Updated: Feb 9
I began my Taekwondo training in 1992 at 8-years-old, along with half-brother who was just a couple years older. Immediately, I stuck out. I was overweight and just one of only a couple of other girls in the entire school since this was during a time when girls participating in male-dominated sports was not remotely popular and even less encouraged by the masses. Being a girl in a boy’s sport didn’t deter me in the least from learning how to defend myself against the severe bullying I was enduring because of my body size, both in school and at home by the hands of my half-brother. My safety was constantly attacked, and with nowhere else to turn to but my classes, they became my safe haven from the verbal and physical abuse. My uniform became a metaphorical suit of armor that helped protect me, at least that’s what I would tell myself at 10-years-old every time I’d wear it.
I quickly rose through the ranks and with it, a surprising reputation crossing multiple states for being “brutal” in the fighting ring regardless of my short height and robust width. So much so, I was eventually disqualified from female fighting matches all together, and forced to fight the boys due to my “brutal” fighting style which seemed highly unusual, but equally awesome for an angel faced little girl in the mid-90’s. My accomplishments in Taekwondo seemed to counter the intensity of the pain I was experiencing behind the scenes. Pain, very few knew about and even fewer did anything to stop.
After word of my fighting accomplishments began to spread throughout the area, I began to have high ranking Masters watch me compete. It was a honor to say the least. My mom couldn’t have been prouder of her little “brut” as I began to be called by spectators. I became her superstar in the ring which only fueled my brother’s hatred for me to which his beatings would become more severe over time. Eventually, my mom insisted we make a new start and moved us to a new state and new town in Illinois, where we ended up opening our own martial arts school and where my bullying situation went from bad to life-threatening in less than six months after starting the seventh grade at Coolidge Middle School.
The bullying became so rampant and increasingly violent, that as a last chance effort, I made my way onto a daytime talk show in Spring of 1997 (airing that summer) for “Bullied Kids with Extraordinary Talents”. I was one of two guests chosen to appear on the show out of more than 48,000 people who called in about the topic. My hope was that my appearance on the show would give a different insight to those who were tormenting me, but it didn’t faze them. The bullying continued, and took such a toll on me, day after day, mentally and emotionally, that just a few years later after appearing on the show, I attempted to end my life in the bathroom of my mom’s house at 15; luckily, I was unsuccessful, and unfortunately, my survival gave birth to a deep resentment towards everybody, as well as, a deep depression due to school officials threatening me with expulsion (which meant goodbye to any chances of getting into a college and out of the hell hole I was stuck in) if I ever used my martial arts training to defend myself against another student’s attack. In other words, I was being forced to endure whatever treatment was handed to me without any expectation of justice against my countless attackers.
So that’s what I did, I took it. Day after day, incident after incident racking up bruises and broken bones in and out of the fighting ring. My life at that point was nothing more than a constant battle to simply exist.
I hung onto my training for guidance throughout it all. All the way up to graduation. Looking back, there’s no doubt in my mind that my martial arts training kept me alive during the most disturbing years of my young life. Where I was being tormented in school halls, I was being praised and paraded as a talented martial artists and instructor. The intensity of my pain was match by the intensity of my pride, and that alone is what saved my life, eventually allowing me to leave my mom’s hell house, the town and all the horrible memories of the last decade of my life behind in the Fall of 2003.