You never know which black belt will influence you. For me, Swati Banerjee’s positive approach changed my attitude to Tae Kwon Do.

When I go to my neighborhood store or coffee shop, the barista recognizes me, smile, welcome me by name, and give me recommendations on what to get. I get discounts too.

Similarly, there’s something brilliant about instructors who are positive influences. My neighborhood dojang members became my friends, and an informal and friendly environment made training fun and effective.

A major tenet of the martial arts I practice — Taekwondo — is discipline. …


Grandmaster Ladan Homayoon Sefat of Ladan’s Wellness Sanctuary in Beverly Hills uses her fitness and martial arts experience as a catalyst to guide patients with neurological disorders to happier lives. ( Website /Facebook /Instagram)

In recent months, I won gold medals at two Taekwondo sparring tournaments (one via knockout), and reached the final of a third tournament.

I achieved those accomplishments thanks to my grandmaster, Ladan Homayoon Sefat, who equipped me with the mental toughness, techniques and fighting skills needed to defeat the equal or higher ranked black belt opponents.

She is one of the most accomplished women in martial…


Maryuri Castillo teaches Hapkido with a focus on energy internally and from an opponent.

Maryuri Castillo learned the importance of defending herself at a very young age.

“Colombia is not a country where you can be everywhere. You have to take care of who is next to you, behind and in front because someone could attack,” she said.

Ms. Castillo is a 4th degree black belt in Hapkido, a Korean martial art that focuses on learning how to defend against attackers. If you are looking for a fight, Hapkido isn’t for you.

She teaches students how to defend, take control…


Mr. Frank Trojanowicz, a pioneer of Tang Soo Do in the U.S., was a humble man of steel who trained hard and helped others succeed.

Stay humble, be selfless, and train hard. That was the hallmark of Mr. Frank Trojanowicz, who trained some of the most recognizable names in martial arts today.

Mr. Trojanowicz never sought fame and recognition, and he focused on selflessly help others succeed. He remained under the radar all his life, but he cemented himself as a martial arts great by pioneering Tang Soo Do, a Korean style, in the U.S. Chuck Norris is among the…


Ms. Marrianne Hormann is a crusader who fights to empower women in Taekwondo and to improve the sport.

Brazil has emerged as a force in martial arts, producing some of the world’s best UFC and Taekwondo competitors. I have been lucky to learn Taekwondo from Marrianne Hormann, who is one of the top competitors in the country.

Ms. Hormann can be a force when she concentrates her energy on a target. One day, she focused a kick on a block hanging, flew in the air, and demolished her target. Pieces of the crumbled block were flying all over the air.


Also, a look at emerging opportunities that martial arts schools can cash in on.

In just a few days, an unexpected event changed the martial arts business models dating back centuries.

The spread of the coronavirus over months worldwide wreaked havoc on businesses. Production of products stalled as factories shut down and people worked from home. Supply chains were broken and demand for some products slumped, causing economic chaos.

This martial arts mask doesn’t cut it in the coronavirus pandemic © Arthur Yao

Martial arts businesses relying on business models dating back decades were especially caught offguard, and had to make changes on the fly to adjust to the new business environment.

The pandemic…


Overcoming gender and religious discrimination, Nisrine El Assal is unwittingly empowering Muslim women with Taekwondo.

Taekwondo can be an equalizer across genders and cultures, but also a divider. Nisrine El Assal, a taekwondo black belt from Morocco, has seen the joy of Taekwondo, but also the bitterness.

Ms. El Assal is turning the tables on a commonly held belief that women in Muslim countries can’t or are limited in practicing Taekwondo.

She maintains her proud identity by wearing a headscarf during practice, but religion has never been a barrier. …


At a young age, German martial artist Derya Sophie Ege has a head of steel.

Standing on her knees, Ms. Ege looks intensely at a stack of six cinder blocks sitting under her. Her black belt with gold embroidery represents years of training and expertise in martial arts.

In a matter of seconds, she races her forehead down to the cinderblocks, which crumble on contact. She slowly rises back up, looking at the remains of the destroyed blocks.

Ms. Ege has a rare talent. She’s one of the few women that can break six stacked concrete blocks … with…


Hyejin Amy Park and her colleagues at Black Belt World want to break-a-thon the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected many, including martial arts schools, which have moved to online lessons to keep business afloat.

But Black Belt World, in North Carolina, is taking the fight back to coronavirus with plans for a breakathon to raise funds for those affected by the pandemic.

Breakathons typically involve students getting together at a school and breaking hundreds of thousands of boards, which helps raise funds for charities.

It’s a fun event, and been a reliable fund-raising mechanism in the past.

But…


In the new world of social distancing, a combat sport is collateral damage.

August 11: Updated the story on careers in martial arts to reflect possible impact of the pandemic on employment in the martial arts industry.

The coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the martial arts impact is severe. The 2020 Olympics is in question, UFC events have been moved, and schools have shut down. Competitors with Olympic dreams face the prospect of starting qualifications from scratch.

Stay tuned as I regularly update this page on coronavirus’ impact on different martial arts, including mixed martial arts and Taekwondo.

April 14: A…

Agam Shah

World traveler, writer, news reporter in NYC. Fifth degree black belt under Grandmaster Ladan Homayoon Sefat.

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