Just for kicks

Junior has dedicated the last 13 years to Tae Kwon Do


Photo by Dana Summers

Junior Eric Wu kicks through a board at his latest Tae Kwon Do practice. Board breaking is a common practice in the martial arts, and is used to test students for higher belts. “Tae Kwon Do has a lot to do with technique,” Wu said. “A smart student never stops practicing the basics.”

Dana Summers, Staff Reporter

At a young age, children begin joining activities such as gymnastics, basketball or even swimming. For junior Eric Wu, however, it was the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do that piqued his interest as a kid.

Wu began taking Tae Kwon Do classes at Blue Waves Martial Arts at the age of 4. It was at this time when he met the co-owner Michele Helaney, whom he has maintained a very close relationship with.

“It can be really challenging to get kids who are that young engaged in Tae Kwon Do,” Helaney said. “Eric was different from other kids because he was always wanting to know the ‘why.’ He asked so many questions and got all the answers he needed, which is what makes him such a great martial artist to this day.”

As Wu got older, his love for Tae Kwon Do grew with him. His practices consisted of two-hour classes that he attended four days a week. Throughout these sessions, instructors worked with small groups of students on different Tae Kwon Do forms, self-defense practices, sparring and even weaponry.

At the age of 11, Wu decided he wanted to take his passion even further and he began helping teach classes to others.

“When I first started teaching I was really shy and I was horrible at it,” Wu said. “As I kept teaching, I got more confident in myself. I felt like the more I was teaching, the more I was learning.”

Years of teaching and taking classes resulted in Wu receiving his first blackbelt at the age of 14. While only 2% of martial artists earn blackbelts, many of Wu’s classmates recognize why he was deserving of this honor.

“I look up to Eric a lot and he’s like a mentor to me,” junior Tag Pfansteil said. “He is very hardworking and definitely knows what he’s doing. I think what makes him such a good teacher is that he corrects people without being mean.”

Although Wu has experienced a tremendous amount of success, it hasn’t always been a smooth sailing journey.

“As with any other martial artist or athlete in general, Eric has faced many obstacles,” Helaney said. “There have been certain techniques that he has really struggled with, but it was just a matter of practicing them over and over again.”

Despite the challenges, Wu challenges himself to work towards new goals. In April of last year, he even earned his second-degree black belt.

“Tae Kwon Do means everything to me,” Wu said. “It’s one of the only things that I’ve been doing almost my whole life. I’ve grown so close to the people here [Blue Waves Martial Arts], they are like my family. I even call my instructors mom and dad.”

Wu continues to be an inspiration to others as both a classmate and a teacher. With people who look up to him and an environment that feels like home, he hopes to progress further into his journey in Tae Kwon Do.