My husband and I owned a martial arts school for sixteen years. It was, without question, one of the best times of our lives. The people we met were incredible, and each had a story all their own. We watched as they grew – both physically and emotionally. No matter how unique each individual was – when they were united as a group – they immediately transformed themselves into a single, cohesive unit of unspeakable strength. It was amazing to watch, and one soon learned that anything in this life is truly possible – if you are surrounded by a strong support group.
Just the other day we were invited to visit a previous student’s home for a private get-together with her family. We were blessed to have three generations of this family as students – from a grandmother to her grandchildren. Their family unit is one of the strongest we have ever seen. Since you no longer see these people on a constant basis anymore, one would think that the bonds that bind would grow weaker with every passing year. Five minutes into the evening – and suddenly – your body and spirit are energized! You know that true love and friendship never falter. It was as if time had stood still.
Two of our Tae Kwon Do children were Whitney and Shawn – brothers and sisters. They had an older sibling – Nicole. Then, without question, there was Elsa – their most devoted and energetic grandmother. To aid in their support were the parents – Sharon and David. David is the son of Elsa. If there ever was a family that grew into the virtues and lessons taught by the martial arts – this is the family. Their love and support for one another, and for others, is unbounded.
A lot of years have passed since we closed the school. Whitney and Shawn have all grown up, and are now on their own. Whitney has one of those smiles that just lights up your soul. If you were standing in a room full of people, and the noise level was very high – you would still notice this young lady if she made an entrance. She is simply beautiful, both inside and out. There is not a pretentious bone in her body, and she possesses a “sweetness” that is uniquely her own.
Shawn was just a little thing when he first started taking Tae Kwon Do. He is now a grown man, and is just starting his own life. He always was a gentle soul, and his maturing has not changed that. Today, I could count on one hand, the young men I know that are attentive to the needs of their family – and yet Shawn is. He spends most of his time tending to his grandparents; both on his mother’s side, and to his grandmother on his father’s side. He helps them around the house, drives them where they need to go … attends to their needs. He is there for support; a virtue he has learned well.
Nicole, the oldest sibling … is near and dear to our hearts. Not only was she a student, but she also worked for us at the school while she attended college. She has since married and started a family of her own – and now has a beautiful young son, named Caden. Nicole was the tinest of the siblings, but don’t let that fool you – she was a mighty warrior! She probably knows more about us than anyone should. She was the daughter I never could have, and words can not describe my affections for her. She is strong, determined, sweet, compassionate … and simply … Nicole.
Elsa, my beloved friend, is a treasure. She has brought so much love and laughter in my life that is nearly impossible to describe her. She is devoted to her children and grandchildren. She has suffered much loss since her days in Cardio-Karate; however, she is still a beacon of strength and hope for all that know her. If I age with half of the integrity and grace that she now possesses, then I will be happy. If you listen to her laugh, and are fortunate enough to get one of her hugs, then you know what true bliss really is.
The evening in mention was so special. My inhibitions of getting older, fatter, more wrinkled – these all went out the window within seconds of seeing them. These people were still those special souls that we grew attached to so many years ago. We are now older, but the ties that bind are strong and precious. It is a lesson that we tried to instill in all our students, and from looking at the Alvelo family, a lesson that was learned well.
We will always treasure our martial arts students and families, and for all the memories and blessings they continue to bestow upon us.