Not every woman can throw a man to the ground and have him bounce up for more, yet that is a normal day for Teresa Yates. This 37 year old Creve Coeur woman has completed training for her 1st degree black belt in the Korean martial art of Kuk Sool Won. The man she gets to throw around is her husband and instructor, 2nd degree black belt, Mike Yates. Teresa is the fourth member of her family to become a Kuk Sool Won black belt.

Her interest in martial arts began when Mike introduced her to jujitsu in high school.

"As kids sometimes do, I lost interest and stopped going. In 1997, I decided I wanted to get involved in some type of martial art again. Mike and I had not seen each other for several years, so I thought I would try a school I didn’t think he was affiliated with. A few months after I was there, Mike returned home from the Army and stopped by the school because one of his former instructors taught there. Needless to say, we were reunited and we were married in 1998. I again stopped training to have our daughter."

After watching her husband and children begin training at Kuk Sool Won of Peoria, Teresa wanted to join but was hesitant.

”I was overweight and thought I was getting too old. I’m so glad I took the leap and started training with them. It not only brought us together as a family, it helped with weight loss, gave me energy, and taught me how to defend myself and my children."

What should have taken three or four years to complete has taken eight years for Teresa. It has not been easy. Motherhood, and two full-time jobs may have sidelined her training but she never gave up. This dedication to Kuk Sool Won has even evolved into the Yates’ opening their own school, Kuk Sool Won of Pekin, in 2011. During the day, Teresa works full time at Heinold-Banwart as a pension plan administrator. After her day job, she works in the office at Kuk Sool Won of Pekin, followed by an evening class.

"Mike and I work very well together running the school. Because both of us also work full time jobs during the day, and go straight to the school in the evening, spending time together outside of Kuk Sool can sometimes be difficult. But, who needs time outside of Kuk Sool, right? I love training with him; however, he tells me I am his most difficult student."

Like most married couples, they have days in which they annoy each other. At first, Teresa would avoid training with her husband during those times but soon learned to use her anger as a training tool and a way to relieve stress. It is this never give up attitude that paid off on Thursday, June 12 when Teresa tested in front of Kuk Sool Won founder and Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh.

Every black belt candidate must test at least eight times, with his or her first and final test in front of Grandmaster Suh who visited Peoria as part of the Super Seminar Master's Training, a yearly opportunity for black belt candidates to test in front of the Grandmaster without having to travel to another school. Those who endured the non-stop three hour black belt test on Thursday then jumped back into training on Friday for another three hours alongside students from the Pekin and Peoria schools. 

For Teresa, Kuk Sool Won means more than self-defense. It also means family. Her children, Tristen and Madison, are both black belts and are currently working towards their 2nd degree black belts. Her husband has always had an interest in martial arts, receiving black belts in three other styles, before introducing his family to Kuk Sool Won. Thursday’s test allowed husband and wife to test side by side as Mike took his first test towards his 3rddegree black belt. What began as a hobby for Teresa has turned into a lifestyle for her and her family of Kuk Sool Won black belts.