At 7, Orland Park girl already has a grand(master) plan
BY DANIELLE NEVELES Correspondent April 10, 2013 3:20PM
Emily Enright, 7, of Orland Park, earned her first degree black belt in January. She is pictured at Joon Lee School of Tae Kwon Do in Orland Park Monday, March 11, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 12, 2013 6:01AM
Emily Enright didn’t know at first if she would like martial arts.
But the Orland Park girl had received a free pass from the Orland Park library to attend a class at Joon Lee’s Tae Kwon Do school.
She fell in love with it. She was just 4 then — and already began aspiring to one day be a grandmaster.
Nearly three years later, Emily has her first-degree black belt — a rare honor for a 7-year-old, according to grandmaster Joon Lee. It’s especially rare, Lee said, considering that most people who begin martial arts training quit after a few short months. It requires a lot of determination and dedication, he said.
Emily had to master several kicking and punching forms to earn her black belt. For each belt level, there was a test for which she had to recite the belt color’s creed and pass her form test. Emily has passed all her belt tests on the first try.
“She is very dedicated and smart and remembers everything including forms and her color creeds,” Lee said. “She is very rare.”
She also had to break boards for each belt, putting aside initial fears that it would hurt. Now she has a collection of broken boards at home.
For her first-degree black belt test, Emily broke all her boards on the first try.
“I felt really proud because sometimes I don’t break it on my first try,” she said.
Her training has taught her never to give up, even when there are challenges, such as jumping over targets. Practicing at home by leaping over pillows, she now can jump as high as three targets.
“We’re happy she’s stuck with it,” said Kerry Enright, Emily’s mother. “There were some tears but she kept going.”
Emily was frustrated to tears when she first started using nunchucks, but now it is one of her strongest skills and she’s won first place in competition.
“I just tried and I never stopped,” she said.
Overcoming her various challenges, Emily, a student at Park School in Orland Park, has been able to compete in local and national tournaments.
In November, competing against a 21-year-old man in the division final at a Joon Lee Tae Kwon Do tournament at the Oak Lawn Pavilion, she won the red black belt grand championship. How well each competitor demonstrates the form determines the winner for the tournament.
Emily, who has a younger sister (Sarah, 5) and a younger brother (Jack, 2), also participates in gymnastics, but her passion is tae kwon do. She attends classes at Joon Lee four times a week and gets help at home from Jack, who mimics her moves and holds up targets for her to kick.
“We’re very proud that something that very few people are able to accomplish, Emily’s done at such a young age,” said Jeff Enright, Emily’s father.