by Jess Hanna

Like many young girls, I was ecstatic when I learned I was going to be taking dance lessons. Discovering that my dad had also enrolled me into martial arts lessons was probably one of the most upsetting things an eight-year-old girl could hear. I was mortified at the thought of having to participate in a ‘boys’ sport and miss out on time that I believed could be better spent in dance lessons. Battles between my parents and I were practically routine before my martial arts classes for the first few months. Gradually, my feelings for the sport began to change, and I started to look forward to my twice weekly classes.

13 years have passed since I put on my white belt. Earlier this month, I tested for my second degree black belt and have earned the title of Sensei. My blue boxing gloves are among my favourite possessions while my ballet slippers have long been collecting dust.


Martial arts is unlike anything that I have ever done. It is part of who I am and the things that I have learned throughout my years of training will stay with me for the rest of my life. I have learned discipline, patience, determination and perseverance. My training has taught me to have confidence in myself and that I can do just about anything if I put my mind to it and work hard. When I first started training, the thought of doing 100 proper pushups never crossed my mind, but now it is something I know I can do.

At 15, I started getting involved with the teaching aspect of martial arts. I have now been instructing my own classes for six years and I hope that I have become a positive role model for girls just like the female instructors I had when I was young. As a female in a male dominated sport, I have had the opportunity to meet and train with some of the most inspiring women. Through them, I have been shown that kickboxing isn’t just for the boys.