I asked powerful women in martial arts how training in their discipline helped them overcome issues, be stronger leaders and become more confident in themselves and less-self conscious of their bodies. I received so many replies from amazing women I decided to do a Martial Arts Mini Series. I hope you enjoy their stories of strength and endurance as much as I do.
~ Susan Harrow
Shy to High-Flying Tae Kwon Do Master
By Evelyn Weiss Francisco
At age 27, I achieved a goal of black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido. I started training in 1993, and after four years of consistent training four times per week, I tested and received my black belt, which was the new beginning to my continued training and the satisfaction of reaching a short-term goal. I was the only woman at my test. It took extreme dedication and lots of physical endurance to complete an eight-week-long test that included self defense, sparring, board-breaking (I kicked through six at once – more than any of the men who tested.) and kicking and hand techniques.
Last week, at 39 years old, and after a year of two tae kwon do-injury-related surgeries, I just passed a three-hour final test (8 weeks long) for 4th-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do (Master) and continue to train and practice my art religiously. Martial arts has empowered me both mentally and physically. It instills confidence in me in everything I do.
I was in a stale but comfortable position as an administrative assistant for a supermarket co-op. But the more I progressed in martial arts, the more it re-enforced my goal-oriented nature and my desire to excel. I am now the director of client services at Caryl Communications, a public relations firm.
By dealing with pain and overcoming challenges, confidence becomes ingrained through both inner and external strength. Being able to spar well against women and men, and being able to kick just as hard – if not harder – than a lot of the martial artists in my school, disproves the notion of women being “weak”. It helps me to feel self-assured in the workplace when communicating with executives who are my clients.
I used to be very shy and intimidated by high-ranking business people and used to let stress affect me emotionally when I would have multiple deadlines. The physical aspect of martial arts becomes a daily stress reliever and allows me to cope with all levels of work-related and other stress factors in a calmer and more logical manner. I now have the confidence to know that I can, and will, complete tasks given to me.
I also used to be very self-conscious, and while that hasn’t completely gone away, knowing that I can protect myself physically, somehow makes me walk taller and appear strong and confident at only 130 pounds. That alone makes me less of a potential victim to a predator. I am well aware of my surroundings at all times.
Evelyn Weiss Francisco is director at a public relations firm and a 4th Dan Master in Tae Kwon Do. She has been training for 16 years and has conducted women’s self-defense safety seminars. To exercise her mind and for mental therapy, she writes poetry.