Ever since I can remember my mom had been throwing me into any sport that you can imagine. From figure skating to soccer to volleyball and finally her searching worked. At the young age of 9 my mom landed in Taekwondo. Although I was all too adamant on not stepping foot on the ever intimidating mat, she eventually got me barefoot and into a uniform long enough for me to realize that this was exactly what I needed. While growing into the woman I am today, Taekwondo and the people that I had met through it, was always something I could turn to. Growing up and having a never wavering support system is something that you can't find in just any sport. This sport is built on respect: respecting your peers, instructors, and others. This kind of respect eventually intertwines with the hours of training together to form a kind of family that you can't find any place else. In middle school, a new instructor hit the mats, Mr. Yoon. He began playing a huge role in my training and took me under his wing. He looked after me like an older brother would and taught me so much throughout my training. Mr. Yoon eventually had me teaching classes and I started getting dropped off after school to help out every night. I trained students through the years, eventually watching them receive their black belts. These students I still hold near and dear to my heart. Taekwondo played a huge role in the woman I am today. It gave me a purpose in high school while so many others were feeling lost, it gave me amazing self confidence, and showed me how far just a little respect can go. I am now proud to say that I am in my second year of college and have been accepted into nursing programs due to the virtues and pillars that this sport and Mr Yoon has raised me on!
In my 12 years of Taekwondo experience and other various martial arts, I have been introduced and influenced by many instructors. Many have come and go throughout my life, and I try to keep in touch with all of them. Fortunately for me, I crossed paths with this hard-headed, impulsive, and esteemed Taekwondo instructor named Paul Yoon. Even with his hard, serious exterior, he is caring, determined, generous, and highly motivated to want you to achieve, succeed, and surpass any obstacle whether that be passing a quiz in school to breaking a board with a tornado kick to get your black belt. I have known him for 7 years, and he has brought and continues to strengthen my Taekwondo skills to a whole new level, pushing my limits and boundaries not only as a martial artist but also as a person. Thanks to his instruction and guidance, I have achieved my goal of testing for my 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo at the World Championships and gotten into the prestigious college that is The University of Georgia (UGA). Even during my time at UGA, I have thought about how am I going to balance academics, clubs and organizations, and my Taekwondo? I thought I would have to take a break from my training, but Mr. Yoon brings a spark back to my fire to keep continuing training throughout school whenever I have the time. Both of us have gone through major hardships in our life, one of mine was obtaining my U.S. citizenship to get my scholarships for UGA even though I am adopted. To me he isn’t just my Taekwondo instructor, he is also my father-figure to whom I can always look up to and be one of my primary support systems. He has enhanced my will to achieve, persevere through anything, and to accept challenges graciously and be persistent. Whenever I am back home, I always find myself drawn back to the mat whether that’s teaching or just visiting; I can’t stay away from the people and the sport that will forever be a part of my life.
Mr. Yoon is an incredible, inspiring, and passionate Tae Kwon Do instructor. His focus on precision and power transformed my performance in both traditional forms and sparring. Under Mr. Yoon’s instruction and promotion of perseverance, I found myself pushed to break the limits I had previously assumed for myself. After only a few lessons with Mr. Yoon, I found myself kicking at new heights and confidently sparring partners twice my weight. In addition to Mr. Yoon’s attention to the physicality of Tae Kwon Do, he emphasizes the “Tae Kwon Do mindset” through his clear expectations of respect, both for others and for oneself, on and off of the mats. I cannot recall a single instance after one of his classes where I did not leave feeling exhilarated, empowered, and confident. Mr. Yoon’s presence in my life, as aforementioned, has been completely transformative in only the most positive ways.
In my 10 years of Tae Kwon Do and 6 years with Mr. Yoon, I’ve learned that perseverance and self discipline are two of the most important keys to success. As a senior in high school, I’ve finally seen the pay off. I am extraordinarily excited, while still humbled, to announce that I will graduate as North Springs Charter High School’s Class of 2017 Valedictorian. Although the late nights of studying and early morning drives to school were both daunting and exhausting, I stayed true to the lessons Mr. Yoon taught me in order to reach my once unimaginable academic goal.