5. Sempai Yousif

Sempai Yousif is intent upon his imaginary opponent.
Sempai Yousif is intent on his imaginary opponent.

1. How long have you been training in the martial arts? Why did you start?

“I watched a Jackie Chan movie at the age of 3, and it inspired me so much because he was flipping his opponents and turning them, but he wasn’t hitting them or beating them up. It amazed me that you don’t have to hurt someone to win a fight. From that moment, I wanted to become a martial artist. In 2004, when I was almost 8, my mom put me in NWSMA’s Tae Kwon Do program. I’d be a completely different person now if it wasn’t for martial arts.”

2. Have you ever used your martial arts outside of class?

“One of the big things I’ve learned was how to hold my tongue. I work with the public, and my martial arts training helps me refrain from making sarcastic pr inappropriate comments. A lot of the focus and self-discipline has just become second nature to me. Another big thing was confidence. Martial arts gave me the confidence to be able to push back peer pressure, to say no when I was offered drugs.

One time I was walking down the street in downtown Stanwood. I was 15, and I had my mom’s laptop in a bag. A group of about 5 very large teenage boys tried to circle me. The only thing I could think about was protecting that laptop. They started to taunt me and name-call me, and I stepped back and put my hands up. I said, “Leave me alone. I am a martial artist. I can defend myself, but I’d rather not.”

They continued to taunt me, until I settled into my fighting stance and straightened my back. At that point they realized I was serious. They started to back up and continued on their way. Without the confidence I gained from martial arts training, that situation may not have ended so well.”

3. What was the biggest obstacle you have overcome since you began training?

“The biggest one would be my ego. I used to think I was so cool and tough, but then my best friend passed me in belt rank. That hurt, but I learned to keep going and never give up. It really burned but I had to get over it. I had to let go of my jealousy and get past it to keep training.”

Sempai Yousif is a 1st degree black belt in Chung Moo Kwan Tae Kwon Do and has been with NWSMA for over a decade.