Ok, I'm not going to get into much detail of what the meaning of tae kwon do is or where it came from, you should all know that. However, I will indulge in providing some information on who I am and why I decided to train in martial arts, and why I will always train in the martial arts. It is most definitely a lifestyle for me, and has shaped and molded my life.
Past- Well, to start off I was born and raised right here in the state of Maine. Born in March of 1981 and grew up and attended Hampden schools. Along the way prior to starting my training in the martial arts, I played just about every sport I could play. From soccer, to basketball, baseball and my favorite football. I was always fascinated with martial arts and remember watching Bruce Lee, Jean claude Van Dam, Steven Segal, and yes Chuck Norris. I had always wanted to learn how to kick and punch just like the previously mentioned names. However I was reluctant to learn them due to my own busy schedule with sports, working and being too shy to at least go to a class and get started.
So with a newly acquired YMCA membership in 1996, I decided to start taking tae kwon do. I was in 8th grade at the time and wanted to get started. So I recruited my uncle Nathan, and we decided to start in the spring of 1996. I'll never forget being really nervous, both of us were, but at the same time really anxious to get in there and see what the martial arts were all about. So we meet Mike our instructor just before class was to start and he told us how to line up and get ready for my life to change! Mike informed us we were studying American Tae Kwon Do, which is very similar to ITF or Karate.
We started out very quick, learning four blocks, two kicks, and some basic punching that night. I loved it, it was so much fun, and felt great to get a good workout. So we trained like this for 6 months every week, learning and practicing kicks, punches, self-defense, blocks, forms, weapons, and my favorite sparring! We sparred with only gloves and foot protectors, and it was point style sparring, I loved it. We then tested for our orange belt, and after a long 2 hour test we received our new belt, it felt so good to not be a white belt, we had some color! So we continued training in this style for another 6 months, and we tested for our yellow belt and received our new belt. After receiving our new belt, Mike decided that he was moving to Arizona and would no longer be our instructor.
The next week we had a new instructor teaching with him, and to learn how he taught us, and to see who we were, and what we knew. His name was T.J. Schaeffer, he was about 5'9" 180lbs and solid muscle with very quick and powerful kicks and punches. He briefed us after he took over the class that he teaches Olympic style Tae Kwon Do, and Hapkido. We quickly plunged ourselves into this new high energy, intense style of martial art. It was completely different from what we had been practicing. It was intense, to say the least, and I loved it! Strict classes, structure, intense cardio, and highflying kicks, it was great, and the sparring was like nothing like I had ever seen.
As the months went along, about 6 months later we were testing for our yellow belt with green tip. After 3 hours we had passed the test and was another belt ahead. It was not long after this that T.J. said something in class to us, that I'll never forget and would push me harder and stronger than ever. He said to us, "Most people get to green belt and quit. I would be surprised to see any of you attain black belt!" It was that day I knew I would get my black belt and show him I could do it, and to show anyone who doubted me not to challenge me.
So I continued training and testing for new belts, and after another year and half I had attained the rank of blue with red tip. I was at the top of my game, I felt great. I had gone to my first tournament as a new green belt and won 3 medals, but wasn't satisfied with my placement. I then competed as a blue with red tip. I won my division in breaking, and took second place in poomse. I then fought a much taller, older red belt for my division title. I beat him, and won my division, I was a state champion! It was one of the best feelings I've ever had, and felt truly privileged to be able to compete and show what I could do.
During the time of attaining blue belt I had met many great people and had many new friends in this world of martial arts. Along the way I truly say myself change physically and mentally. I had become stronger, smarter, and understood what I was doing and how to teach it to new white belts. I was feeling great till I broke my big toe on a jet ski, and had to stop training for two months while it healed. I then returned to the YMCA, to learn that T.J. was in the process of no longer teaching. We had trained with fellow instructors, Jaime Smith, Bruce Boyington, and new black belt Chase Poulsen. So Chase decided to take over at the YMCA.
I then went and started taking classes with Jaime, and continued for another 2 years to train with him. I also trained periodically with Chase at the Y, and we continued with our schools training together. I continued training, and competing. Then in December of 2000, after 4 and ½ years of training I tested for my black belt along with Dan Ward, Carrie Achorn, and Chase tested for his 2nd Dan. Master Raymond Moreou and Master Danny Clifford tested us, and tortured us for over 6 hours.
We demonstrated everything we knew and had accumulated, and I even broke a cement block for the first time with a punch! We didn't receive our belts until the spring of 2001, and it was one of my proudest moments of my life. My family was there when we had the graduation ceremony, and I remember Master Moreau telling me to never forget my "roots" and remember where I started and never forget that. It was awesome, I felt so good and was so proud of my accomplishment. I continued training and started teaching with Chase at the YMCA.
I also continued competing and fought in the black belt division at Maine state championships, a few international fights in Canada, and eventually competing at the US Senior Nationals as well. I also received my referee certification and my coaching certification as well. I continued teaching at the Y, until we opened our own school with Chase and Jaime. We called in Tae Kwon Do USA, and we had a successful 100+ students school. I taught kids and adults twice a week for over a year. Then eventually Chase decided to move, and Jaime stopped teaching, and so I started teaching back at the YMCA, where I continue to teach and have been for over 5 years.
Present- I have had the privilege to train and compete, and teach some truly wonderful people, and have had a great time training in the martial arts. In the past 12 years, I have trained in mainly Olympic style Tae Kwon Do, but have also trained with boxing, kung fu, karate, silat, hapkido, aikido, and some grappling as well. I have been coached by some great instructors, Jaime Smith, T.J. Schaeffer, Chase Poulsen, Bruce Boyington. I have also been able to pass along my knowledge to many students, friends, and even have helped promote two cousins to black belt. I have had such a wonderful time and life with martial arts, and been able to even show the public in parades, and demonstrations what we have to offer. I am currently teaching adults the YWCA part of the YMCA, and also teaching a MMA class as well. I have great instructors here, and have the privilege of being able to pass to them what has been taught to me, and maybe inspire some others in the way I have been. I love to teach, and love intense classes with great energy. I am currently at the rank of 3rd Dan, and will hopefully someday attain the rank of 4th Dan(Master).
Tae Kwon Do has changed my life for the better and I understand things much clearer now. I hope someday that someone else can pass along the knowledge I have given to others and carry on the tradition. I'll never forget that first class, and the challenge it presented me. I never gave up and won't give up, and I hope anyone who reads this will have the courage and will power to never give up on your own dreams. Always remember and live by the tenets of Tae Kwon Do.
SPICI-Self control, Perseverance, Integrity, Courtesy, and Indomitable Spirit.
Train hard, train smart, practice, and love life!