We were immensely impressed by one of our student’s, Isaac, college application essay. A creative and inspiring account of his martial arts experience. Oss Isaac!
“Kankudai!” My arms shoot straight down with palms facing my body, fingers held tightly together. My eyes focus forward while both thumbs and index fingers connect to form a triangle. I am performing my favorite kata, or martial arts form. When I was ten years old I began studying Shotokan Karate. My father had shown my brother and me several martial arts movies, including Kung Fu and Enter the Dragon, that fascinated me. But as is my attitude, I not only wanted to see it, I wanted to do it. Now I am a first-degree black belt training for my second degree.
I slowly raise my arms; as my hands pass my forehead my eyes follow them, glancing at the sun through the triangle of my fingers. Here, I see my future standing in front of me, waiting for me to create it. My hands suddenly snap apart, forming right angles on each side of me. They slowly descend and reconnect waist-high. My feet are planted, a strong base, and my hands are open, inviting the outside in. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community with nurturing parents and an outstanding education from Yeshivah of Flatbush gave me the strong identity I need. However, my identity is not complete until I open myself up to the world, both gaining and contributing to its diversity. This past summer, I attended a class at the University of Pennsylvania with students from all around the world. One particular friend with whom I bonded was Raqan, a boy from Jordan. His background and beliefs seemed to clash with my own, but as we shared a motivation to learn, we challenged each other in a way that allowed us to grow. I yearn to learn more about other people and their cultures while I share mine with them. My strong foundation will enable me do to so.
Carefully keeping my back-stance, I chop high to the left and high to the right. Then I face forward, knees slightly bent for balance, and fluidly reach my hand out in front of me. I think of the way I reached out when I founded my school’s Martial Arts Therapy commission. One of the greatest accomplishments I had while working for the commission was organizing an event where over 20 autistic children came to the school after hours. They worked with me and 30 student volunteers from the 75-member commission, alongside the Sensei. We helped the children through basic martial arts techniques that assist in pain management while also being recreational. In this way, I used my martial arts as a bridge to overcome the gap between these mentally challenged children and myself. Now, I bend my knees, forcefully blocking towards both sides. I proceed through various chops, kicks, and blocks, reflecting on life, perfectly content in this mental and physical state.
I explosively jump up from a front stance with my right foot and kick in the air with my left, landing in a double block. With my inner strength I yell out a mighty “KIYA” as I stand confidently in a sturdy stance. I flash back to my visit to an anti-terrorism center in Israel when the head instructor, Steve, randomly chose me to face off against the unit’s Krav Maga expert. When he said “go” I sprang into a fighting stance. To my surprise Steve yelled stop—this was a test. He explained that there are two options to assume a fighting stance; ninety-eight percent of the people in this situation step back showing fright. I had stepped up.
A drip of sweat hits the ground below me. As I return from this meditative state, I stand up straight with two fists by my sides, into my Yoi position. “Yoi,” Japanese for, I am ready.