In 1995 I started
training in Taekwondo under my instructor and father Rich Marinelli. I was six years old at the time, and nothing could be
more exciting as a child. At that time I was also learning under Master Barry Cohen, another Master Instructor
in the school (a fourth -degree black belt in Koeikan Karate at the time). I continued on until the age of nine
where I felt that I needed a short break from Taekwondo. It is hard for children to stay motivated so I stopped
for a short time. When I was eleven I rejoined; more excited than ever with a clear goal in mind and a newfound
focus: strive for black belt. Having a goal is an important mechanism for a child because everything has to have
a reason. A goal and a purpose is what causes a person to persevere.
At the age of fourteen I received my first-degree in black belt from
Grand Master Kwang Sung Hwang. Grand Master Hwang is the first ninth -degree black belt to receive the distinction directly
from General Choi Hon Hi, the founder of Taekwondo. I feel it is very important to get tested by an impartial
person, so I didn’t feel comfortable being tested by my father.
After earning my black belt, I continued my training as a student
in the school and soon became one of the teachers as an assistant instructor to my father. At the age of sixteen,
I started teaching my own classes starting with children at the age of six and above. Occasionally I would teach
a class for my father to lighten the burden on him. While I was teaching, I realized that my Taekwondo skills
had been improving due to the fact that I would analyze the moves that my students were doing. When you teach,
you are learning at the same time, which to me is a class by itself.
When I turned eighteen, I was nearly ready to test for my second-degree
black belt but I was also preparing to go spend two years of college abroad. Since my mind was on
other things, I wasn’t quite prepared mentally for testing. Two years later, I returned to the country
fully focused and tested for my second-degree black belt with Grand Master Kwang Sung Hwang.
The following year (after receiving my second-degree
black belt), my father and I participated in our first intensive Taekwondo sleep away camp, run by Grand Master Hwang himself.
Here, we saw many different schools from the east-coast training in the teachings of Grand Master Hwang under
the legacy of General Choi. It was a new and eye-opening experience for me. They were all doing the techniques
in a unique fashion that I was not quite used to. They all were very much in sync, and were doing many techniques
a little different than I had been doing them. This is when I realized that I had come for a reason. It was because I myself
needed to improve in these ways in order to further advance my performance in Taekwondo. This was also the summer that my
father tested for his fifth-degree black belt. That was very motivational for me to watch as his son.
The following year, we returned back to the summer camp in early July.
I was planning on testing for my third-degree black belt. I was working really hard and sweating in the blistering sun, with
the goal of testing at the end of the week clear in my mind. My only problem was that I needed to quickly learn a certain
curriculum that I had not been focusing on as thoroughly. Meanwhile, I was also trying to participate in regular summer camp
classes given by many different masters from around the world that were well skilled and phenomenal teachers. There were also
the sessions given by Grand Master Hwang to participate in; the combination of the three seemed like a lot to focus on in
a week. Despite all that, I pulled through and was ready to test just in time and received my third-degree black belt.
The past few years I have been training
rigorously to test for my fourth-degree black belt. It’s not something to take lightly as it is a great milestone, especially
in Taekwondo. Once you are a fourth-degree black belt, you are considered an international instructor and may teach wherever
you want in the world. That is why it is so difficult, considering the expectations required from one going for this ranking.
Hopefully, very soon I will accomplish this goal.