Perseverance pays off for family of taekowndo black belts

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 23, 2014 

Mike Baron, 48, Kelley Baron, 43, Jordan Baron, 11, and Keira Baron, 9, receive their black belts on Friday, June 20, at Bellingham High School during a US Taekwondo black belt ceremony.

GORDON ROGERS — Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Ask any member of the Baron family about what they learned from their experiences with taekwondo, and the same word will come up - "perseverance."

Whether it's pushing through a practice on a day when they aren't feeling their best, struggling through a belt test only to barely squeak by or getting back on a bike after falling into the bushes on a difficult trail, the Baron family doesn't lack what it talks most about.

"If something is hard, you don't just stop," Jordan Baron, 11, said in a phone interview. "Things will get better."

After more than two years of dedication and hard work in learning the routines as well as the traits in taekwondo, Mike, Kelley, Jordan and Keira, 9, each received their black belt together at a ceremony on Friday, June 20.

The four went through the process together, and they said having all four names called in a row at the ceremony was a special moment.

"I never thought we would get this far," Kelley Baron said in a phone interview. "It was pretty exciting."

Keira and Jordan were the first to get into taekwondo. The family was looking into activities for the girls to do, and taekwondo caught their attention due to its emphasis on character traits.

It took only a few weeks of Keira and Jordan participating before Mike, 48, and Kelley, 43, jumped in.

The activity was unusual, because all four could do it together, helping each other with routines, rather than typical team sports where the parents often are forced to watch from the sidelines.

Since the girls started before the adults, Keira and Jordan were always a belt ahead of Mike and Kelley.

"It was one of the big motivating things," Kelley said. "They were prodding us on and taunting us that they were ahead."

The parents caught at the black belt ceremony, but nobody has any plans of stopping. Keira and Jordan both have talked about trying to reach eighth-degree black belt.

For the parents, it's good exercise and something they can share with their children.

"You can work through small steps," Kelley said. "It's been great doing it as a family. I probably would have quit if it wasn't for the family."

Exercise and fitness aren't the only things the family gained from taekwondo.

The facility, US Taekwondo, is captained by grandmaster Uoon Choi, who at the end of each training session talks about character, humility and helping the community.

"We've been lucky to be (taught) by him," Kelley said. "He encourages you to be a good person."

Choi also brought some of his Korean culture to Bellingham, including two martial artists, which the Baron family housed for a week.

The entire experience has made a huge impact, Keira said in a phone interview.

"My favorite part has been meeting all these great people. My life has really changed because of them," she said.

Jordan echoed her sister's sentiments.

"They really changed our lives. We still text them and stay in communication," Jordan said. "We're very hopeful to see them again."

Keira and Jordan hope more of their friends try out martial arts.

What's next for the Baron family is unknown, but they will continue with martial arts. Jordan has even started thinking about putting it on her college application.

And there's little doubt the Barons will continue to apply the lessons they've learned.

"If you fall, you just get back up," Keira said.

The Baron family knows that better than anyone.

Reach Joshua Hart by email at joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com or by phone at 360-715-2851.

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