Introducing Holly Hauxjeffers – a budding black belt at Yordan’s Black Belt Academy, artist, mother. One of the warmest, most compassionate, most inspirational people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I thank her for taking the time out of her busy life to join us here at Portrait Femme Fatale.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I have 3 sisters (my pillars always), am a mother of 4 (a son followed by 3 girls), a visual artist (oil painter), as well as aspiring martial arts practitioner, and am married to an awesome man who makes me laugh and forgives my faults.
I started training because when I went to sign up one of my daughters, I saw an entire family training together and was super inspired. We had recently suffered a great loss, and I knew that I needed to put my energy somewhere useful to keep myself together. I was excited to be able to train right alongside my daughter and at that time I simply saw it as physical exercise. When Master Yordan said it was okay to try a few classes before deciding to join, I encouraged the rest of my crew to give it a whirl. They all said: “Yes, I would come to this!”
And so it began.
2. What do you think makes a strong woman?
Hmmm, well physically strong are those who keep moving every day and are good about what they fuel themselves with. I once saw a quote that said:
“I work out because I like to eat. A Lot.”
It made me laugh but also struck a chord of truth for me.
And then there is the strength that shows itself in how we deal with life’s challenges. The strongest people I know have faced great hardships and remained graceful throughout the experience. The 5 Tenants of Taekwondo were present whether they were practitioners or not. By hardships I mean losing jobs, losing loved ones, things of that nature. My ‘heroes’ did not say “woe is me”. They maintained self-control, taking action to get to a better place both physically and spiritually.
They persevered when it seemed doors were closing. Their integrity never wavered; they did not place blame on others, they asked “what can I do for others?”. They carried on even with broken hearts, and asked for help when they really needed it…
Another strength I admire is the ability to disagree without placing judgement. I marvel at people with this ability.
I would say the same things regarding what makes a strong man as well.
3. Society tends to make women out to be weak, to be the victims. “Hit like a girl”, “run like a girl”, “fight like a girl”. How do you think martial arts has helped you defy society’s picture of a woman?
What I like about the martial arts in helping to defy that issue – it’s subtle.
When a person has physical confidence, it is easier to deflect or ignore negative comments, and therefore not give them any undue credit.
The fact of the matter is that if a man underestimates my strength, it will be that much easier to surprise him and get him into a ‘home turf’ position.* So in the case of being physically threatened, we can use that negative way of thinking to our advantage.
If I had had martial arts training early on in my life, it would’ve been useful on several occasions.
Phrases like that only have weight when we give them weight. So I try not react because it only gives them more power. But that wasn’t always the case.
When I was in third grade “boys are stronger than girls” was a chant we heard often . Of course, if we had been able to watch Michelle Yeoh on Netflix back then, I don’t think it would’ve been such an issue! But we didn’t, and consequently there was one boy who drove me nuts with his teasing.
We had a great teacher who was so tired of the constant bickering that he challenged us to a contest. Who could do the most push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups in 30 second? I won push-ups, he won pull-ups, I think we tied for sit-ups.
My whole class got to witness that sometimes a girl is stronger, sometimes a boy is stronger.
Ultimately it is about respecting another’s abilities. Whether or not they match your own is inconsequential unless you are threatened. Taekwondo helps you be the strongest person you can be, plain and simple.
When we are learning new techniques, sometimes Master Yordan uses Miss Keroack to demonstrate, sometimes he uses Master Forsberg. He uses the individual who excels, and, without even trying, he is honoring male and female alike…
*Home Turf is a self defense position – a wrist lock/shoulder lock
4. If you could offer advice to the young females of the world, particularly those who are in martial arts or who might need martial arts, what message would you give them?
I would say: Don’t compare yourself to others, male or female. Allow yourself to be inspired by those who are ranked above you as well as those who are ranked below you. Try not to judge yourself too harshly, just be the best that you can be in any given moment.
And though it is an individual journey, I also highly recommend tournaments! I started going to tournaments to help desensitize myself from the nervousness I feel at testings. Now I look forward to seeing the people I run into only at tournaments, and appreciate the different nuances of each school. I still feel nauseous when I test and compete, but I also know everyone is rooting for me!
It is called Martial “Arts” for a reason. We all have the ability to bring something beautiful to the table. I can think of no better motto than: “We train to rise above ourselves, not above other people”.
On the self defense side – I was not joking earlier when I said I wished I had Martial Arts training in my youth (I was 43 when I started). There will come a time when you are threatened, the degree of it will vary, but it will happen. Taekwondo helps you to be aware of your surroundings, so ideally you’ll see a threat coming and avoid it altogether. But should you find yourself compromised, you want to be effective in your defense. Training could be your saving grace, so find the balance of both enjoying class. and taking it seriously.
5. What advice do you have for the young men in our culture- on the subject of women?
Good question… honor the differences. You don’t have to throw roses at our feet (not EVERY day, anyway. Just after giving birth. And then you also have to carry us over the roses).
Seriously, recognize the strength it takes to deal with the physicality of being female. And show appreciation for the nurturing side of our nature. It doesn’t need to be a big show (unless that’s your thing), just an acknowledgement now and then. You’d be amazed at how much that brings out the best in us. And in return, we will aim to bring out the best in you: It’s a win win!
And if I may: ladies, we could learn to forgive faster – notice how guys can beat each other up (physically or in poker), and then laugh about it the next day – that’s both powerful and freeing!
We won’t always see eye to eye, but respecting the role our genders play is vital for healthy relationships.
6. Who has been a positive and strong role model for you? How and why?
Specifically Taekwondo speaking… There are several who come to mind… but if I have to pick one, I choose Debbie. I saw her test that first night and I was impressed by her intensity and grace. When she is in class I can feel her focus and it is infectious! She is there to train (versus workout), and I can see clearly how that difference has positively affected her performance. I like that she will offer words of advice when she notices I am struggling, without me having to ask.
As life has dealt challenges, I have witnessed her rise to every occasion. At one point she took a short break from training with the school. But even during that time I knew her commitment to all of us never faltered. She has reached out not only in regards to training, but to offer support in other areas of my life, too. She has set a high bar and I am inspired by her every time I see her.
7. As a mother of 4 children, all of them participating in martial arts, how do you hope their lives are impacted by the art? What do you hope they learn from it?
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is introducing them to other people. There comes a time in life when no matter how close we are with our blood family, we need outside advice or encouragement.
I have never been surrounded by so many people with such a strong dedication to each other, (and that is saying something because I have had wonderful influences my entire life). The YBBA community is like no other and I hope my kids seek them out when Ian and I are not enough.
Discipline is under-rated, (or at least under-utilized in modern society unless you are in the military). Martial Arts is a perfect venue for this. I am grateful that my children experience it with individuals who demonstrate that it is a necessary ingredient for success. I am referring to self-discipline here. You can be as attentive as you want in class, but it won’t replace the practice you do on your own. Both are required to succeed.
In today’s fast-paced society, it has become common to think: “I want it, and I want it NOW”. We forget the value of delayed gratification. In Taekwondo you must put the time in if you want to improve. There are no short-cuts, no apps, just your will to commit. The reward is evident when you do. I know my kids see this at every testing they witness, and experience it when they feel prepared.
Also, traditions can bring meaning to our life. Each individual decides how to integrate that for themselves… I started out simply needing an outlet. That grew into a connection with a group of people who I cannot imagine my life without. It may seem ironic, but practicing is a place where I can find peace and comfort. So embrace the journey. It can influence your life in ways you never imagined.