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When I was about 8 years old, I went to my first martial arts class with Samantha.  She was my first crush and I thought this could be a great way to  impress her...I didn’t know what to expect, but it sounded fun.  Plus, I lived in North Pole, Alaska and there isn’t much to do outside in the dead of winter. Yes, I said North Pole 😉

When I first stepped foot into the dojang I met Mr. Lester who would become one of the greatest influences in my life, although at the time I just thought he was larger than life.  He commanded respect just with his presence in a room.

I continued going to classes, eventually Samantha moved away, but I was hooked.  It was no longer about impressing a girl.  Taekwon-Do transformed me from the pudgy boy-scout who asked my teachers for more homework…go ahead and laugh…to a confident and fit third grader!

About year after my first martial arts class my older sister and younger brother joined.  I progressed quickly as Taekwon-Do became my passion. Before I knew it I was a green belt!  Soon a couple of my other friends joined and I started to feel less confident.  They were all so good and I didn’t feel I could compete with them.  I didn’t practice as much and lost focus of my ultimate goal - to become a true martial artist and master Taekwon-Do by becoming a black belt.

It was time for me to test for blue belt.  I went to the first pre-testing for rank advancement and I failed…I had to wait for the next rank advancement cycle.   I went to pre-test again and Mr. Lester took me aside and explained I wasn’t ready.   I was crushed.  Worse than that, my brother and sister caught up in rank with me.  My sister has the best technique and flexibility, my brother had great technique, one my friends was the quickest, and the other could jump really high.  I failed two blue belt testings...I was discouraged and thought about quitting.

Mr. Lester noticed me floundering…going through the motions, but no longer committed.  He believed in me, encouraged me, and showed me that I had my own strengths.  I was powerful - I could break more boards than anyone else.  My technique, speed, and flexibility was good, but Mr. Lester made me want to be better for myself; not just be better than everyone else.

Becoming a black belt is truly a journey.  It is filled with challenges, but also some of the best memories of my life.  I became a black belt when I was 12 years old and became an ITF International Instructor in Taekwon-Do and had the opportunity to meet General Choi, the father of Taekwon-Do, and receive first hand instruction on technique at a few of the International Instructor courses I attended across North America.

But that was just the beginning of my journey...

In 1997, by dad set a vision for our family - we would found our own martial arts school in Fairbanks, Alaska and it would be called Three Dragons Martial Arts Academy.  I remember the day he came home with a sketch of our patch - three dragons; one to represent each child of his.  And the day we opened, he gave each of us a silver coin with that very same patch.  I still have that coin today and keep it in my pocket to remind me everyday of the importance to set goals and achieve them, no matter the challenges.

While at Three Dragons Martial Arts Academy in Fairbanks, Alaska I continued to study Taekwon-Do and under Master Fabian Nunez, I became a IV Black Belt in 2004.  He trained under General Choi.

I had no idea at the time how much attending that first martial arts class with Samantha would impact my life.  The lessons it would teach me while it shaped my character and developed me into the person I am today...

It taught me to never give up - I set a goal for myself to become the youngest Eagle Scout in Alaska. I became a Boy Scout at 6 and our troop was very active in my home town community of North Pole, Alaska.   I received the American Flag that hangs in my dojang today, which flew over the White House, when I was 14 years old at an Eagle Scout Ceremony at a dog mushers hall in Fairbanks, Alaska and then inducted into the Order of the Arrow at 15.

It taught me to have a compassion for others and desire to protect people which led me into a ten year career in Fire Service.  I attended the University of Alaska - Fairbanks to study Fire and Emergency Services.  I started my career as a live-in volunteer firefighter in 2001 to the youngest Battalion Chief in the interior of Alaska in 2009.

It taught me to be respectful and courteous which has served me well in my relationships with friends and family.

It showed me that I have a passion for sharing martial arts with others which has led me to now owning two dojangs.

I battled with depression throughout my adolescence.   Martial arts gave me confidence and an outlet to overcome.

Through my passion for Taekwon-Do, I explored other martial arts and have experience in Aikido and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  I believe it is important to continue growing `and learning to develop myself into the best version possible.

Through my love of the art I have met and married my best friend and created a beautiful family.  I am still in contact with Mr. Lester today and I appreciate the impact he has made on my life through sharing is passion for martial arts.

If I can make even a quarter of the impression on the lives of my students that Mr. Lester has made on mine I will be accomplishing my next goal. 

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