For the past two months, several girls from Corazón del Pastor have been taking lessons in Taekwondo, a Korean martial art. Taekwondo has been a big part of my life – I began doing it when I was five years old and currently compete with the Taekwondo team at my university. Needless to say, during my time in Cochabamba I have been taking the girls to the classes and participating with them. The classes have been excellent; they have given the girls an opportunity to improve their fitness and self-defense. In addition, the classes are giving the girls the opportunity to grow in something that is important in their lives outside of the Taekwondo classroom: resilience.
I began thinking about resilience when a woman came to Corazón to speak about sexual abuse, and how to care for children that have been sexually abused. She explained that, in caring for victims, it is important help them to move forward in life. In such a traumatic event, it is important for the person suffering to continue to find hope. While the scars will never be erased, it is possible for the victim to refuse to be crippled by what has happened. She referred to this ability as “la resistencia,” or resilience.
Taekwondo is often difficult, sometimes painful, always challenging. Very often, the girls find that they can’t do something. Nonetheless, Gabriel – their instructor – makes them try again. As he says: “no hay ‘no puedo'” (“there is no “I can’t'”). The girls are encouraged to try again, to kick harder, to yell louder (¡sin miedo chicas!).
When they succeed after not giving up, the girls are embracing a fighter mentality. This is not a mindset of violence, but one of resilience. It is a way of thinking that allows a person to overcome difficult obstacles, to push through. It is a mentality that gradually translates from a martial artist’s experience in the dojang to his or her life outside of it. It is my hope that Taekwondo will be something that will provide the girls with strength and self-esteem, and will help guide them on their way to becoming resilient young women.