Fighting Her Way to the Top

Julianne Berry-Stoelzle, Sports Editor

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Last June, when Aysa Tealer-Goerdt ‘22 was walking along the street with her mother and sister in downtown San Antonio, a strange man grabbed her from behind. Aware that she was under attack, Tealer-Goerdt defended herself by kicking the man’s side.

“If someone grabs your arm,” said Tealer-Goerdt, “instead of crunching your fist, you loosen your hand and snap it towards you to break the grip.”

Tealer-Goerdt managed to surprise her attacker with her rapid responses, which are a result of countless hours of taekwondo training. She took off running down the street with her mother and sister. 

“[I first decided to take taekwondo when] I watched an episode of ‘Law and Order’ and I thought, ‘Hey, I want to be able to defend myself,’” Tealer-Goerdt said.

Around the age of 12, Tealer-Goerdt started learning taekwondo as a part of a Grant Wood martial arts program, but now she is practicing with Iowa City Parks and Recreation Taekwondo. Through the years, she worked her way through five different belts from white belt to brown belt. 

“As you advance into your belt, you have to do certain forms, which are moves that demonstrate your knowledge of the kicks,” Tealer-Goerdt said. “You also have to spar against someone else.” 

Tealer-Goerdt’s full gear includes shin guard, chest gear, mouth guard, helmet and arm guards. The weapons she has learned so far are bow staff and sword.

“My grandmother knew weapons were going to be involved in martial arts, so she was hesitant about it, but she was fine with it in the end,” Tealer-Goerdt said. “[The sword] is plastic, not real, but it makes me feel like a badass.”

This past summer, Tealer-Goerdt competed in the Iowa Games and ended up coming in third place in sparring. She was also grand champion for forums in her age division of 13 and over.

“I was really, really nervous because there were so many people,” Tealer-Goerdt said. “People were bringing weapons: swords, staffs, and nunchucks. It was intense.” 

Before her competitions, Tealer-Goerdt listens to music, practices her moves, meditates to calm her nerves, and mentally prepares herself. 

“One key thing of taekwondo is to clear your mind,” Tealer-Goerdt said. “At the very beginning of the class we bow and then the second thing we do is we meditate, so this is what I do for competitions. [They can be] very nerve-racking.”

In case someone gets injured during one of the rounds, the referee will call off the round and call the first aid that is nearby. 

“If you see someone sparring and they get someone knocked out, that’s normal, but you always want to check on them first,” Tealer-Goerdt said.

In the future, Tealer-Goerdt wants to improve her skills by learning to use nunchucks and competing in more competitions.

“If you plan on doing martial arts, you should do it,” Tealer-Goerdt said. “It’s really good for your mental health and good for your body.”