MARQUETTE - Shaylyn Eggleston gave out instructions in Korean to fellow Soo Bahk Do students as together they progressed through a choreographed series of kicks, blocks and punches.
An 11-year-old red belt from Marquette who has already been practicing the martial art for three years, Shaylyn was one of the most advanced pupils in attendance at the Saturday morning white-belt-and-up class at the Marquette Soo Bahk Do Academy.
"Ever since I was really little I wanted to do a martial art," Shaylyn said, "and so my dad just signed me up one year."
11-year-old Shaylyn Eggleston kicks high during a Saturday morning white-belt-and-up Soo Bahk Do class. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
After trying another martial arts studio in the area, which Shaylyn and her father, Sam, found lacked camaraderie and a sense of togetherness, Shaylyn said her dad brought her to the Marquette Soo Bahk Do Academy. She's thrived there for the past three years.
In fact, Shaylyn's favorite thing about Soo Bahk Do is the camaraderie she's found there and the friendships she's made. Her group of friends - who call themselves "The Furious Five" - all started practicing the martial art the same week.
"We're called 'The Furious Five' because there's five of us, and we all started at the same time," Shaylyn said. "It's all one big family. They all treat you the same."
In addition to being a student of Soo Bahk Do, Shaylyn has also become certified to assist in its instruction.
"There's a rank you can test for called 'Jo Kyo,' which means 'assistant teacher,' and then you can help teach people, or just be there and assist," Shaylyn said. "Most of the senior people like me try to help the younger people just try to get there."
"She's a very special girl," said Carl Vonck, the 24-year-old owner of Marquette Soo Bahk Do Academy and a fourth-degree black belt who has himself been practicing Soo Bahk Do since he was six years old. "She teaches a class for 4- to 6-year-olds on Friday nights. Sometimes it's a challenge just to get them to stand up," he laughed.
As for the future, Shaylyn's passion for Soo Bahk Do and for her "Furious Five" friendship show no signs of abating.
"(In the future I will) hopefully test for my dan - which is a midnight blue belt - with my Furious Five group, or open a studio of my own someday," she said.
Shaylyn's enjoyment of Soo Bahk Do is something she would strongly recommend to others.
"Definitely do it. It's really something to do to get out there, get a lot of friends," she said. "I have like 28 more friends now."
The Saturday morning class ended with a brief meditation and a bow. Shaylyn gathered up her things to leave, remembering at the last moment to grab her violin from where it lay in its case below the shelves for students' shoes. The lesson she's learned as a student of Soo Bahk Do has a strength and value that could be applied to any aspect of life.
"It taught me that you can do anything as long as you keep trying," she said. "If you feel like you're going to give up, you've just got to push yourself a little bit more."
Zach Jay can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org