Check out this article at the Mercer Island Patch


All 5'3" of petite Mercer Island resident Jan Eveleth are poised on the balls of her feet, ready to strike at her opponent's padded gloves. With an ear-piercing yell, she launches herself into the air, feet first, slamming the gloves, and her sparring partner, nearly through the wall. With a fierce grin, she lands lightly, barely winded, ready for another round.

No, you're not watching a Kung Fu movie; you're watching a 53-year-old Mercer Island mother of two teenagers who just recently earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do at Mercer Island Martial Arts.

"I had both my kids enrolled in Mercer Island Martial Arts four years ago… I sat on the bench and waited for them after class several times a week," said Eveleth. "Then one night Master (Krista) Wells asked if I wanted to try it, and I said, sure, why not?" Eveleth had been looking for a winter workout that would dovetail into her dance, aerobics and swimming background, and be within her abilities as she aged.

 "I came into this program with arthritis in my back, neck and shoulders that required physical therapy," she said. "Three years later, I don't need therapy anymore, and I feel younger, healthier and I sleep better than I ever have."

Though she has degrees in astrophysics and a Master's in evolutionary biology, Eveleth manages Internet services and external networks for the University of Washington, a job she moved here for in 1992. Because the University District has had a higher crime rate, Eveleth said she feels better knowing that her self-defense training gives her a certain fearlessness when she's on campus. "Now that I'm older, having basic self defense techniques means that I'm more aware of my surroundings and I have the self-confidence to walk alone in unfriendly places near work," she said. "It's a comfort to know that my daughter has had some of this training, and it's given my son, who also has his black belt, an amazing level of self esteem and confidence."

It took Eveleth three years of physically and psychologically-demanding training to get her black belt, which is hung on a wall at Mercer Island Martial Arts as a visible goal for students to work towards. "It's like being at the base of a mountain that you know you must scale," Eveleth said. "It might seem daunting to do it all at once, but at first you go partway up, and rest. Then you go a little further, and soon you're more than halfway up the mountain, and that's when you realize that maybe you can do this, that it's a realistic goal to make it to the summit."

There are a series of five tests that require students to know specific martial arts forms, be able to break boards, know self defense, sparring techniques, written essays and community service projects. Each student has a program tailored to their abilities and goals, notes Eveleth, and she believes the family atmosphere that encourages children and parents to work out together creates better communities. "Master (MeLisa) Strongheart and Master Wells have brought anti-bullying campaigns to this community, and they bring in kids with disabilities to class," she notes. "It builds a unique family tie when parents and kids learn together, side by side."

Since the program is "way more than physical," Eveleth feels that it also helps to make people mentally healthy. "There is always teaching about the 10 articles of mental training, which is often harder than the physical work," she said. "When you teach compassion, respect, mercy, focus, persistence and love to people, it has a ripple effect and makes the world a better place."

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