The summer before beginning dental school, I walked into the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Taekwondo dojang on a bit of a whim. I had been curious about martial arts for a long time, and that evening I had nothing else to do, so I called to make sure they were open, and thus began what has been a remarkable part of my life.
My Martial Arts Training (Thus Far)
I began my Taekwondo training in Chapel Hill with Master Donald Whittier; at the time, he was a 4th Dan (degree) Kukkiwon-certified black belt, and from what little I had heard, the school had a pretty good reputation. Master Whittier and his assistant instructor, Ms. Mary Catherine Capizzi, quickly proved that reputation correct. Strict and somewhat “old school,” they expected and demanded performance and effort. Unlike many martial arts schools that simply have a focus on getting you to test frequently, as that’s how they make their money, if you weren’t ready to test, you generally were not allowed to do so. Every class was a rigorous workout that focused intensely on proper technique, speed, and strength, and during the incredible stress of dental school, Taekwondo training was a much needed way to burn off steam and stress, to keep in good condition, and to begin learning about meditation, proper breathing, etc.
Over the next 4.5 years, I trained just as hard at Taekwondo as I worked at learning dentistry, such that I successfully tested for my 1st Dan shortly before graduation, and I was awarded my 1st Degree Black Belt from the Kukkiwon, or official Korean body that oversees much of Taekwondo. At that time, I was probably in the best physical condition of my life, having been able to survive the grueling 6-hour test. And then…….I moved to Charlotte and stopped training.
The Long Pause
Upon moving to Charlotte, I spent quite a long time searching for a new martial arts school, but as I looked around, I came to realize that I’d been spoiled by Master Whittier. Not spoiled as in coddled, or let off easy, but spoiled in the sense that it was hard to find a school that met the high standards I expected after Master Whittier’s training. There were a couple schools that I found that did look good, but they were too far for me, and so basically, I took a 15-year hiatus from martial arts training, but I never lost the desire to return.
Enter The Peaceful Dragon
During that long hiatus, I’d seen ads for The Peaceful Dragon many times, but it was simply too far away from the north side of Charlotte, where I lived. But in May 2013, we moved our family to our dream home on the south side of Charlotte, and things changed. Our commute to and from work was cut in 1/2, and Elizabeth’s school is literally on our way to-and-from work, so we suddenly had a lot more free time in the evenings, and I knew it was time.
Pretty much from the first time I visited, I knew that I had finally found the martial arts home that I’d been seeking. The facility is simply beautiful, located on Steele Creek Rd., with multiple large training rooms; the instructors have all been training for MANY years (many of them over 20 years); they offer many different martial arts, including:
- Shaolin Kung Fu
- Tai Chi
- Zen meditation
- Kempo Karate
- Shuai Chiao Kungfu (Chinese grappling)
- Chi Kung (Qigong)
- The Yoga Institute
I’ll be talking more about my love of the martial arts, and especially of my Kung Fu training with Sifu Eric Sbarge, over the coming years, as I’ve made a long-term commitment to myself by entering the Mastery Program. This 5-Year Program is designed to help students reach the equivalent of a 1st Degree Black Belt, although we don’t have colored belts like most schools do. After that comes the Disciple Program, which is geared towards preparing students to become instructors and open their own schools, if they choose.
If you have always wondered about the martial arts, Zed meditation, or yoga, I HIGHLY recommend you check out The Peaceful Dragon. If you do, please make sure you say Hi!