Unseen skills: black belts on campus


Meghan McGowan

Junior black belt Minami Pituvong practices her skills at training. She is working with kids to help teach them Taekwondo as well.

Martial arts is a sport that requires one to encounter both physical and mental endurance. Karate, Judo, and Jiu Jitsu are all common forms of martial arts. Learning martial arts helps develop important characteristics such as discipline, focus, confidence, and self defense; this can help individuals daily and provide a sense of security. There are six grades, or belts, that one must earn before obtaining the black belt. The exam students must endure in order to get the black belt lasts for ten hours and is physically demanding according to junior, and current black belt, Haliegh Wilborn. 

As a child, Wilborn often got picked on by other students. After struggling to stand up for herself for so long, her dad persuaded her to try martial arts as a way to build her confidence. As time went on, she “grew to like it,” accounting to the people and the family atmosphere that she was surrounded with. Eleven years later, Wilborn is still doing freestyle karate.

Along with performing, Wilborn also teaches younger kids what she has spent years learning.  “Everyone progresses at their own pace, and there are so many things you can do with it. Like some people are better at, let’s say, weapons and some people are better with forms and stuff like that,” said Wilborn. In her case, she specializes in “the techniques and the formality of it,” Wilborn added, “I guess doing forms and like teaching them how to actually do things properly. I think just having that loving and caring aspect about it.”

In addition to every student having different skills, Wilborn noted that every teacher has different styles of teaching. “Seeing how my other assistants and other friends teach [the kids] as well, because we all have different teaching styles, and I like seeing that,” said Wilborn.

This art is not only used for self defense, but also passed down through family ties as shown in junior Minami Pituvong’s story. “Growing up, I saw my grandpa do something similar to martial arts and so growing up I really loved watching martial arts movies and when I finally decided to do it, I really realized it’s my sport,” said Pituvong. Since then, she has been practicing Taekwondo for four years now.

“I usually try to go three times a week, but that usually doesn’t happen, it’s usually just Friday and Saturday. Friday I would be there for four hours, but two of the hours are usually helping the younger kids and then from 6:30 to 8:30 is when I do my own training- that’s for sparring specifically. And then on Saturday, we meet with the team from 10:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. for team training,” said Pituvong

Martial arts has both become a safe space and taught Wilborn and Pituvong to be more confident in addition to being more secure. Although their parents brought them into the sport for different reasons, the two have grown to love the sport and help teach it.