My journey as part of the Soengkono family began over 30 years ago, when I was a very shy 11 year old girl, and I can’t say enough positive things about Grandmaster Soengkono and his school. What I learned while training under GM Soengkono and his team was far more than the physical aspects of Taekwondo. I learned to have confidence in myself, to use my voice (you do have to kihap, after all!), to work hard toward a goal such as testing for the next level or competing in a tournament, to never give up just because something is hard, and to be part of a team where everyone supports each other. I left taekwondo near then end of high school, to return 20+ years later when my son wanted to try it out. The location and many of the instructors and students had changed in the time I was away, but my son and I were warmly welcomed like family members who hadn’t visited in a long time, by everyone from GM Soengkono himself to the instructors, students, and their families. It truly felt like coming home, even though so much time had passed. My son is my polar opposite – he is outgoing, full of energy and enthusiasm, and never afraid to try something new. He also has MANY questions that he is not afraid to ask! Those qualities are nurtured in class, while also help him develop self control, self discipline, and focus. Simple things like responding to the instructor and waiting his turn to ask questions have been consistently reinforced, which is helpful in all areas of his life. He has also learned the importance of humility and being a good role model for the younger students. One of his greatest joys is being able to share something he has learned with someone, helping them to grow too. In addition to making friends his age in class, many positive relationships have bloomed since my son started taekwondo. Both in class and before/after class, there have been teen and adult mentors who have welcomed my son and shared their knowledge and experience with him. The way they manage the exuberant, over-enthusiastic but sometimes quick to quit kiddo is truly amazing and is a tribute to the leadership we all experience with GM Soengkono. My son has worked harder at some of the after class training with his mentors than he has at anything else in his life, and the sense of accomplishment he feels afterward encourages him to work harder in all aspects of life. GM Soengkono has also helped my son navigate some difficult life moments – bullying, family conflict, and some not-so-great decision making typical of a child his age – with grace, respect, and a quiet confidence that shows my son someone truly has faith in his ability to do better. The door is always open for a student to drop in for a chat about whatever is going on in life, and he always seems to have just the right approach to relate to the student and help them gain perspective to work through things. As for me, GM Soengkono is the calm, reassuring voice of reason encouraging a 40-something adult to return to Taekwondo in a way that helps me grow both physically and mentally but also respects the challenges that come with being just a wee bit older. The old body isn’t as flexible or resilient as it used to be, and he never pushes me to do anything that would result in injury. In fact, he reminds me that while my inclination is to always give 100%, sometimes that means being smart about not pushing too hard. I am so happy we made the decision to enroll my son, and then myself, in Taekwondo a couple years ago. We look forward to many years of training with Grandmaster Soengkono and his team!