Getting My Kicks

Describe a life-changing event and what you learned from the experience

I still can't believe that when faced with the certainty of a punch in the stomach from a two hundred-pound black belt, I found myself thinking, "I hope he hits me hard." This may seem a little surprising -- masochistic, even -- but it was only part of the fateful three hour black belt test that transformed me from Ashley, regular citizen, to Ashley, karate god. My black belt test changed my life and gave me the confidence to stand up for myself and my beliefs with a newfound self-assurance, giving me strength and courage I did not know I possessed. All that and I also got the bragging rights that go along with busting out the whopping two hundred and fourteen pushups that it took to pass my test.

Before I began martial arts, I was hands down the most perpetually frightened kid on the face of the planet. I'm not talking "frightened," like I was a little skittish when wandering through dark alleys by myself. No, I mean frightened as in I couldn't sit in the dentist's office for five minutes with a couple of strangers, all in the kindly, over seventy set, without hyperventilating because I was sure one of them was about to kidnap me. Irrational, maybe, but this kind of "worrying"...

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