SILER CITY, N.C. — Monday, February 23, 2015 — Marissa Spencer of Pittsboro was awarded a black belt earlier this winter when South Eastern Karate Association held its quarterly examinations.
Her belt and certificate were presented by Master Instructor Peggy Jolly, a seventh-degree black belt, or Seventh Dan, who owns the Tae Kwon Do school and has been teaching martial arts in Siler City for more than three decades. Spencer's formal rank, First Dan Junior, is the first-degree black belt designation for students under the age of 18.
The 12-year-old was in preschool and living in another city when she had her first encounter with martial arts. Following her family's move and a brief hiatus, she resumed her training and has enjoyed learning how to defend herself — because, as she puts it, "you never know what might happen."
Kicks and takedowns have been her favorite part of training, but that's not been the most important part. What Spencer appreciates most is the discipline and self control martial arts cultivates. "If I have self control, then it's easier for me to hold back if I'm mad at someone," she says. "Tae Kwon Do is not about attacking people. It's more about defending yourself."
Master Jolly agrees and says it's particularly important for young women to learn how to defend themselves. She points to a range of widely published crime statistics, one of them estimating that as many as one out of every four college women will face some form of sexual assault on campus.
"Learning how to defend yourself is important for everyone; but, unfortunately, the way our society is headed, it's even more important for women." Master Jolly says. "Women's self defense is part of what we teach. It begins with learning how to avoid dangerous situations to start with and includes what to do when you find yourself facing one.
"We have taught a lot of short courses for businesses and school groups, where women without any training can learn how to avoid trouble and know what to do if they're attacked. These are techniques that can be effective and may even save your life. Of course, our students can learn even more because their training over months and years prepares their body and mind for a wider range of techniques."
Classes are held in Siler City on Tuesdays and Thursdays —to with one class primarily for children from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and another class primarily for adults from 7 8:30 p.m. Classes held in Liberty are Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Details are available at southeasternkarate.com
South Eastern Karate Association has taught Korean martial arts in central North Carolina since 1982 to men and women from 5-years-old to well past retirement age. Schools in Siler City and Liberty feature instruction in self-defense and emphasize confidence, physical fitness and self-discipline.