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One thing that I have told people time and time again during sparring or in class is to ‘just breathe’ and relax. This will be a story of how I had to take my own advice.

I guess, I will start the story with this; over the past few weeks, I have been talking to someone who brought back some memories of what I have personally went through with over the past two years and how I finally reached a point in my life of just being happy. I will preface this story by saying that I live a pretty good life

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My Black Belt Goals

goal.jpg?width=300My Black Belt Goals

When I pass my test, my black belt goals are:

1.      Work hard on my technique, become more accurate and precise

2.      Learn more about the traditions of Tae Kwon Do so I can be more respectful to the sport

3.      Focus on getting my speed up, especially when it comes to spinning kicks

4.      Work harder to get better on my left side

5.      Be able to remember all the forms

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What Kind of Black Belt will I Be?

Korean-TKD5.pngWhat Kind of Black Belt will I Be?

I’d like to be the kind of black belt that with my own experience and knowledge, anyone (kid or adult) feel they can approach. I’d like to be a responsible black belt, one that can correct someone if I see they are not doing something correctly. Also give praise to someone that is doing something good, and encourage me fellow martial artists to achieve their goals. I’d like to keep learning and grow as a martial artist, work hard and have fun.

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My Living Heroes -Graham Smyth

3820651580?profile=original1. Valerie Polack

Valerie Polack, known to me as Val, is a dear friend and mentor who lives right here on Mercer Island. Through her kindness and generosity, Valerie has taught me over the years what it means to be selfless, and to give without thought of return. Valerie has also contended with cancer, and has been an inspiration to me by virtue of both her strength and her grace. I aspire to one impact as many lives as she has.

2. Gabby Douglas

Miss Douglas is not just a hero to me, but to many Am

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Graham Smyth: Black Belt Requirements

  1. blackbelt.png?width=300What are my goals upon having reached my black belt for my future training and learning?


In addition to advancing my knowledge and skill in Tae Kwon Do, I’m also very interested in better learning how to teach and mentor our newer and younger students. My time spent at Mercer Island Martial Arts over the course of my life has been invaluable, in the sense that I’ve learned lessons there that I believe I could not have learned anywhere else. The martial artists who trained me had a major role in

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  Susanne Blaberg is a great leader, competitor, and most importantly a great mother.

My mom is an amazing leader, she helps me and my sister stay on track, helping us in all sports, and school work if she knows it or not. A great leader has flexibility, and confidence my mom shows this when she gets an email about sport location changes last minute, and needing to dive me to 2 practices in a row. She knows we won't come home with a bad report card or missing a layup in basketball or an easy catc

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Dawn-Logo.jpgFor my community service project I have put together with the help of Grand Master Strongheart and Master Wells a women’s self-defense class at the do-jang. Reading and hearing on the news a lot about women getting attacked I thought it would be a great idea for women to know how to protect themselves in case of an attack. I have invited friend and acquaintances to this seminar. This will be an opportunity for them to learn the basics in self-defense.


During the seminar they will learn how to:


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Applying Tae Kwon Do in other schools

getDynamicImage.aspx?b=00ffffff&w=290&h=290&path=08-P08-MAIN.JPG&width=180In the six years I’ve trained here at Mercer Island Martial Arts, going from my last year of elementary school, through middle school, and into greater half of high school, I have always found that the skills taught in the dojang are those needed to succeed academically. One of the changes in perspective I’ve found most useful is focusing on learning new ideas and techniques instead of worrying about how they will be tested. On the floor at class we devote time to drilling the forms and kicks, p

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To:  Grandmaster Strongheart and Master Wells

Fr:  Tia Mikols

Re: Letter of Recommendation for Susanne Blaberg




It’s really exciting for me to write this letter for Susanne, though I am not the friend who has known her for her whole life.  Mostly, I claim her as a friend who shares her enthusiasm for martial arts and good food which is practically the same as being lifelong friends.


I first met she and her family when we rente

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3820651780?profile=originalWhen I first started studying at Mercer Island Martial Arts, I really didn’t expect to like it and only took a class because my son wanted me to take the family class with him. But when I discovered how much fun it was, I got very ‘serious’ about it. Like many beginners, I was really focused on ‘power’ and trying to kick higher than my opponents shin. (Because also like most beginners, I had the flexibility of a baseball bat) I was trying to go as fast as I could, which in the beginning was a ch

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3820651418?profile=originalSomething which has helped with my technique and development as a Martial Artist, and especially with my ability to learn new techniques is the concept of 'going slowing'. I do not know where I heard the phrase originally, but it seems to apply all the time in Taekwondo; “Sometimes you have to go slow, to go fast”. I have taken it to mean that being sure you learn each step, to understand each process, is the key to really mastering something. That path will often mean going very slow initially,

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routine-spirals.jpegPrior to starting Taekwondo, all forms of exercise had a finite life expediency for me. At the point when I started feeling comfortable or hit some basic level of competency, I would get bored and quickly lose interest. When that happen, I would quickly stop whatever the activity was. What I have found with Taekwondo is a never-ending stream of new challenges, I am always slightly off balance. This has kept me interested and motivated beyond anything else I have tried in the past. This consisten

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3820651199?profile=originalSomething I have learned since becoming a black belt is how important it is to listen to how your body feels. As one of the ‘older’ students on the mat most nights, I am continually faced with limitations that come from getting old. I have the added challenge of having messed up my knee twice. (torn ACL once, torn meniscus twice) So it has become very important to listen to what my body is telling me, even if that means limiting what I can do.

Something that I have learned is that with limitation

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Learning-Teaching.jpegWhere I could have done better, and how I changed because of it?

    The first few weeks I assisted with teaching the children’s classes, I struggled to lead any group without constant help. Anything more complex than running forms would rapidly deteriorate. In hindsight, the reason for this was a lack of patience- instead of waiting to for people to quiet down and get their attention, I would try to immediately start in with the exercise. Rushing into instructions was counterproductive, leaving

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My Living Heroes

3820651580?profile=originalMy Living Heroes

1. Chef Marcus Samuelsson (Kassahun Tsegie) was born 1971 in Ethiopia. Due to the Ethiopian civil war in 1974, Marcus and his sister were adopted by Ann Marie and Lennart Samuelsson from Gothenburg, Sweden. His maternal grandmother in Sweden opened up Marcus’ interest in cooking. He studied at the Culinary Institute in Gothenburg and he apprenticed in three restaurants, one in Switzerland, one in Austria before he apprentice at Restaurant Aquavit. At 24 Marcus became the executiv

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My Living Heroes

3820651074?profile=originalJackie Chan is one of my living heroes because of how dedicated to martial arts he is. The fact that he performs his own stunts and knows so many martial arts is amazing to me. My goal in the future is to at least have studied multiple martial arts, and maybe even master them. Jackie Chan knows so many martial arts and I hope to some day know multiple martial arts as well.

William E. Fairbairn was a detective from England living in Shanghai during the interwar period. He developed hand-to-hand fi

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Example of Letter of Intent for 2nd DAN

black_belt.jpgAfter I submitted my letter of intent to the masters for my upcoming 2nd DAN test, they asked me to post it as an example for others. I believe the letter needs to be tailored for each personal individual journey, but I hope the format is useful for others.



April 30, 2017

Mercer Island Martial Arts
Grand Master Strongheart
Master Krista Wells

Grand Master,

I would like to officially declaring my intent to progress in my training to second DAN, with the rank of Kyo Sa Nim.

I have inc

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12 hours of an outside project

Leadership_Service_in_Action.pngWhat I did was work for half of a day at my dad’s office and the other half of the day was volunteering. My dad works at an IRB, if you don’t know what that is it’s essentially the legal side of a clinical study. When someone decides to participate in a clinical study, an IRB makes sure that that person knows all of his or her rights and makes sure the clinical study is as safe as it can be for that person and making sure the study is not a fraud. What I did in there was a multitude of things, b

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We recently had the opportunity to have a woman by the name of Amy Scarfone come and film one of our family classes in a 360 degree video format.  If you have never seen this technology it is a really great way to experience a class.  When viewing it you will need to open it in Google Chrome or another web browser that supports 360 degree video formats.  I was also able to watch it on my iPhone. As you press the button to look around you can see all of the different particptants in the class.  T

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National Human Trafficking Day


As Modern Martial Artists, community warriors, this issue as much as any issue is related to our practice.  We teach that our community, or village, is our responsibility to take leadership, and action to protect, and grow.  And, that village must include the most vulnerable, and victimized.   At the very least we can become aware, and educated.  So many people have the belief that this kind of slavery is taking place only in places far away, and certainly not in our cities.  It is unfortunate

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