Make It Possible

Master Nominee Laurie Peterson’s Songahm Journey

** This blog is part of our Make It Possible series to celebrate ATA’s 50th anniversary.

I am Laurie Hunter Peterson, and 34 years ago at the age of 21, I started training in ATA martial arts.  In retrospect, training throughout the last three decades has been quite a journey and a good example of determination. 

As a college student working a summer job at the old ATA Headquarters, I was offered Taekwondo classes for free.  I took advantage of this and by June 1985, I tested for my “low yellow” belt (now orange belt).  The judging panel at my first testing included Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee and Grand Master In Ho Lee.  Very few instructors have been lucky enough to have that judging panel at their initial ATA testing!

From that moment on, I knew Taekwondo was something that I would do for life.  My first eight rank testings were at five different schools due to college and moving after graduation.  I persevered through multiple moves, schools, clubs, marriage, law school, knee surgeries, kids, and abdominal surgeries to achieve my current Master Nominee status.  My nomadic Taekwondo lifestyle settled down in 2005 when I found a home base with Chief Master Kathy Lee and Chief Master Ken Reynolds in Little Rock, Ark. 

I’ve heard many martial artists state early on that their goal was to be an ATA Master.  When I started Taekwondo, we only had one Master, Eternal Grand Master H. U. Lee.  He was the ideal upon which every student measured themselves.  My goal was to be like him at whatever rank I attained.

Some people rush the path to mastership, but I have taken 34 years to become the martial artist that I am today.  Throughout my years with the ATA, I’ve graduated undergrad, law school, started a family and have maintained a full-time career as an attorney.  My constant through it all has been Taekwondo.     

In one upper level law school class, students were required to perform a six-minute opening statement.  Most students provided a soliloquy of school accomplishments in a rather nervous manner.  My speech differed quite a bit.  I had been a certified instructor for nine years by then and had no fear of speaking in front of a group.  My opening statement was easy and memorable.

After my basic background, I stated that I was a martial artist before anything else in my life.  I continued by saying that ATA martial arts had provided me with the foundation of my character:  honesty, integrity, respect, loyalty and perseverance.  Every aspect of my martial arts life provided a foundation for my career as an attorney.  I ended my statement by simply stating, “I am a martial artist.”

I graduated from law school in 1998, so that speech was over two decades ago.  ATA has made it possible for me to have an amazing career as an attorney and a martial artist.  One cool part to me though, in a few years, I’ll retire from my career as an attorney.  I’ll never retire from ATA. 

This is my life, even if it isn’t my career.  If I had a chance to rewrite my speech of 21 years ago, I’d end it with “I am an ATA martial artist first and forever.”

As part of ATA’s 50th anniversary, we invite all Songahm students to share their story about how ATA has helped you Make It Possible.  Do you have a story like Master Nominee Peterson that you would like to share?  Email [email protected]



Author: Laurie Peterson

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