Barbara Elzey

5th Degree Black Belt

I began Shaolin-Do Karate in 1982 while a junior at the University of Kentucky at the urging of my fiancé, who was a black belt in the style. I entered the study of karate with a certain amount of skepticism. I did not have a great desire to be punched and kicked and began, as most women begin, with a very tentative attitude. I had been an athlete all through high school and college so the physical exercise was something I was used to, but I soon found that Shaolin exercised muscles I never knew I had. During that first year, I went to a seminar at Sin Thé's dojo. There, a female green belt kicked me so hard in the stomach that I went down and couldn't get back up for what seemed an incredibly long time. It was then and there that I came to a strong realization. If a woman smaller than me could put me down to the ground, just about anyone could. It was time to learn how to prevent that from happening.

And so, my serious study of the martial arts began at that moment. I was no longer tentative. I, in fact, pursued the martial arts with a passionate desire to obtain expertise. In 1986, I achieved my black belt. That same year, I moved to what was then West Germany, together with my husband, the aforementioned black belt. There, I taught elementary school at a local Department of Defense school and began my own Shaolin Do karate class with the children who attended my school. It was a wonderful experience teaching all of my children about one of the things I loved most. They, too, took to it with a passion.

In 1988, I returned to the United States and tested for my 2nd Degree Black Belt. At that time, I helped Grandmaster Sin Thé in teaching his white through brown belt level classes. Several years later, I left Shaolin in order to have a child and then to deal with two successive bouts with cancer, but Shaolin never truly left me, and in fact, gave me much of the fortitude and mental discipline that it took to deal with my health issues. Now, although quite a bit older than I was when I began this endeavor, I can say that Shaolin brings me far more than it ever did. Mentally, Shaolin tests my memory to a far greater capacity than the college level mathematics I now teach. The mastery of its applications, both internal and external, requires a great deal of critical thinking. Its internal forms give me both relaxation and focus. And it provides better exercise than any sport I could possibly pursue. My self-discipline is strengthened by its practice. My confidence remains strong that I can protect myself. The friends I have made within Shaolin are becoming like another family. More importantly, without a doubt, I know that Shaolin is extending my life and improving my health.

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