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Keeping Mindful and Grounded


About the Author:

MeLisa Turcott Strongheart is a Master Instructor and owner at Mercer Island Martial Arts.  She is a 7th Dan Master Instructor.  She also holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Mental Health Counseling.   She brings these two areas of specialization to her work with families, children, teens, and in designing curriculum.   


Master Strongheart emphasizes and has taught thousands of students the value and power of respect.   Respect for oneself, other, and the community.   


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My Heroes...

My ultimate role model and my superhero, is my DAD! He works hard everyday to ensure I have what I need to be successful. He loves me with all his heart and I hope he knows I love him too. He’s done so much to enrich and create an amazing life for me and my family. Thank you Dad! With that said, there are a few other people I look up to because they have also had a positive impact on my life. They have achieved great things by overcoming a HUGE obstacle, an obstacle I’m very familia

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My 5 Living Heroes

My living heroes are:

  1. Bentley, my trombone teacher, because he encourages me to go on and teaches me trombone.
  2. Jordan Morris because he shows me that you can do what you want no matter what.
  3. Bear Grylls because he shows me that no matter what situation you are in you can survive.
  4. My mom because she always builds me up.
  5. My dad because he is always spending time with me
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Black belt essay questions

1. My goals upon having reached black belt for my future learning, are to learn better leadership skills. I began coming when I was 7, and since then I have learned much better leadership skills since. I have learned a lot, but other people have helped me much more than I have helped others, because of their wonderful leadership skills, and those people have made a mark in my life. I also hope to get better at flexibility I mostly achieve my kicks at the right night, but sometimes when I am spar

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My 5 living hero’s

1. Ringo Starr: I consider Ringo Starr a hero because my family love to listen to the classic rock band the Beatles. I have grown up with the Beatles music and I idolize them as musicians and as people.
2. Mom: my mom is one of my biggest heroes because even when she is stressed at work an super busy, she still makes time for me. The other reason is I wouldn’t be anywhere close to black belt if it weren’t for her. The first time I came to the dojang was because she wanted me to try something new.

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Uniform Etiquette

Image2.gifHow to fold, and put on your uniform:

In martial arts -- there are traditions and rituals associated with the wearing, and tying of the belt and the uniform.  There are many reasons stated from different instructors, master’s and sensei about how these traditions have evolved.   It is, in my mind, all about mindfulness.  It is a practice which reminds us that we are entering and leaving a place, a dojang, where the realities of everyday life can be set aside, and a focus upon the person’s physic

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3820654435?profile=originalRandom Bags of Kindness is something the kids and I have been doing for a while but have ramped up production for the black belt project.  We fill ziplock bags with items for homeless persons and keep them in the car to hand out to anyone who needs it. Usually they have water, food, socks, toiletry items, first aid supplies and other things depending on season (heavier socks in winter, more water in summer…) Some are designed for people with pets and have dog food as well as people food, some ar

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Recomendation Letter - Simona Lioy

3820654272?profile=originalI believe Marcello is a good candidate for a black belt promotion because of his hard work, dedication, and respect for the art. One quality of his that I admire and especially stands out is his ability to make a commitment and stick to it. This journey has had its challenges but Marcello has persevered nonetheless.  I also feel the experience of helping out in classes has provided him with the opportunity to lead without managing. This is also evident at home with our own kids whether running t

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Recomendation Letter - Becky Haruyama

3820654272?profile=originalDear Grandmaster Strongheart and Master Wells,

I am writing to you with the highest recommendation for Marcello Lioy’s advancement to the rank of black belt. For the years I have been a member at Mercer Island Martial Arts, Marcello has always been a consistent voice of encouragement and a great role model for me.

I appreciate Marcello’s respectful approach to providing feedback, and always enjoy practicing with him during class. I also know he carries the values of a black belt throughout his lif

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Community Service Project - Vera Project

3820654046?profile=originalFor my community service volunteered at the Vera Project.  Vera is an all-ages volunteer-fueled music and arts venue, and its mission is to fuel personal and community transformation through collaborative, youth-driven engagement in music and art.  Music has always been an important part of my life, and when I was in college and in my early twenties I was in various bands and also studied to be a recording engineer.  After pursuing a career in the music industry for a few years, it became clear

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3820654739?profile=originalMy primary goal upon receiving my black belt is to continue to train regularly; I greatly enjoy it, as it pushes me both physically and mentally.  One area that I feel I need to focus on is sparring – that is the most challenging aspect of the training for me.  I have a tendency to over-think things in general, and on the mats this manifests itself in my being much slower than I would like to be, and am physically capable of.  I am also excited to continue to train with my children who in the co

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What Kind of Black Belt will I be?

3820654708?profile=originalI would like to be an approachable black belt, one that other students are comfortable coming to for help. I feel I have much to give as I have struggled through (and continue in many cases to struggle with) various techniques, or aspects of the forms and have noticed others struggling with the same things. I enjoy leveraging my learning and experience, and know that I can point them down the path that helped me make progress on challenging areas. It will also challenge me to find ways of explai

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Marcello's Living Heroes

3820653813?profile=originalMy mother is someone I greatly admire; not only did she teach me to value tolerance, and judge people for who they are and not where they are from or what they look like, but she was also quite successful on her own terms.  My mother worked for various non-governmental organizations working in developing nations in the public health domain.  Being born in France (which continues to have quite traditional gender roles) she had to push past the limitations of not only her parents, my grandfather i

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What kind of black belt will I be?

3820653910?profile=originalI hope I will be a kind one who will help other people feel empowered and supported.  I want to be a good role model for my kids so they know that nothing worthwhile comes without effort.  I want to be the person who keeps showing up able to do the most with what I have, whatever that might be (because I’m not getting any younger!)  Lastly, I want to continue to experience joy in the practice of martial arts because no matter what color the belt it has been a great way to focus my energy and bec

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3820654840?profile=originalThank goodness learning never stops.  There is always something else to discover, some large concept to grasp, some better control to have, some tiny thing to master that makes a world of difference.  I hope to contribute more as a teacher, open up to more experiences as a student, learn more types of weapons work which I think is really fun. I would also like to learn more of the traditions behind what we do as well because I think that’s what elevates the whole experience from being a workout

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Tia's Living Heroes

3820653813?profile=originalLiving Heroes

Michelle Powell - My Mom is the strongest and bravest person I know.  She has chosen her own path even though it’s been hard, faced loss with grace, stood back when I need to stand on my own and been beside me when I needed it.  She is an amazing parent and human. I hope I am a person she can always be proud of even on my worst days.

Kim Wheeler - Kim taught me that it’s never too late to decide what you really want in this life no matter what other people may expect from you or what

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3820654840?profile=original1.What are my goals upon having reached black belt for my future training and learning?

In the future, I hope to continue increasing my flexibility, confidence, and strength all of which martial arts has helped with but I always want to improve. I have always had problems with my flexibility, but I would like to get better at it. Confidence will come with age and experience and strength will come by doing more Martial Arts and other physical activities. I think the most honest answer for me is th

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Living Hero

#5. Bill Nye


I remember as a kid always watching Bill Nye, “the science guy” and being fascinated by the show. I see now how corny it was, but that was not really the point. It got me interested in science and interesting things. As a kid

, I preferred to watch science shows over Cartoon Network.  Now that I am older, I appreciate a whole different side to him. These days he is focusing on helping the greater community and trying to educate the older generation about real problems in our world and

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Community Service Project for Black Belt

3820653910?profile=originalLeadership project.

For my hours as a community leader, I spent time working at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. My school, PSCS organized the project. Along with one teacher, we took a bus from the International District to the food bank. I spent most of the time unloading shipments of food that got delivered and putting everything away so it could be handed out later. The part that I really enjoyed was when I got to hand out the food (cans, produce etc.) to people. There is something really nice a

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