For Fairfax Station sisters Christina and Cheryl Krause, Tae Kwon Do isn't all about black belts and breaking boards. Discipline and self-esteem are just two of the personal gains they've noticed on their way to the medal podium at a recent international competition, where they won several medals.
"It's helped us with discipline. To be on our team, you have to have all A's and B's. It's not all physical; it's mind, body and spirit," said Christina, 16.
Cheryl felt like giving up in the past. In previous years at Silverbrook Elementary School, she was just going through the motions with some physical education activities.
"I used to be the last one because I never tried. In elementary school I didn't care, I just wanted to get it over with," Cheryl, 13, said.
Christina felt it affected her confidence.
"I used to get nervous when I first started competing," Christina said.
Although spending nine years in Tae Kwon Do takes a lot of self-motivation, it wasn't until the sisters got in Master Quyen V. Phan Le's class at the Phan University of Martial Arts (PUMA) in Burke that they really became focused. Tae Kwon Do became an Olympic sport in 2000, and they are setting their sights for that.
"My goal is to be on the U.S. Team," Cheryl said.
AT PUMA, the teens are on a Tae Kwon Do team. One other team member was at the international competition.
Master Le stresses a total mind/body teaching method. By requiring the teens to maintain high grades, he hopes to help their self-progression and spiritual growth. He's looking at the long-term growth.
"Not just kicking and punching," Le said. "It's what these students achieve in life."
The teens' mother, Suki Krause, is Korean and likes the girls to keep in touch with the Korean culture. Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art that is introduced to students in Korean schools.
"The master teaches them Korean history. He's a wonderful master. We really had a difficult time until we met Master Le," Suki Krause said.
"In our country, in P.E., everybody takes the basic [Tae Kwon Do]," she added.
Christina has learned Korean words in class along the way.
"We learned to count in Korean, the kicks and form," she said.
At Hayfield Secondary, neither of the girls has ever been challenged to a fight. Christina said if it does come up, her training could come in handy.
"We've never had problems at school," she said. "We also learn a lot of self-defense moves. We know how to get out of situations if it occurs."
At this year's international competition in Tampa on Feb. 17-22, Cheryl earned a gold medal in sparring, and Christina earned silver medals in sparring and forms. In June, they are going to another international competition in Georgia and then on to the Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa. It's Christina's last year to compete on the Junior Olympics level.