Two Women – One Goal
by Kathy Olevsky
Melanie Moran and Jennifer Aimone have worked hard. They both started their Karate classes in 2012, although they were few months apart. In January of 2016, they earned their Black Belts together, through all the hurdles and the rewards.
Both Melanie and Jen agreed that their friends don’t really understand the path they are on now that they are Black Belts. They both feel like beginners again and are totally committed to the path to 2nd Degree Black Belt. They are enjoying cross training in Jujitsu at Karate International. According to Jen, “Jujitsu is challenging for them both. We love it but we hate it. It is hard, it is much harder than Karate for us”. They both want to spend this next year focusing on Jujitsu and also continue in their Karate training to 2nd Degree. Right now, Melanie has found that Sparring was her favorite part of Karate and Jen shared that Self Defense and throwing people was, by far, her specialty.
Jen started in Karate because she was trying very hard to get healthy and workout more. She wanted something that would help her work on her fitness level. She said her goals were to continue to lose weight and to get stronger. When she started, she decided that Karate was definitely her thing and she attended classes as much as she could. Although the average adult attends 2-3 times per week, she often made 4-6 classes per week. Jen commented that she had flexibility in her schedule so she could add in daytime classes, as well, sometimes. Her husband plays soccer and she goes to karate. Jen had done a little Karate when she was in college and that was always in the back of her head. She says she didn’t share with anyone, including her husband, that she was going to start Karate. In her mind, she thought she was terrible at Karate, but it was fun, so she definitely wanted to do it. Jen said Black Belt was never on her radar.
Upon reflection, Melanie said as a child when she was 6 years old, that Miss Piggy had her Black Belt and that was one of her reasons for taking Karate. Interestingly enough, Melanie also was exposed to Karate in College. “The class was so huge, 50-70 people, I wasn’t learning so I didn’t really finish up the class”. So when she started later, she had no intention of working towards Black Belt. She loved Karate but her goal was simply to do it until her body told her it was time to quit. But Melanie actually started in Karate because her daughter was doing it. She didn’t know Jen when she started. According to Melanie, her daughter, Sophie was trying to get out of being in soccer and Melanie wanted her to stay active. They drove by Karate International of West Raleigh on Leesville Road and her daughter said she wanted to try Karate. They talked about it for 3 months and then Melanie was convinced that it was a real desire, so she started her daughter in classes. After her daughter had taken classes for a year, Melanie joined in a Mother’s Day event that brought Moms and Kids together in classes. From that moment, Melanie knew it was something she wanted to pursue. She also jumped “all in” to Karate. She usually attended four or more days per week.
A few months into their training, Melanie and Jen became friends and training partners. They forged great relationships with others in the dojo, as well. One friend, Ms. Jen Spragins was about 6 months in front of them in getting to Black Belt. Mr. Jesse D’Bella was working on his 3rd Degree Black Belt and he was incredibly helpful to them when they had questions. The group of adults did things beyond the classes. Many of them run together when they are not in Karate. They said the relationships with the other adults in the classes and some of the instructors really helped them realize that they were actually training to the goal of Black Belt. One instructor, who changed their mindset was when Ms. Melissa Bauguss, 3rd Degree Black Belt joined the staff. It was easier to talk to her when they had typical female questions about being in the martial arts. “As silly as it sounds, it was nice to be able to ask someone about sports bras and working with male partners in Self-Defense and sparring.” According to Melanie, when she was running with a running group, you could ask your friends about running equipment and training and get great advice from other runners. It wasn’t that easy in Karate until Ms. Bauguss became their friend. Then they could ask her about what to wear under your karate uniform “gi”, among other personal questions.
When asked what they would tell other people, about martial arts, Jen said “Just take your time and find the part that you like and work on it. Just practice and see where it takes you. It really wasn’t until we started doing take-downs that I found my favorite part. I love throwing people and it came easily to me. That is when I said decided this was something I can do”. Melanie said. “because she teaches Kindergarten and she has to see the potential in everyone, I just tell everyone it takes time, go slow and breathe.” She reiterated that repetition and patience will take you to your goal sooner or later.
Jen is a physical therapist and Melanie is a teacher, so they both enjoy encouraging other students to follow the steps to a goal of Black Belt. The culture in the dojo is part of why they want to stay and make this their Life activity. It is a very positive and family oriented atmosphere. You can walk in the door with a multitude of life problems on your mind and they will all disappear by the time you walk out the door after a great workout.