Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives" National Women's History Project 2015

by Kate Pernice, Chosun Taekwondo Academy 3rd Dan Black Belt
The following is her "story"

I grew up in Orange County and somehow my travels always brought me back to this area.  My dad farmed, had several businesses and then went into construction.  His entrepreneurial spirit influenced me in many ways, both in the work that he chose and in his belief that you can do anything you put your mind
 Via Ferrata, Circleville, West Virginia
to.  My mom is a wonderful story-teller.  I grew up hearing about her adventures of travel and work.  She was an independent woman, she sailed, she was a pilot-- her favorite story was when she worked for the military in Minnesota during WWII and she would pack her own parachute and go up to test the airplanes to do “spins and stalls” after they were repaired.  I learned from both of them a free-spirit determination, creative thinking and the importance of love.

Surrounded by nature in my childhood, I learned about the relationships between plants and animals and humans.  I became a vegetarian at the age of 16 along with my brother (with the concern of my parents).  I became interested in spacial design, studied architecture and did construction renderings for my dad’s business.  After traveling and the birth of my first son, I went on to study childbirth education, herbal medicine, homeopathy, yoga and eventually I entered nursing school and then a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner.  I remember in those first few months of practicing in a busy clinic, often coming home, discouraged and crying.  I felt that people deserved more than 10 or 15 minutes of my time, that their stories were important and that the act of listening has a healing effect especially when someone is struggling with life issues.  After 14 years of practicing in inner-city clinic settings I opened my own practice in order to offer the kind of care that I believed in.  Throughout those previous years I had 2 beautiful boys, (now grown) and my musician husband and I became interested in education, a direction that he pursued.  We renovated houses, camped, gardened, sailed, traveled and grew a family together.  At one of those disillusioned moments of my life I decided to attend a 4-year training in psychology and energy healing, brought this work into my practice, and went on to teach at that school for the past 15 years.  This is why you sometimes don’t see me in the Dojang.  The school is based in Miami and I travel there 5 times a year.  A few years ago I was simultaneously teaching in the Miami school and our sister school in Japan.  So I was traveling every month and although it was a wonderful experience I very much missed my time in the Dojang.  I feel so grateful to be part of these two wonderful communities of colleagues, friends and students.  Community has become very important to me; it is where we share our stories, our differences can be heard and our common ground found.  For the past three years a colleague and I have developed retreat-based work, The Sacred Living Project, examining the Sacred in ordinary life through music, poetry, movement, stories, group work and native traditions.  Each August for the past 11 years I trek to the wilderness-mountains of West Virginia as a facilitator for The Women’s Hero’s Journey.  It is my favorite way of doing the work that I do—bringing personal and group work and the complexity of our psyche into the raw simplicity of nature.  Courageous women from all over the world come to journey together with other women in the largest expanse of mountainous dark sky on the east coast.  The work is based on Joseph Campbell’s call to the mythic life, The Hero’s Journey.  We engage with the elements of air, water, fire, earth, we work with trust, grief, fierceness, vulnerability, we climb mountains, we descend into the earth, we walk on fire, take leaps of faith, we wander on the land, we face our aloneness, but mostly we come together in a loving community to discover more about ourselves.  And our program has now expanded to include a young women’s journey so that our circles span over a woman’s life-time.

So many times I have drawn upon my Taekwondo practice for strength, insight and perseverance and especially during the times that I have struggled in my life.  When I was a red belt I became very ill with Lyme disease and couldn’t practice for several months.  I remember reflecting again and again on the five tenets and the one that spoke loudest to me (as often one or two will come to the foreground when I need them) was “Indomitable Spirit”.   I found a connection to my larger self and could find comfort in the strength of my spirit while I simultaneously was quite disturbed by the strange and new experience of not having a strong and healthy body available to me.  I consider my Taekwondo practice a constant opportunity to find focus, inner balance and self-acceptance.  I love the rigor and the internal quiet, the yin and the yang of Taekwondo and the sense of belonging, not only to our Dojang but also amongst the tradition of our ancestor practitioners that have passed on the teachings.  I can’t imagine my life without Taekwondo.  As I enter my 10th year of practice and take stock of the things I feel immeasurably grateful for, and that are at the heart of my life as daughter, sister, mother, wife, friend, teacher, healer, gardener, wild woman, seeker, martial artist…  Taekwondo came into my life at just the right time and has continued to be a guiding post for me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I have surpassed my ideas and limiting beliefs about myself countless times and my inner indomitable spirit more times than not takes on the attitude of, “Why not?” when I am faced with a challenge.  I am so grateful to Patty and Master Doug Cook for their perseverance and dedication in bringing our wonderful community together.  That is no small feat in these busy times.

Kamsahamnida, Kate

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