Category Archives: Martial Arts

The Power of Influence

Yesterday, I ran into a childhood friend who I knew through martial arts several years ago. It was only by chance that he ended up behind me in the Bob’s check out line at 8 pm on a Monday evening. As I stood in line with my mom, I caught a glimpse of the familiar face, and my head immediately flashed to what Seinfeld would have said to the social awkwardness of reconnecting with an old acquaintance who may or may not remember you.

As I was debating whether to turn around and greet him, or send a fleeting glance over my shoulder, I heard behind me: “Amanda?” I reeled and beamed with delight at the memories that instantly flooded back. We chatted, shared stories, and laughed, as our poor mothers were left with only a slight knowledge of who their child was talking with. In that moment was that simplistic joy, that is pure, and often sought.

I found strangeness in the fact that this old friend who I hadn’t seen in three years and would be entering his senior year in high school, had not changed one bit since I last saw him. But my mom pointed out later that both of us had undergone great physical changes, which is most likely why the mothers were at a loss for recognition.

My only logical explanation for this is: the people dear to our hearts, or those who earn special roles in significant points in our lives, never alter. Physically and emotionally they may grow as people, but through my eyes he was still the 8th grade boy I knew as I was completing my last year of elementary school.  This begs the question: How much of what we do influences others around us? Personally, I don’t think we realize how much influence we have in our environment.

Me soloing at an old demo,other members of the demo team (including C.J.) kneeling around

I didn’t realize how much of a friend I had lost when C.J. quit martial arts for other sports, and it hit me when I ran into him yesterday. Back then, we had bonded over the shared secrets and a mutual understanding of the other’s situation, in a time when the majority of our other friends were quitting to begin their teenage years with a “clean slate” so to speak. Being the last left of our group of friends, we had a memorable connection, up until the time when he quit, when we then lost touch. Now that we’ve reestablished contact via Facebook, it will be interesting to see what’s changed in terms of UMAC then and now, and how we’ve changed since we were kids.

And of course, as someone’s influenced my life, I’ve influenced  another’s. I recently found out that a friend (with whom I’m afraid to say I’ve lost consistent contact) had been explaining to her parents how she wished certain aspects of her life were similar to mine. I was unaware that she had been admiring my privileges, and the way I live my life, from afar. I was flattered, but felt blind that I hadn’t even noticed or acknowledged my ability to live my life as someone’s role model.

As I’ve completed my freshman year of high school, I’ve seen how precious life really is. A senior who I didn’t know passed away due to a speeding accident — he wasn’t even the one driving. I’ve seen students come together and take hold of their ability to positively influence their community, and raise thousands of dollars for charity, and much more. On Friday I’ll be flying out to South Dakota for a week with some other high schoolers and several mentors from my church. We’ll be going to an Indian reservation called Pine Ridge, located in South Dakota. You may have heard rumors about it being one of the toughest places in the west, known for its third world style of living, and multiple gangs. We’ll be building houses and aiding the people, hopefully having a positive impact on their lives.

I think back to a favorite Christmas movie It’s A Wonderful Life, and how George Bailey gets a peak into how life in his small town of Bedford Falls would be different, had he never been born. I won’t spoil the movie for any of those who haven’t seen it (although I do highly recommend it), but the moral of the story is this: Our lives are valuable, and the amount of influence, known or unknown is truly incredible.

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In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb…

Is anyone else in the North Shore area diggin’ this weather?  Welcome home spring! Typically I dread the muggy overcast March days, but after a seemingly long slushy winter, I’m beginning to wrap my head around the arrival of warmth.

I know it’s been a few months since I last posted, and trust me, I haven’t forgotten about those of you who are dedicated to checking up on my blog every day. I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth, but I have fallen into the excitement that is high school.

If you read my post  A First Time for Everything, you know how excited I was to start high school back in September. And although I can’t say I share the same thrill that my alarm feels at 6am every morning, I can say that there’s never a dull moment in high school.

So let’s see what’s new… I am working at my martial arts academy as a Junior Instructor as of February…so exciting! I gave a testimony about my experiences in martial arts, with shaky knees but conviction in the words I wrote. I’m still in band, and somewhat of an assistant in the Jazz Band. I’m also in my third year of Clarinet Choir for NYSO (North Shore Youth Symphony Orchestra), which is a select group of clarinetists from the area. I’m learning how to conduct, and I’ll actually be conducting a piece titled “Spring” (how appropriate) in an upcoming concert. I joined Photo Club, and the mentoring program, which allows high schoolers to be advisors to middle schoolers. All in all, I’m a busy girl, and that doesn’t even include balancing friends, family, and a relationship.

But I’m not one to complain. In Sifu’s words: “Even in the worst of days, nobody can take my happiness away.”

I feel like this school year has flown by. Typically this would be reason enough to celebrate, but the reality of the situation is starting to sink in. There will be a day when my best friends won’t be a five-minute car ride and a text message away. There will be a time when my year won’t be regulated by my school hours and vacations. The truth is, that time is sooner than later. Even scarier: I spent my whole life wishing I was older, looking forward to the stage of my life that I’m in right now. And now I have to savor it, and make the most of it in the next 3 1/2 years, because in the blink of an eye it will be gone.

That’s why my best friend and I have created a list of 50 Things To Do Before We Graduate. Our idea was modeled after an MTV show called The Buried Life. On the show, four guys try to do 100 of the most impossible things before they die. For each task they accomplish, they try to help a stranger cross something off their own list. While nothing on our list includes playing basketball with Obama, or dancing with Ellen Degeneres, our tasks are equally important to us, or just plain fun. We are determined to make the most of these years.

In short, I’m constantly learning, observing, and taking baby steps into the world of adulthood. I’m adapting, facing my fears, and coming to new realizations. And that’s what’s new with me.

Junior Instructor Speech

Recently, I was promoted to Junior Instructor at my martial arts academy. Below is the speech I gave.

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If you had asked me six years ago about martial arts, it wasn’t something I could have ever imagined myself doing. I’m pretty sure the only thing I knew about martial arts at that time was what I had seen on the “Karate Kid.” My mom was the one who dragged me to that first class, insisting that I try it, and I might even like it. I was too afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone; I could barely speak. But Sifu made me feel so welcome, with their sense of humor, and how I was never singled out in class as the “new kid.” As soon as my class was over, I ran over to my mom and said: “Mom can I join? Can I? When’s my next class?!” From there, I got my first stripe: my black stripe. I was so proud of my accomplishment that I took my belt into school the next day to show my friends and teachers. Following that was my first section. Then joining the demo team and CIT program. Finally, I earned my black belt around the time I was twelve, and was soon after promoted to assistant instructor. I’m sure I’ve given my classmates a full show-and-tell over the years of all my belts and significant awards.

Martial arts gave me the courage to make new friends when I moved to a different town. I joined the cross country team, photo club, high school band, and became an assistant to my director in the jazz band: all in this year. Looking back on me at nine years old, prior to martial arts, I couldn’t be in front of a group performing a movement, playing my instrument, or singing, like I’m able to now. I wouldn’t be here in front of you all today, I was so self conscious.

I remember when my mom signed me up, she wanted me to find self-confidence within myself. But it’s so much more than that. It’s learning to be proud of yourself, but humble at the same time. It’s taking responsibility for your actions, and being accountable. But it’s also learning the things that can’t be taught: courage, inspiration, and most of all, respect. Respect others, but also respect yourself. That’s why I’m incredibly excited to have the opportunity to become a Junior Instructor here, since martial arts is my passion. And I know that it’s time. Time to be queen of my destiny. And I’m ready: ready to celebrate and cherish the moments. To go after what I want, and to pursue happy endings without any guarantees, but making the most of the journey. I’m ready to leave behind the things that are wrong for me, and ready to face all of life’s unexpected twists. I’m ready to turn the page in my martial arts career. So at 15 years old I can say, “Junior Instructor, here I come.”