of training necessary to get my black belt.

So my mother signed me up and took me to the only show in town. A Karate studio. I remember being intimidated. I was one of the youngest there and everyone seemed very serious.

To appreciate my story I need to explain a little about my original Karate Instructor. At that time my instructor held 5th degree black belt in two different style of Karate (Now he is a 9th in both styles) a 4th degree in Tae Kwon Do and a first degree in Kung Fu. He was a professional Karate fighter ranked as the number one light heavyweight in the US by one Karate Association. He had fought in 300 fights, winning or placing in every one and he preferred bare knuckle fighting.

So back to the story. After a couple of private lessons to learn the basics I was ready to learn the super duper tremendous jump flying inverted spinning kick that I had seen on a recent Kung Fu movie.

Unfortunately things didn’t go quite as planned. During one of my first classes the instructor had all of the students form a circle about 15 feet across. In the middle, he placed his star black belt student on the outside edge of the circle he placed three other students. He then explained that we were going to play a game.

The game worked with the three non-black belts on the edge, walking across the circle. If they encountered the black belt in the middle they had to fight.

The instructor then turned off the lights and said “go”. I took the instructors command of “go” to heart and that was the end of my martial arts experience….at least for the time being.

Fast forward to three days before my 15th birthday. My fear had subsided helped along with movies about ninjas, David Carradine and re-runs of Kung Fu. I was ready to try again.

I returned to the same studio and fortunately, the big scary instructor had opened up satellite studios and was running one about 40 miles away. He would come to our studio about once or twice a month to fight, as our focus was still full contact fighting.

Not long after beginning I realized a really cool thing…I loved Karate. My passions forms and self defense moves but I was pretty good with fighting as well. After all, at 15 years old the word sore and bruised is not in your vocabulary.

Over time I began to improve, the insulation that had accumulated around my waist when I hit my teen years melted away, and I had fun.

Fighting was not my passion but I found out that long legs and quickness went a long way, even when fighting adults that didn’t hold back. As the years passed I improved. Although I never found a true love of fighting, I got pretty good at it. I was only knocked out once, one broken foot and a nose bleed that didn’t stop for three hours, but I still gave more than I received.

I kept my eye on the prize… a black belt.  Unfortunately, I learned that only 4 had been given in 17 years and I could expect 5 to 6 years for my chance, but that was OK with me…I was having fun.

Years passed, I was now 19 years old and a 3rd degree Brown belt, only a year and a half to go for black belt. Then things changed…I moved. The style of Karate I was taking was unique, and I couldn’t find any studios that taught my style.

I tried different martial arts but I only knew one way to practice, the exact way I had been practicing.

Most of the studios I went to were so different from my old school. I had been practicing longer than a lot of the black belts, was better at fighting than most and this was the stick that I had been taught to measure with. So I stopped looking.

Time passed…more time passed,  Oh My Gosh…is that a grey hair??? Fast forward a couple of decades and now I am a dad. Pretty cool. Martial Arts was the best thing I ever did as a kid and I wanted my children to have the same experience but without my mistakes.

So, I went to google to find a place that met my demanding list. As my wife says “I’m not picky, I just know what I want”.

I wanted a style of martial arts that my kids and I could practice anywhere in the US if we ever moved, a lot of classes so I could go as much as I wanted. Also, a place where my kids and I could take the same classes, and a studio that was very organized.

After searching, I took the advice of one of my patients, I’m a chiropractor, and I checked out Sun Soo.

My first introduction was great, Mr Dickinson was very cool and I found that I remembered a lot from years past.

So, I started. I’ll let you in on a little known secret… muscles really tighten over time. And what’s with this back soreness and popping in my hip…. I’ve never had hip popping????? Nevertheless, I was very pleased, I still had speed and my technique wasn’t too bad. Slowly, my flexibility improved, soreness went away and no more hip popping….cool.

One of the first things I noticed about Sun Soo, was that the sparring was more relaxed, which was great, but it took a little time to acclimate. My only reference was to be aggressive. But being in my 40’s I found that aggression on my part resulted in increased bruising, swelling and overall soreness.

The next thing I noticed was the diversity of students, young, old, excuse me, that’s me so lets say medium. Men, women, children. Wow!! Everyone was having a great time. And the workouts were awesome.

Then, I made yellow belt and was invited to the black belt club. I tend to be a little cynical and my past experiences had been with schools that were more interested in the bottom line…money. So I immediately thought that this invitation must be the financial hook. I actually read the invitation letter three times because I was so convinced that things here were too good to be true…but there was no catch. I couldn’t believe that Sun Soo was doing so much…organized, tons of classes, tournaments, guest instructors, Black Belt club classes and no catches. I was committed.

As time passed I met more people, made friends and began learning about people and how they had grown through Tae Kwon Do. I took time to compare Sun Soo with my prior Karate experiences.  I saw merits in both, but the biggest thing I learned is that when you practice the way I did as a kid is you are eliminating about 90% of the population as potential students.

A few years ago when my oldest son was 18, he told me that he had been thinking about the purpose of life. He said he had narrowed it down to three things;

  1. To have fun
  2. To experience things
  3. To help other people

Martial Arts accomplishes all three. Sun Soo is a place where everyone can find a home. Kids, teenagers, male, female, old, young. Someone that is looking to get into shape, lose weight, meet friends, gain confidence or become a great fighter and compete at whatever level you want. If you want no contact sparring, lite contact or full contact it is up to you. Just this past weekend we had a two hour sparring (tournament fighting) class hosted by a US Olympic Tae Kwon Do Coach and former US heavyweight champion. What an experience and a privilege. Ultimately, Sun Soo provides choices so you can find the fit that is right for you, and I certainly have done that for myself. I have referred many patients from my practice here because the road to health is not found on the couch at home.

My view of martial arts has evolved, now I try to improve myself not only physically, but as a person.  I am working on the tenets of Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, perseverance, indomitable spirit and self control as well as personal goals of humility and patience.

I think we all fall short in some of these areas. So this gives me a goal for the present and the future.

I want to thank Master Morris, all of the instructors and students at Sun Soo Tae Kwon Do for making this wonderful place a reality and I look forward to the future.

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First Degree, 15 Years Old Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:07:07 +0000 I was told when I did my intro with Master Morris that obtaining a black belt takes three years. I thought ‘I doubt I’ll make it that long’, and pushed the idea of black belt away. When I did my first class the following day, my opinion changed. When I saw the speed and agility of the black belts on the first row I was blown away. That was the October of 6th grade, about a week after the testing here at Sun Soo. In the fast-paced three years that have followed I haven’t really thought back to that first day until now.

I had come out here before, because when my cousin Drew started in 4th grade I had considered starting also. I had watched probably 4 or 5 classes before deciding to stick with soccer. So when I came to the October testing of 2011, I had the same mind set. Or, I did beforehand. As soon as I got home I told my parents that I wanted to start. My intro was Friday of that week.

I remember the challenge of core work of my first class. I also remember the challenge of core work from the class I did on Thursday. Some things never change. But some things do. I didn’t really like forms when I first started, yet I love them now. I liked one-steps, and still do. I’ve always like how fluid sparring is when it’s done at a fast pace. I admire the speed and power it takes to break a board. Like I said something’s never change, but something’s do. I’m glad that my confidence changed, because when I first started I wouldn’t have been able to do this, and I would’ve avoided talking in front of all you at all costs. I’m also really happy that my coordination changed, because I haven’t fallen today, which is a good sign.

A year into my practice, about November of 2012, Mrs. Dexter was looking for teen helpers for the Mighty Tigers. Before I volunteered, I didn’t know what the Mighty Tigers were. I learned that day that the Mighty Tigers are 3-5 year olds that want to do Tae Kwon Do. I was a little apprehensive at first, because most 3-5 year olds don’t have the best attention spans, but once I started helping I haven’t looked back. I’ve been helping with the tigers for 2 years (wow. I hadn’t realized it’s been that long), and I’ve continued help with the Mighty Tiger class on Fridays at 4:00.

Around blue belt another thing started; middle school. Now I can’t say that I enjoyed every minute of middle school, but I can say that it was an experience. I think Tae Kwon Do helped me with my perseverance and my confidence and my drive to work hard at school. I tried my hardest in several things such beta club, art, student council, the geography bee, track and Tae Kwon Do of course. I had a really hard year at school this past year, but Tae Kwon Do’ s tenants (perseverance, integrity, indomitable spirit, courage and self-control) helped me get through it. With the help of Tae Kwon Do’s tenants I was able to an end hard year with many positive achievements.

While working towards my red-black belt, I developed a hip issue. It seems I was growing faster than my hip flexor tendon wanted me to, and it caused and still causes some pain when I kick, specifically. I haven’t let this injury stop me in my goal of obtaining black belt, but just the opposite. This injury pushed me to try my hardest even when I felt like I couldn’t give any more. Because I persevered, my goal of black-belt is in sight.

This past June, I decided it was time for me to pursue the next belt. I began to review with Master Morris, and around August I was given some feedback I didn’t understand. He told me to be big, something which I had no idea how to do. Although it seems like this wouldn’t be a problem for my 6 foot 1 self, but up until that point I was trying to act small emotionally, and physically. I was really confused for about a week, but eventually overcame this hurdle. I’ve been trying my hardest, and have felt my life change.

So that brings me to today, October of 2014, almost to my goal of obtaining black belt. I did the tournament about 2 weeks ago, and that was very reassuring. Although I didn’t do as well as I wanted to in some things, it was a good vote of confidence that I was improving. I strongly believe that the practice and the people who practice here have changed my life.

It’s very hard for a high schooler to look into the future, but I’m going to try to. Following this testing I’m going join my school’s swim team. Because of swim practices and class are at the same time, I’m not going to be able to come to class as often as I’d like, but I promise that I am not quitting. I’m going to continue to practice through the season, Saturdays mostly, and hope to begin to come to classes more often at the end of the season. I look forward to helping people with their testing’s, because I know how hard it can be (especially in my preparation for this one) to prepare for them. I look forward to helping people with their board breaks, as many people have helped me with mine. I know that in my practice I’ve gotten more confident, and more coordinated. When I started practicing I fumbled around, unsure of what I was doing. I have felt myself gotten more coordinated, and I’ve been getting more and more confident in myself and my abilities.

I have many people I’d like to thank for all their help. I’d like to thank my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for bringing to class. I’d like to thank my friends for understanding why I don’t respond to their texts during class. I’d like to thank the Weaverville car-pool, Donna, Drew and Chris, for being great friends. I’d like to thank Drew Katsigianis for getting me to start practicing here. I’d like to thank Donna and Chris Hollinshead for being great friends and for giving me great advice that comes from our Tuesday night journeys to West Asheville and back. I’d like to thank the instructional staff here at Asheville Sun Soo, for pushing me to do my best. I’d like to thank Cara and Joann for being great friends. I’d like to thank the Mighty Tigers because y’all are awesome. I’d like to thank the community here at Sun Soo, for being so inviting and friendly.

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First Degree, 16 Years Old Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:05:48 +0000 I want to begin by stating that I hate writing essays and I especially do not want to read this one. Advancing in my TKD practice is a process of growth. Growth means doing things we don’t want to do sometimes. That being said, here is my black belt essay.

I have associated “pain” with writing this essay and “pain” with the thought of having to read this essay out loud. I don’t want to think about “pain” and certainly do not want to share it out loud. I see myself as a shy person. I was even more shy when I started TKD. Part of being shy means keeping things to myself. Feelings and emotions are things that I learned to put walls around. They are protected by a fortress which is like the Great Wall of China with all draw bridges up. Nobody in and nothing out – nobody gets into my emotional protected area and nothing gets let out. Maybe my parents were the only exception, but even then I may have hidden some things.

I joined Sun Soo when I was in 7th grade which was in February of 2011. My mother died shortly before this. I was enrolled by my grandmother. She thought it would be a good idea to have something to focus during this depressive time. When my mother died, I expressed my sorrow in different ways. I played songs for her, I would think about it quietly to myself – but I didn’t cry much. Nobody in and nothing out. At the time, I wasn’t involved in any clubs or sports, so I thought I would give TKD a try.

I felt pretty powerless when I started my TKD practice. I didn’t have the power to change my mother’s circumstance. I also had issues with middle school that I had no power to change. I spent most of middle school feeling intimidated. Middle school was not a fun time for me. I can’t say I was picked on too much, but I can say I didn’t feel entirely safe there either. I avoided people and situations that did not make me feel safe. I would end up going out of my way and not walk or act as I normally would have. My TKD practice was the beginning of me gaining power in my life during a time in my life when I felt I had little to none.

I began TKD in the kid’s classes. It was a good start for me. They were fun and not too overwhelming. I was shorter than my dad at the time. Then I started adult mixed classes. These classes were a little different. We had to meet strangers and tell them a little bit about ourselves. Having to do this was a little uncomfortable for me. My family joined TKD soon after I started doing adult mixed class and this helped a little with the anxiety I felt doing adult mixed classes.

Whenever I had to meet new people in the adult mixed classes, I struggled with telling strangers a little about myself. Remember the fortress? Nobody in and nothing out. I prepared a “S.N.A.C.(K)” to help me get over the “tell me something about yourself?” aspect of mixed adult class. My S.N.A.C. was: (s)chool, (n)ame. (a)ge, favorite (c)o!or. I have been pretty good at serving snacks up to this point. In order for me to progress in rank and in life, I need to learn how to prepare meals.

I have grown a lot since the beginning of my TKD practice. I am much taller than my dad now. I walk through high school hallways as I please. I do not have to avoid people or situations because I realize the degree of control I have when I engage my environment.

I reflect on this idea of having control over my environment. I realize there are two kinds of environments: the internal and the external. It’s great that I have been successful in managing my external environment. Managing my internal environment is something I’m still working on. The internal environment deals with thoughts and emotions. “Nobody in and nothing out” is how I’ve managed my internal environment to this point. My dad tells me in order to have meaningful relationships in life, it will be necessary to let people in and maybe let some of my emotions out. I don’t like letting my emotions out. I don’t want to let people in to see my emotions and I don’t want to let my emotions out to be seen. Standing right here, right now, is a personal test. I’m going to talk about some personal things. I hope to learn not to fear my emotions as much as I do. After I let you, the audience, in for a peek into my emotions, I hope to realize the world will not end because I let some of my emotions out. So here goes.

I wish my mom hadn’t given up. The choice to end her life was hers. If she were still here, I would have wanted her to see my testing. It’s a strange mix of emotions though. Because if she were alive today, I probably would not be here reading this essay. My feelings about the whole thing is summarized in the belief that everything has reasons for why they happen – I may not understand the reason, but there is a purpose behind them. I feel sad that my mother could not be here today. Not only for not being here today, but for all the things she missed out on. She missed out on all the growth I made over the past four years and she will miss out on the growth I will make in the years to come. I’m lucky to be surrounded by family and friends that think I’m awesome. I’m thankful for this. I’m glad I can call Sun Soo my family. I feel thankful for my dad. Even though through this process, he was a complete pain in my butt. I’m still glad that he helped me through. I could not have done it without him. I have fears. I fear losing my dad because he is the closest person to me. I don’t know what would happen next without him. I also want to tell you about my sister Sofia. She is an even bigger pain in my butt. Looking after her is difficult when my dad is not home. Sometimes I think life without Sofia would give me some peace at mind. But it would be sad and quiet without her. Sofia is my sister and I love her.

Like I said before, I hated writing this essay. It was very difficult. What made it difficult was the worry I had over sharing it and being treated differently because of reading it. Don’t treat me different because of this because I am still the same person.

Ok, so now I can say I am proud of myself because I let you, the audience, in to see my emotions and I was able to let some of my stronger emotions out. The world didn’t end and unfortunately I’m still reading this essay. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The TKD journey is a test of practice – both in the art and in life. I have grown in both.

Some student’s journey to black belt are accomplished weeks before the student’s testing. A big piece of my journey became accomplished right here, right now on this mat. Thank you for being here to support others and myself during this testing. And thank you to everyone who walked with me along the way to get me here right now. It’s been a great journey and I’m glad I have people I can share it with and I am excited for what happens next.

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Henry Thome – a sweet friend and a fierce martial artist! Wed, 18 Mar 2015 15:55:22 +0000 Henry Thome is a hard working martial artist who possesses incredible perseverance and maturity. Henry started his practice at the age of 5 as a Mighty Tiger, and has since graduated through the beginner class and is now in a leadership position in the intermediate class. Henry demonstrates an abundance of personal strength and internal motivation, qualities that contribute to his excellence as a Tae Kwon Do student. Henry has worked diligently to progress in several technical areas, such as stances and chambers. His efforts have paid off with continuous and steady improvement! Henry’s joyful attitude is contagious – he is quick to connect with teachers and peers and he pays attention to the needs of others – always ready to lend a helping hand. Henry is frequently volunteers his time as an assistant in the Mighty Tigers class, giving back where he first began his practice! It is a pleasure to have Henry as a student here at Asheville Sun Soo and we are grateful for his friendly, happy demeanor and for his resilient attitude!
Henry ThomeHow old are you?

What is your rank?
“Green belt.”

Where do you go to school?
“I am in Kindergarten at Carolina Day School.”

Why do you practice?
“To get some exercise, because it’s fun, and I like to hang out with instructors.”

How long have you been practicing?
“A little over a year and a half.”

What do you enjoy most about your practice so far?
“The forms, the one-steps and especially meditation.”

What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
“I enjoy drawing, cooking, and legos.”

What is something people at Tae Kwon Do probably don’t know about you?
“I had a bone marrow transplant at age 1…5 years ago!”

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
“When I won the 1st place (gold) medal at the tournament doing my form.”

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Nancy Fraser – A loving Tae Kwon Do powerhouse! Mon, 09 Mar 2015 22:48:53 +0000 Nancy Fraser is a martial artist who lives life with a beautiful simultaneous expression of power and grace. As a 1st Degree Black Belt who has been practicing at Asheville Sun Soo for the past five years, Nancy is an integral part of the leadership and mentorship in our school. She is constantly giving, both in her profession as a massage therapist and as a martial artist in her Tae Kwon Do practice. Through her study of martial arts, Nancy has complemented her gentle nature with her ability to draw boundaries and hold ground when called for. Additionally, as a professional body worker, Nancy has cultivated in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, which she applies to her martial arts practice. Nancy’s Tae Kwon Do journey is summarily characterized by excellence – both in her technique and in her character. Thank you Nancy for your contributions of wisdom, patience, and dedication here at Asheville Sun Soo.

nancyfraserHow old are you?

What is your rank?
“1st dan.”

What is your occupation?
“Massage therapist.”

Why do you practice?
“I practice for my spirit, mind, and body. Having a discipline like this lets me express parts of my being that are strong physically and mentally and this supports me in every other aspect of my life.”

How long have you been practicing?
“5 years.”

What do you enjoy most about your practice so far?
“I love the challenge that comes with each belt rank and the constant humility that goes with each new level and for that matter each new class.”

What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
“I recently went surfing for the first time – loved it! I enjoy good theater, good music, and I read a lot.”

What is something people at Tae Kwon Do probably don’t know about you?
“I worked 17 years in open- heart surgery with the 2nd busiest cardiovascular surgeon in the world (at the time).”

What is your favorite Tae Kwon Do moment?
“Definitely testing with Simon Wolf for my 1st degree black belt.”

Is there anything else you would like to add?
“I love that we come in here every day – pretending to ‘take each other down’ and there is actually more love expressed by the students and instructors for one another than in any other community that I know.”

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