How Taekwondo Changed My Life – Joshua Lee

Taekwondo has had an enormous impact on my life in the past two-and-a-half years. The physical and mental changes have benefited me in ways I never could have imagined. When I joined Taekwondo, I was probably in the worst shape of my life. I was not in good shape in the 5th-6th grade and constantly felt physically inadequate compared to the rest of my classmates. I also was not sure about what career pathways I wanted to follow in school. After my experiences with Taekwondo (especially after the first part of the Black Belt Test), I have felt more confident with my actions and the steps that I will take towards college. I am most definitely in the best physical shape of my life, even though I strive to improve.

The five tenets and oath of Taekwondo have helped me realize what I need to focus on improving my lifestyle. I have learned to persevere through difficult challenges and not give up. I have become more calm and in control of my emotions and actions, and do not act on impulse as I had before. I avoid conflicts with other people and try to be friendlier to most people in general. Since I am an only child, becoming less self centered was a very difficult task for me and required a lot of reflection. The journey through Taekwondo has made me realize that failure is always a certain possibility, and not every sparring match, poomsae competition, or belt test will be won or passed. I have learned to cope with failure and not let it compromise my goals.

When the first part of the Black Belt Test arrived, I thought that it would be an impossible feat to accomplish. I had my doubts about whether or not I was physically capable of finishing the test. With the support of the other Black Belt candidates and families, I was able to pass the first part of the test. From that point on, I was confident in most everything I did. I was willing to take more risks academically. For example, joining different clubs and taking more difficult classes for credit. With the second part of the test, I realized that physical prowess was not going to be enough. I learned that Taekwondo was the unification of five different Korean martial arts and the bars on the Korean flag represented four balances of nature. Due to my Korean ethnicity, I feel that this information has enlightened me about my culture. Now I feel confident that I could defend myself in a fight, if one were to ever occur. While I am unable to spar or attack with the speed of some of the other students in the dojang, I believe that the skills acquired over my time in Taekwondo would allow me to act fast enough to defend myself.

In conclusion, the past two years of martial arts has positively changed my life by improving my physical state, improving my outlook on life, increasing my confidence and patience, and allowing me to defend myself if necessary. Although Taekwondo has been very physically and mentally challenging, it has had a positive impact on my life.

Note :  Joshua Lee started training at our dojang in 2012. He received his blue belt in 2014 and has passed his black belt test on June 10, 2016 at age 14. He is a role model student and junior assistant, who embodies the 5 tenets of Taekwondo . He  would make an excellent teacher some day. 

The following is Camryn Henry‘s black belt essay from 2009 when she became the first female competitor on Maui to have medaled at the US National Championships’ Black Belt World Division!! In 2015 she won both the Australian Open , a G2 rated Olympic Qualification tournament and the National Championship within a 2 weeks. In July 2016 she won the AAU Taekwondo and 3 days later the USA Taekwondo National Championship  defeating the 2014 World Champion.


by Camryn Henry

The thing I like best about Taekwondo is that it has taught me to NEVER GIVE UP!!.. When I was 6 years old, I wanted to try Taekwondo, because my friend David Lee convinced me that it was fun. So, one day at 4:00 pm I went to the Dojang to watch them train. The instructor asked me if I wanted to try out. I said, “yes, I would like to”.

My mom signed me up and I started going to class everyday. About 6 months after I started, I got invited to the Competition Team. I noticed that Taekwondo was way easier for my teammates because they always won matches.

For 2 years, I lost every single match. But, each time I lost, I learned something new. I kept going to classes and trained really hard. Overtime, I improved and started understanding the strategy. I entered more competitions and started winning some of my matches.

I have been taking Taekwondo for 3 1/2 years now and I have seen lots of my teammates quit. If I had quit during the 2 years that I lost, I would not be where I am right now. Right now, I compete as a Black Belt and have medaled at the US National Championships.

Camryn Henry
Jr. Black Belt
Straight “A” Student


Taekwondo by Kayla Baisa

NOTE: Kayla Baisa is also a  USA Taekwondo Hawaii State Sparring Champion


BY IRENE N. RINCON, Parent of Kai Nishibayashi-Rincon

Since Kai has joined Kiffmann Taekwondo he has grown tremendously. He is very devoted to Taekwondo and attends classes 5 times a week.

He has a more positive attitude
He has made many friends at Kiffmann Taekwondo
He is no longer afraid to stand up for what is right
He is more physically fit and has more energy
He has so much more confidence in himself
He does well in school academically and socially

Putting Kai in Taekwondo has been one of the best decisions we have made as parents.We have watched him excel and grow. We no longer have to worry about him being bullied in school, we are confident that he is able to take care of himself. Having your child learn self defense is priceless!

NOTE: ON MARCH 12, 2011 KAI won the forms and sparring division at the 2011 Hawaii State Taekwondo Championship/USAT National Qualifier



BY CASSIE KEPLER, Parent of Joshua Kepler

Hi Mr. and Mrs. K,

I want you to know how much taekwondo means to our family. I know it is hard doing what you do and that you don’t get nearly the “thanks” you deserve. It’s not just good for the kids, though, but for me, too.

After Josh’s black belt test, I wrote this journal entry. I thought I’d share it with you to show how you inspire me to better things. It’s copied below.

I don’t like to live vicariously through my children and I feel badly for those who do. Yet, at this moment, I find myself wanting to experience what my ten-year-old son just went through.

He’s exhausted, sick, and a little bruised-up. He walks with a slight limp and is too queasy to eat dinner. Oh, and he just lost some of his stomach contents in front of a whole lot of onlookers.

So why do I want to be in his shoes? Because he just learned what it’s like to push himself beyond his physical capacity and still keep going. He learned that he really does have a warrior spirit and that he does not have to be an adult to do incredible things. Most importantly, though, he realized he can accomplish what he sets out to do. Today it was a black belt endurance test: It could be anything tomorrow.

He’s been preparing for this test for almost three years, and still, it was harder than he expected. He began with forms and blocking, pumped out more pushups and snap-kicks than I could do in a whole day, and ended with two-on-one ninja sparring, all of the while, fighting a cold. Those three hours seemed like a really long physical test. After all, don’t Olympic marathoners finish in two hours and change?

Yet, as I watch his face flush with exertion, I see something new in his eyes. His body is physically tired and yet he’s stronger somehow. He’s proven to himself that determination, combined with dedication, can accomplish amazing feats. He’s ready to take on the world, and for the first time, he knows that he can.

I eat my dinner, secretly wishing I possessed his hard-earned glow. With each bite, my envy gives way to new beginnings. Suddenly, I see possibilities that I thought were long cut off. PhD? Why not? Another marathon? No big deal. Adventure racing? I’m not too old. Who knows what’s next: it’s all possible.

NOTE: Cassie started Taekwondo when her children were already black belts. She earned her black belt in 2013 and is also a three time National  Gold medalist.

What Tae Kwon Do Means to Me
by Brandon Yoshikawa

When I started Tae Kwon Do, I was 4 years old and now I am 9 years old testing for my Black Belt. Tae Kwon Do has taught me to help people succeed in whatever they are doing. It has taught me to be a good person and to never give up. Tae Kwon Do is not just about protecting yourself from bad people. It has also taught me to be respectful and the 5 tenets of Tae Kwon Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control, and Indomitable Spirit.

Tae Kwon Do has helped me to be a good sport even though I may lose a match. My Masters have taught me to never give up even though I may be losing. This has also helped me to be a better athlete and student in school.
Tae Kwon Do helps me to always try my best. It has taught me to know the difference between right and wrong. It has taught me to be respectful and avoid a fight if someone may be a punk or a bully.

I like training in Tae Kwon Do because I learn new things and I learn how to protect myself and my family. I have been training for 5 years and it has taught me NOT to be a bully to other kids. It is a long journey from white belt to black belt. I like Tae Kwon Do because it has a goal for you to work hard at and my goal was to be a black belt and to always be a good person.

NOTE: Brandon is also a US National Sparring Gold medalist

brandon testimony