Yeah, my brother definitely, finally stepped it up and made me look real bad. I tried Tae kwon do and he is certainly better than me

I was pretty caught off guard when I got a text in the middle of the night from Editor-in-Chief Nick Dorosan asking if I wanted to try martial arts. Why would the Executive Team want me, the most uncoordinated and clumsy staff member to try and do martial arts for a story? Well, then it clicked, it was because I am the most uncoordinated and clumsy staff member. After a few weeks of convincing, I finally gave in.

I told my brother I would be joining him for a night class at his martial arts studio at USA Martial Arts located at 942 Tiffany Rd in town. I wore running shorts and a t-shirt when I got into my freezing car in mid-January. I turned on “POWER” by Kanye to build up my self-confidence, until I pulled into the parking lot where a sudden wave of anxiety took over my body.

If my younger brother could do this, I could do it too and be better at it, right?

Man was I wrong. I was welcomed by USA Martial Arts owner and instructor Master Brian Van Patten with open arms. Going into the dojo in running shorts and a t-shirt, I was quickly given a white, oversized robe that I kept tripping over, and a white belt. Not having any idea how to tie one of these belts, I was helped by Patten’s son, which immediately drew attention to myself. Also, the fact that I was the only female in the building didn’t help to not draw attention to myself either. I started breaking a sweat while we we ran a few laps around the dojo. After that I knew it was too late to turn back. 

I felt pretty out of place and out-of-shape. I hadn’t practiced or done anything that required much coordination since my field hockey season ended and even then I didn’t have any sort of athleticism. On top of that I had the pressure of my brother and my father looming over my head.

My dad was a brown belt at Illinois State University before he folded up his robe, boxed away his belt and went off to state police academy. My thirteen-year-old brother is now following in my dad’s footsteps, already have earned an orange belt after only a few months of training. Tae kwon do supposedly ran in my genes. Maybe I would be secretly good at this and surprise everyone. Yeah, no. I realized that this wasn’t my secret passion, especially after I fell trying to do a roundhouse kick in the warm up.

“Please, just stop yourself now, Madelynn,” my brother Matthew said to me as he turned red with embarrassment as he saw my pathetic body laying on the blue mat, yet again. “Just please try and keep up.”

I rolled my eyes in disgust.

We spent the first ten minutes of class warming up. I didn’t realize how tight the belt was around my waist until after I was supposed to accomplish several pushups and sit-ups were involved in such a short ten minutes. The thing was just as tight and restricting as my prom dress. Doing pushups and sit-ups in my prom dress would not have been a good idea either.

Each set was counted in Korean; I don’t know Korean. Yeah, this is really working out in my favor.

After the surprisingly tiring warm up, we moved onto practicing kicks and loosening muscles that I’ve never worked before.

Front-snap kick.

Axe kick.


Side kick.

Crescent kick.


Repeat? Really? Repeat. Uhhh.

One move after the other, I constantly doubted my stability in my left knee that is missing an ACL. I couldn’t help but say to myself: smart idea, Sobes. Smart idea.

I was afraid of making a fool of myself, but had the reassurance from other students the whole time. They walked me through step by step in order to help me to complete Taegeuk One, the first form to tae kwon do. This form consists of different types of blocks, kicks, punches and much more.

Bruce Lee makes it look much easier in the cheesy, poor quality martial arts flicks.

I was expecting to be paired up with my brother in the next activity, but was partnered up with a second-degree black belt, Mark, one of Patten’s older students. He taught me how to step spar, which involved attacking and defending myself in real-life situations. One-on-one with a second-degree black belt was not at all mentioned when I signed up for this. Luckily for me Mark was helpful and had a lot of patience when dealing with me.

At the end of the session, we practiced kicking a punching bag in front of the whole class, one by one.

My anxiety was already high. Now it was through the roof.

I quietly prayed to myself as one student after the other ran up and kicked the seven-foot-tall bag. As my turn slowly approached, I took a deep breath, ran toward the red punching bag, kicked, missed and fell. I fell in front of the class, my brother, Johnny Horton who was there taking pictures, and, when I looked up, there was my dad. He was laughing at me from the viewing balcony. I got up from my embarrassing mess up and slowly walked to the end of the line.

“Don’t worry, all of us were in the same position that you were in once,” Patten said.

The whole class began to clap for me and I took a bow admitting my defeat.

Overall, I learned that it takes modesty, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. These are the tenets of tae kwon do. I left the class tired and sore, unable to catch my breath or move my legs.

I have a completely new respect for my younger brother who puts a substantial amount of time and effort into this sport, especially at 2 a.m when I hear him from downstairs practicing fly kicks in his room. Finally, being shown up by my not so little brother was something that I had to face sooner or later. Even with all pressure and expectations from others, martial artists are able to keep focus and strength in order to succeed. Me on the other hand, not so much. I mean at least I tried, right?