Linda Vogel

Although I took my first martial arts class while I was a freshman in college, my real introduction to martial arts was not until years later when my 2 1/2 year old son came to Team Karate Centers for a birthday party and subsequently began taking lessons. Hes 20 now, so weve een coming to TKC for over 18 years. My own training began shortly after his sometimes around the end of 2000 or 2001.

Working my way toward black belt, I enjoyed it all. There is so much to learn and experience from class to class, that its difficult to pick one area of training I prefer. I guess you could say my favorite area is whatever I am doing at that particular moment, whether it be grappling, forms, kickboxing, weapons, anything.

The closer I got to black belt, the more I appreciated the chance to accomplish many firsts in my life that without TKC I otherwise never would have attempted, such as the first time I climbed the rope and the first time I went rock climbing. Finally, the first time I walked down the candle light ceremony was the day I earned my black belt in October 2004.

Around the time I tested for black belt, as my training progressed, my interest in instructing grew. In 2003 I started assisting TKC classes, and in 2004 I began teaching a martial arts based enrichment program for a local school. As a grand achievement, after earning my second degree black belt in 2007, I started Little Ninjas Karate.

Opening Little Ninjas seemed like a natural progression. Working as an instructor while cultivating my appreciation for the martial arts, plus my love for children and a desire to give back inspired me to take that life changing step. In a way, I grew along with the students that I taught. I continued my own training to reach a personal milestone of earning my third degree black belt in 2009. Neither Little Ninjas or testing would have been a reality without Sensei Fariborz. It was his suggestion that I start LNK that began it all.

Eight years after Little Ninjas welcomed its first students, I still look forward to teaching every single day. I love to watch my students learn and grow. I love that every day I have the chance to learn something new by watching them and teaching them. And I love that God has blessed me with the opportunity to give back in such a meaningful way.

Ive been fortunate enough to have some great heroes to influence me throughout my life, including God, my husband, my children, Sensei Fariborz, Sensei Benny, and the children I teach. Each of these heroes has helped me to learn important life lessons while overcoming the challenges I face.

From training at TKC, I learned to always show up no matter what.

I learned that no goal is too colossal to accomplish so long as I can break it down into manageable pieces.

I learned to think outside the box.

I learned I always have a choice, maybe not in what happens but how I react to it.

Most importantly, I learned to never stop learning.

For the past several years, I have done some very heavy reflection while confronting some very personal challenges. As a consequence, I had to step back from my physical presence on the mat at TKC. But I never forget that every day is a training day, and that training is not always necessarily physical. The true essence of black belt follows me wherever I go. My training, in every regard, instilled within me the ability to make major life decisions and stand by them proudly.

What does black belt mean to me? Black belt to me means a way of life. It means I have the necessary tools to fall asleep each night with no regrets, and to wake up each morning looking forward to a new beginning and the opportunity to be a humble servant. When I first started martial arts, I saw it through a purely martial lens. It was all about the kicking and punching. In fact, I even looked forward to the bruises, cuts, and black eyes from time to time. But experience has taught me that physical fighting is not the ultimatum. Today, I train with the intent of living a more humble and serene life.

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