Hear Me Roar
October 2021 Issue
Photography by Lindsay Gifford
Competition Photos Courtesy of Andi Lynn Woods
Hometown: Ridgeland, SC
Career: Martial Arts Instructor
You started martial arts when you were 3 years old? Where has this practice taken you?
I did! Physically, it’s taken me all over the US for tournaments, trainings, and visiting friends I’ve made through martial arts. In general, it’s built my confidence and leadership skills. It has introduced friendships that have lasted for years and given me an outlet to love people, to give them a safe place, and to make an impact in their lives. I’m able to share the lessons I’ve learned through martial arts like perseverance, confidence, raising up leaders, building family connections, and being a champion in life!
How has being accomplished in martial arts enhanced your life?
It’s expanded my reach of impact. It’s opened doors for new opportunities to meet people and to build connections, as well as sparking people’s interest in what I have to offer, or what I have to say. People listen when they’re intrigued by what you do and what you say.
Have you ever met any of the celebrities known for martial arts?
Chuck Norris! We see him every year when we travel to Las Vegas for training. And, I was able to visit his ranch in Texas once. At our training event in Vegas, we’ve had lots of famous martial artists come in and work with us, including Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and Richard Norton, who does a lot of stunt choreography for movies like Suicide Squad, X-men Dark Phoenix, and The Amazing Spider-Man.
I’ve also met many tournament champions who are well-known in the martial arts world and do a lot of stunt work behind the scenes. A few of them are:
-Matt Emig (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Black Panther, The Mandalorian)
-Caitlin Dechelle (Wonder Woman, The Mandalorian, Star Wars IX, Guardians of the Galaxy)
-Mackensi Emory (Obi-Wan Kenobi series, coming soon)
You are a singer/songwriter/musician, tell us about your love for music:
Music is a universal language. It can bring life and healing, and I love getting to be a part of that. I grew up in a musical family, so it’s always been a love and passion. I love getting to lead worship, getting to write and play my own songs, performing places and seeing people resonate with the words being sung and FEEL the music being played. I love, love, love it!
What is your favorite lyric you’ve ever written? “I may fall down, hit the ground, but no I’m not out. Watch me rise up and straighten my crown. ‘Cuz, baby I’m a Queen.”
What does Liberia, West Africa mean to you?
It’s family. We’ve done mission work there for years, and developed friendships and connections that have lasted through the years, and now they are family. I love the work we get to do there, and I love every chance we get to go there and visit in-person. We’ve been able to help fund projects for clean water, a home for orphaned boys, and now we also have a school to educate the children in the surrounding villages. I love seeing the growth, and now we are getting to the stage where the people can be self-sustaining and able to keep projects and development going.
You have accomplished so much in your young years, what are your goals in the next five years?
I want to keep loving people and making a positive impact. I want to keep growing myself and helping others grow, as well. There’s much to do, and I don’t want to get so comfortable that I miss what God has planned for me. I want to continue teaching martial arts, leading worship, going on mission trips, building relationships and helping others truly LIVE.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
I’d say my parents. They both passionately love Jesus and have helped me walk in my relationship with Him. My mom owns the karate school I grew up in, so she has trained me and raised me in that. My dad is an incredible musician who can play any instrument he touches. He was a big influence in me learning guitar and pursuing music. He’s also a worship leader, so I’ve learned a lot from him in that. My mom also plays drums, and we all lead worship together at our home church. It’s a family thing! We’ve all been to Liberia on missions trips, and again, they are big influences in developing my heart for people, for God and for making a difference in the lives of people, through music, missions and martial arts. I owe a lot of who I am to them, and I’m forever grateful!
You are involved in some really serious missions. What do you do to let your hair down and have fun?
I LOVE spending time with friends and family! I like longboarding, reading, watching superhero movies, and playing games with friends.
What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
I would have said skydiving … but recently I just went through a divorce and facing life after that is a little scary! But moving forward and choosing to LIVE is so worth it! Whether it’s taking leaps out of airplanes, or baby steps after hardships, take it. Take the leaps, take the steps. Keep pressing on! Keep moving forward! “Stand! And when you’ve done all, stand. Don’t dare give up. Stand!”
What is your favorite Bible verse?
Ephesians 3:20 — “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Do you have words you live by?
“Be a blessing!” Every time my mom would drop me off at school, or at someone’s house, she would tell me to go be a blessing. Even now when I go places, my dad tells me the same. It’s something I most definitely want to live by.
If you could share a meal with anyone (living, dead, real or make-believe) who would it be and why?
Corrie ten Boom! I read The Hiding Place years ago, and it changed my life. Surviving the trauma of the Holocaust and being able to see God work even in the midst, encourages me beyond words. I get so much from her books that I can only imagine how it would be hearing from her in person. I feel like I would sit there in awe, hearing the stories and learning life lessons. It would truly be an experience!
What are you currently “Roaring” about?
Haha! I guess a few things, but they’re all important to me. Joy and Peace: If you’ve lost it, get your joy back! Stay anchored in it! Stay anchored in real joy and real peace. Don’t let people, or situations around you, bring you down and keep you down. Choose joy and choose peace. We can’t control people’s actions, but we can control our REactions! Love: People need to be loved. So be brave, be confident and step outside of your comfort zone! Whether it’s an encouraging word, or text, or a message of TRUTH. Give love and also allow yourself to be loved by others and yourself. Family: Family is so important! Stay in community and stay connected! You need people and people need you.
It’s time to rise up and be confident in who we were made to be:) There is so much life to be lived… and it’s time to start living!