This story originally appeared in the Vaughan Citizen.
When taekwondo teacher Angela Scarsellone went through a series of physically demanding tests to reach her fifth level of black belt, she was three months pregnant.
Her description of the ordeal: Challenging?
Gruelling? Agonizing? Not quite.
“It was interesting,” she said.
Considering a pregnancy barely slowed her down, it’s no surprise an additional six years of arduous training to reach her sixth level was no biggie either.
“My body is so used to it, it’s all it knows,” she said. “It’s not like I’m starting something new. It was just another walk in the park, so to speak.”
Mrs. Scarsellone, known to her students as Sabaum, or head instructor in Korean, was recently granted her seventh degree black belt which, according to the International Ch’ang-Hon Taekwon-Do Federation (ICTF), makes her the only woman in the world to achieve a master level in taekwondo.The Woodbridge resident has been a practitioner of taekwondo for almost 25 years. It took her 21 years after she first achieved her black belt to reach her current level.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that loosely translated means “the way of the foot and fist”. It combines combat and self-defence with philosophy and meditation and is one of the world’s most popular martial arts.
Master Joe Cariati, president of the ICTF, said that Mrs. Scarsellone is the first woman to receive the prestigious honour. He said his organization follows most major taekwondo clubs and has never heard of a woman reaching this level.
“She is the first woman to be promoted by the ICTF to a master level, worldwide,” he said. “It’s an incredible achievement for anyone.”
Mrs. Scarsellone was the national taekwondo champion for years and represented Canada in the 1992 world championships in Pyongyang, North Korea. She was also national champion of power breaking (when wooden or concrete beams are broken with bare hands or feet) for 10 years and has travelled to China, Japan, Russia, Germany and Brazil to compete.
She is the director of Spin Kicks Studio in Woodbridge and founder of White Fang Taekwondo. She also participates in a program organized by Toronto that offers underprivileged youth throughout Toronto lessons for free or at a reduced price.
Quite the list of accomplishments for a 41-year-old mother of two from Woodbridge. But obviously, Mrs. Scarsellone is not your average mom.
“Usually, when women like myself get involved (in martial arts) it gets really tricky to continue training because it is physically demanding,” she said. “But even with my pregnancies, I just got right back into it.”
Having always been athletic, Mrs. Scarsellone says it was easy for her to physically bounce back after giving birth. As a teenager, she loved sports and first tried taekwondo at the insistence of her brother.
“My brother told me try out a class,” she said. “I put on a uniform and like they say, the rest is history.”
Two children, one husband, and 20-odd years later, Mrs. Scarsellone can probably still kick your butt. And with a wife that can break a stack of wooden beams with her bare hands, you’d think the man she comes home to every night might be a little intimidated.
But not this husband. Mrs. Scarsellone’s partner Sandro is a third degree black belt. She says when she first met him, she was already well into martial arts, so he knew it was either her way or the highway.
“He figured, ‘If I’m ever gonna see this chick I’d better get on board’,” she said. “So he started training.”
If that wasn’t enough, the couple’s 10-year-old daughter is an aspiring black belt. She now has her blue belt. This is one family you don’t want to mess with.
Today, Mrs. Scarsellone still coaches and trains, but does not compete anymore, instead leaving that to her students. But that hasn’t affected her resolve, or her fitness.
“I feel I’m in better shape now than when I competed,” she said.
And although she may not be grappling with world champions, she still practices the fundamental concepts of taekwondo such as perseverance, self-control and patience on a daily basis.
“That’s how I do everything, not just taekwondo,” she said. “I don’t know anything else now, it’s a way of life.”
For more information on Spin Kicks, call 905-532-0031. Training is offered to anyone ages three and up. The studio also offers indoor cycling and is located at 8520 Jane Street unit 7.