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What I’ve Learned as a Woman in Martial Arts


My story connected to martial arts begins about a decade ago, when my family was looking for a sport or hobby for my brother to join. We found Master Saghafi’s Superkarate, a studio for tae kwon do. My brother expressed no interest in joining, but we stayed and talked to Master for some time. Eventually, it was decided that my dad would join.


I watched my dad grow to love the art of tae kwon do--from him showing me self defense tips, to practicing at home, to going to watch his tests. For some reason, I never really saw myself doing it. It looked like a lot to remember, even though it seemed really cool as a kid. The truth is, we do teach little kids, and yes, sometimes they don’t remember everything. We know they’re trying, though. I think I lacked the self confidence to learn something new when I might not be good at it right away.


It’s ironic though, because martial arts teach you self confidence. Just what I needed to learn was what I needed to have to be able to join in the first place. It took years for me to feel like I was able to join, even after my dad got his black belt. For years, my brother and I liked to play around on the mats after tests, or fool around with the punching bags. But I never really considered joining, even when people told me I should.


In ninth grade, I decided to try it. I went to a few classes, and met a girl who started around the same time as me. I had someone who knew about as much as I did that I could grow with. I also met a woman who we simply call Ma’am. Ma’am is in her eighties and is small, but never doubt that she could beat you up.  Being a girl was never questioned as part of my skill level, but how hard I worked, and how much determination I had was what mattered. People are more likely to look at your belt color and assume skill level and amount of knowledge.


Some important aspects of tae kwon do are self control and confidence. Fighting isn’t about anger and violence, but about self defense in completely necessary situations. It’s about having the knowledge, skills and preparation to protect yourself. This ties in with confidence. Women often have their voices quieted and actions ignored. This discourages us from speaking up for ourselves and being proud and loud about our skills and thoughts. Tae kwon do encourages me to speak loudly and assert power when doing forms or sparring. Without it, I wouldn’t have the confidence I do today.


I’m currently a proud brown belt (it goes brown, red, then black) and I’m working towards getting my red belt. I’m happy to be surrounded by people who care about not only improving themselves, but helping others learn as well. Not long after you start learning tae kwon do, you start teaching people that have lower belts. Everyone works together, and over the years we’ve formed a family.


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Kayla Glennon

Geneseo '21

Kayla is a junior English major who is optimistic but enjoys exploring lots of emotions, not just ignoring the "bad" ones. They love writing silly things but also being serious, because there are a lot of things that matter and need to be talked about, but giving yourself a break is important too. They love writing about literature but also coming up with ideas for stories of their own. Kayla is constantly just trying to be themself and trying to be around people that make them happy.
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