Guest Writer: Diary of a White Belt

Hello, Little Black Belt readers! Some people start martial arts training as children, and others begin their journey as adults. As someone who started martial arts training, stopped, and re-started in my thirties, I’m always interested to hear from people who come to martial arts a little later in life. This story is from Jen Struzziero. Jen shares how she began training in martial arts and how amazing it has been in her life. Jen’s experience beautifully demonstrates the life-changing power of martial arts.

If you would like to submit a martial arts-related article for Little Black Belt, please review the guest writer guidelines and send me an email.

Enjoy Jen’s story!

Continue reading “Guest Writer: Diary of a White Belt”

Bonus Book Chapter: Post-Plateau Yoga Surrender

Dear Reader: For the remainder of 2021, to continue celebrating the release of my first book Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts, I will be posting a monthly bonus chapter. While these stories didn’t make the final cut, they were still important moments in my life and in my black belt journey. Enjoy!

[Note: This would have occurred between chapters 27 “Vices” and 28 “Black Belt Candidate”]

“To surrender,” Scott the Yoga Teacher said as he looked around the dark room at our upturned faces during Saturday yoga class, “you sometimes first have to build heat.” It was my first yoga class in about a month thanks to my icy weather depression. When asked about my long absence I gave my typical answer of “I had things going on” with a Robert De Niro-esque shrug.

Continue reading “Bonus Book Chapter: Post-Plateau Yoga Surrender”

How to Feel Unstuck When There’s No End In Sight

July 24, 2021, was the one year anniversary (or “ann-knee-versary” if you will allow me one pun) of my ACL reconstruction surgery. I had a fun day lined up to celebrate my progress and mobility: a morning yoga class, an afternoon swim, and dinner at my favorite neighborhood Italian bistro. I thought the day would run as smoothly as my repurposed quadriceps tendon.

My knee had other plans. 

When I rolled out my yoga mat and set up my trusty blocks (now a staple of my yoga practice) I knew my knee was not in a good mood. It ached and felt more tight than it had in days. God help me if I had to do a child’s pose. I inwardly rolled my eyes at my ornery joint and clumsily followed along with the instructor’s commands.

As I winced at the pain and tried to breathe more flexion into my leg I thought about my year long journey. I have lived with some kind of pain and discomfort every day for a year. Sometimes I feel frustrated and exhausted. Sometimes I long for a light at the end of the tunnel, a deus ex machina, a sudden whirlwind change that grants me perfect, pain-free full extension and flexion. Sometimes I feel stuck and don’t see an end in sight.

Continue reading “How to Feel Unstuck When There’s No End In Sight”

My Book Is About Taekwondo…and Mental Illness. There, I Finally Said It.

I mean, it’s right there in the title.

Spoiler alert: my upcoming memoir is about mental illness as much as it is about training for my black belt.

I mean, you probably got the gist from the title, but I thought I’d go ahead and spell it out.

This is the most difficult post I’ve ever written, and I know once it’s published and shared I will be questioning my choice. I’ve tried several times to write this under different themes and different titles for the last several years, and until now I’ve never had the courage to click the “publish” button.

Continue reading “My Book Is About Taekwondo…and Mental Illness. There, I Finally Said It.”

The Surprisingly Therapeutic Aspect of Watching the “Cobra Kai” Series

cobra kai

[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]

Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was. 

Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be. 

Continue reading “The Surprisingly Therapeutic Aspect of Watching the “Cobra Kai” Series”

Is My Injury Bad For My Image?

model mirror
You can barely see her knee surgery scars from here.

The editing work for my upcoming memoir is finally done, and now I’m dipping my callused toes (from all the roundhouse kicks, of course) into publicity. I’m *thisclose* to selecting a publicist and very excited about the next step of my publishing journey.

The ACL injury and subsequent surgery seem like especially bad timing.
Continue reading “Is My Injury Bad For My Image?”

Taekwondo Never Leaves You

korean flag heart

Note: I originally started writing this post on April 9, 2017 and then forgot about it. Now seems like a good time to bring this back. This is a bit of a love letter and a call back to a post I wrote last year when I was in a very different state of mind: Taekwondo Is Always There.

Two years ago I attended the United States Taekwondo Grandmasters Society banquet in Dallas, Texas. The annual event attracted seasoned and honored grandmasters from all over the country, including my grandmaster from my former dojang.

One of the guest speakers was Olympian Jackie Galloway. She talked about how tradition was inextricably intertwined with a martial art that continues to evolve. People change too, but as Jackie said in her heartfelt speech, “Taekwondo never leaves you.”
Continue reading “Taekwondo Never Leaves You”

Guest Writer: The Benefits Taiji Has on Mental Health

While taekwondo poomsae (forms) can be a rewarding form of moving mediation, there are many other ways to improve one’s physical, mental, and spiritual well-being from martial arts. Guest writer Adam Durnham shares the benefits of taiji (tai chi) in this post. If you would like to be a guest blogger for Little Black Belt, please read the contributing guidelines here

Tai-Chi

Also known as tai chi, taiji is a low-impact body-mind exercise or martial art that originated in China. In Asia, people have practiced it for many centuries and it helps improve health and fitness.

Continue reading “Guest Writer: The Benefits Taiji Has on Mental Health”

Falling Out of Love Can Be a Slow, Sickening Process

forever over.jpgThe first time I entered the UT Southwestern medical school library for a class in my library science graduate program, I KNEW IN MY BONES that I wanted to be there. I wanted to work in a medical library, and I was on FIRE.

And I did. After an internship at that very library and a year-long stint at an oil company I landed a job in the medical library of one of the largest hospitals in my metropolitan area. It was my dream job…until it wasn’t. After several years I realized that I had to leave. There were a number of reasons beyond my desire to leave that job, and out of respect for the company I’ll keep those reasons private. As much as I KNEW I wanted to work at UT Southwestern I KNEW IN MY BONES that I had to quit this hospital library job.
Continue reading “Falling Out of Love Can Be a Slow, Sickening Process”

The Best Birthday

Happy-Birthday-Cupcake

“Turn. Face Melanie,” my instructor said at the end of class. It was a Friday night and we had practiced my favorite techniques: hand strikes, forms, and breaking. What was coming next? Wait a minute, we’d already done the standard bow-to-the-black-belts part of our closing ritual: master, second degrees, first degrees. What’s going on? Is there something spe—oooohhh, right.

“Start singing,” he added, giving me a smirk as he strolled to the front of the room. The whole class sang “Happy Birthday” to me. I grinned and covered my face.
Continue reading “The Best Birthday”