Kung Fu Girls Kickin' It
From the December 2, 1999 Cooper Point Journal



Interview by Mike Reparaz

Jessie Smith and Loa Arnoth have been training with the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu team over the past two years. During this time they have achieved the rank of co-captains and are both on the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu national competition team. Smith and Arnoth have very different backgrounds and reasons for joining the club but they have received similar benefits and advice that they recommend for other women.

Jessie Smith had studied Tae Kwon Do, a Korean martial art, for a few years before she joined the Eagle Claw Team. Her close friend also studied Kung Fu and when they would spar or grapple, Smith was always impressed with the strength and effectiveness of the Kung Fu strikes.She decided then that she would find a style of Kung Fu that was right for her.

Two years ago Jessie Smith visited The Evergreen State College and it was then that she saw the poster and Internet site for the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu club and decided to give it a try. She checked out the site on the Internet and became interested in this particular Kung Fu style. One year ago she began attending Evergreen and went to her first Kung Fu class.Smith was impressed with what she saw. "I was welcomed, and I sensed the strength and unity of its members. I wanted to be part of a community that was strong and positive, and I have been attending classes ever since."

Smith originally attended one or two training classes a week. She had difficulty adjusting to her new living environment and dealing with the stresses of school and personal life, but Kung Fu helped her through this difficult time. “My Kung Fu training helped me work through those stresses by teaching me self-discipline, awareness and control. I trained harder and harder after realizing how much it made me feel centered and in control of myself. I learned how to take responsibility for my actions and work towards positive goals. My body became stronger and my mind followed. I felt healthier than I ever had in my life.”

Loa Arnoth, in her second year at The Evergreen State College met a few of the members and the national coach. They invited her to come and try out their class. She went and really liked it. She says that the training is challenging but the benefits keep her coming back.

Arnoth really likes the level of fitness that she gets from the training. She explains that the training is rigorous but the instructors present the material in a way that she can understand it. She says that the training pushes her past her physical and mental ideas of where she can go, but never pushes her too far.

Arnoth says that she has gained a greater level of clarity from the training and is learning to move ahead and get what she wants from life. Training has helped her to build self-esteem and has helped her to focus on her future goals.

Arnoth emphasizes that it is comforting to know that she is a part of a team. “I know that I am a member of a stable and growing organization. I find that being a part of a group is important in a society that is so divided by individualism.”

Over all Arnoth says that Kung Fu has given her more energy to support her in school, her job, and her personal life. “I have made new friends and I have deepened the level of trust that I have within myself and with others.”

Jessie Smith and Loa Arnoth have been successful on The Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw competition team, which is Evergreen's only full spectrum, traditional Chinese martial arts club that competes in sanctioned local, national and international competitions. At these competitions, Smith and Arnoth meet with other nationally competitive women fighters from their sister team at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. Jessie Smith has won four medals including two gold, one silver, and one bronze.Loa Arnoth has won thirteen medals in all, six gold and two bronze in form routines and two gold, two silver and one bronze medal in fighting competitions. Right now, the club is working on its 1999-2000 competition schedule for this season.

Loa Arnoth had her first competition after only a few months of training.Before the tournament, she was very nervous, but she had trained hard and gave her performance everything that she had.She ended up with two gold medals. Since then, this mentality has been a basic format for success in Arnoth's life. She has achieved medals in tournaments around the country and is succeeding in school and work.

The national coach suggested that Jessie Smith enter a tournament after training for only six months.She had trained for three years in Tae Kwon Do and never had the confidence to enter a tournament.She says that she was very nervous during the tournament, because she had never competed before. Despite her tension, she won her first gold medal in the Beginner Women's Fighting Division. Smith felt great after the tournament, because she knew that she could fight competitively and win. In addition, her attitude gave her the confidence to enter the Women's Black Belt Division in the 1999 Taiji Legacy and Kung Fu Championship in Dallas, Texas and win another gold medal.

Jessie Smith and Loa Arnoth have gained greater self-assuredness from the knowledge that they can protect themselves. Women's self-defense is important and is emphasized in the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu Club. Smith grew up in New Jersey where it is not safe to walk down the street alone or with friends.She has been verbally and physically harassed numerous times. Smith explains that she knew how to tell someone off, but did not have the confidence or skill to protect herself, so instead she let herself be harassed.

She mentions that she is not harassed very often anymore and explains that protecting herself takes psychological as well as physical strength. Kung Fu training has given her the confidence to fight and not let others defeat her psychologically, and she has the training to protect herself physically, just in case. Smith feels safe to walk down the street and is less afraid than ever before.

Arnoth concludes that Kung fu is a great way for women to get in shape and feel good about their bodies.Kung Fu helps women to feel good about themselves from the inside out. When women feel more positive about themselves, they are less likely to go into dangerous places or be around dangerous people.

Evergreen women who would like to contact Jessie Smith and Loa Arnoth can do so through the Bak Shaolin Eagle Claw Kung Fu club at:

Jesse Harter (Team Manager) and Loa T. Arnoth 357-9137

E-mail: harjes04@evergreen.edu or jvharter@earthlink.net

Web: www.evergreen.edu/users3/harjes04

John Eastlake (Co-captain) 570-0078