The following essay on the, Continued Taekwondo Journey Through Trials, was written by the instructor Junior Master Junehee Kwon, 4th Dan Black Belt of Sun Yi’s Taekwondo Academy for her promotion in October 2019.

My Continuing Taekwondo Journey Through Trials

By Junior Master Junehee Kwon, 4th Dan Black Belt

It was two months after my 41st birthday, four months after my son Kyle received his first degree black belt, I finally got tired of waiting for my children’s Taekwondo classes to be over and decided to join the Sun Yi’s Academy of Traditional Taekwondo. I was not at all athletic (well, I am still not), and it was really intimidating to start something new, let alone martial arts training. I remember it was after children’s testing at Topeka dojang when I saw a 60 some year old lady testing for her 3rd degree black belt, saying “If she can do it, I can do it!” The very next week, I enrolled in the Taekwondo training. It was February 2010.

Fast forward, here I am in October 2019, testing for the 4th degree black belt, a junior master rank. Who would have thought, a college professor, mother of three, 50 year old woman who had been very unathletic, would test for the 4th degree black belt?

As I was preparing this essay, many thoughts and memories went through my mind. Most of all, I remember those happy days when I was exercising with my children. If you know me at all, I love what I do. Well, maybe too much; I’m a workaholic. Whether it is fair or not, I cannot deny that I spend a lot of time working. Preparing for classes, writing or editing manuscripts, working on research grants, and engaging in seemingly endless service demands by the university and professional organizations. Even now, I am glad that I am able to test this weekend, between my trips in Orlando this week and Las Vegas in three days.

For a workaholic, busy mother like me, exercising 2-3 times a week with children was truly a blessing. It was such a joy to see them improve and get more confident in self-defense. But how many mothers would jump, spar, and get sweaty with their children? The last decade has been truly memorable in my life.

To be honest, I often said that I would be done at the 2nd degree black belt, mainly because of the flying sidekick requirement starting from the 3rd degree testing. I did not think I could do it. When I saw how my son Kyle, Junior Master Michael Halliwell, and other instructors literally fly above three children to break the boards, “there was no way,” I thought. I did not think I could do it.

However, in 2016, I did it! Well, not over the children but nonetheless, I was able to complete all the requirements to become a 3rd degree black belt. At that time though, I did not think it would come to this point to test yet again for 4th degree black belt.

In fact, there were many times that I was not sure I would even continue training in Taekwondo. The past three and a half years have been particularly difficult for me and my family. Shortly after I tested for the 3rd degree black belt, I felt two large tumors in my abdomen. Five months later, in October 2016, I went through a major surgery to remove tumors and also ovaries. Then in May 2017, my father fell with a major brain hemorrhage. He has not been the same since. Things did not stop there. My father had developed several vascular issues and went through another major surgery in September 2018, followed by my brain surgery in November 2018. The challenge was not over, yet. In July 2019, less than 3 months ago, I went through a gallbladder surgery, after which I literally hit the bottom and could not get over the excessive fatigue and weakness. I could not believe that I overcame two major surgeries but could not overcome this minor surgery! But my body said “enough”!

After each of these challenges, however, I found myself keep coming back to the dojang. Yes, I took some time off, but as soon as I get my strength back, I was back in training. Taekwondo had become a part of me, and I belonged to the Taekwondo dojang. I blamed my age for all these troubles. After all, I am 50 years old, soon to be 51.

But as Grandmaster Yi always says, age is just a number. I never felt that I had to compete with others when I train Taekwondo at Sun Yi’s Academy. It was always the fight with myself – fight with yesterday’s me to get a little bit better – A bit stronger and faster.

In addition, I have enjoyed teaching students in class, and building friendships with those whose paths may not have crossed if it was not for Taekwondo. From 4 year old to 70 year old, from a campus police officer to a retired professor, I was able to develop great fellowship with them only because of our passion for Taekwondo.

Needless to say, training in Taekwondo have been so meaningful for my physical and emotional strength as well as for the circle of friends. Taekwondo truly has become a part of my life, to the point that even through numerous trials over the past three and a half years, I am back, trying again for the next challenge. While I am not getting younger, I can say that I am stronger, physically and mentally.

I would like to take this moment to thank many people who supported me throughout my Taekwondo Journey. First, I would like to thank Grandmaster Yi for his leadership for Sun Yi’s Academy of Traditional Taekwondo and the wisdom he shares with all of his students. I thank Mrs. Yi for her friendship and encouragement. When my father was hospitalized for a month in Topeka, Mrs. Yi and Grandmaster Yi came and encouraged us. My family is indebted for the care and love they shared.

Senior Master David Moore, I thank you for your leadership and instruction. You are such an encourager and a great instructor! Junior Master Michael Halliwell, I thank you for your inspiration. As much as I have grown in Taekwondo, you, Junior Master Halliwell have matured as well, and we understand each other so much better, now! Mr. Nick Kent, thank you for your help, support, and encouragement. Even though I am testing 2 months ahead of you, I respect you very much. I also thank all the students in Manhattan dojang for their friendship and trusting me as an instructor. Seeing them improve in Taekwondo is another huge motivator for me to continue training!

I also thank my family for being there. To my husband Jim, thank you for being a great friend and supporter. To my parents, thank you for being here for me and allowing me to train as often as I can. Lastly, to my children, Kyle, Faith, and Grace, it has been so much fun training Taekwondo with you.

I was not sure if I was going to test for the 3rd degree, but here I am testing for the 4th. So, I will not say that this is it. I may be coming back in several years for 5th degree testing! I hope my story is encouraging. Thank you for your attention and opportunity to share my journey with Taekwondo.

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