Leilani is on the front lines of responding to Covid cases in Philadelphia. She was one of the registered nurses scrounging for enough protective equipment to get through her shifts last spring. She worked long hours and kept going with her studies in graduate school. At times, she physically practiced karate in an empty corner of the hospital during a break, keeping all of her protective equipment on. 

At work, she is attentive-nurse-Leilani, on track to graduate as a nurse practitioner by the end of the year.

In martial arts, she is the Lotus Warrior, a persona that pushes her to work hard in class.

She didn’t just practice at the hospital. She sent us videos of practicing her moves in the snow. She trained in her living room. She faced personal hardships: friends and relatives became ill. Some died.

Martial arts was her escape. Here is a text she sent us early on in the pandemic: 

“The other day me and other nurses were pulled to a complete Covid-19 floor full of patients.  It’s overwhelming mentally and spiritually.  But I look forward to class today, tomorrow and Friday.  It’s the time I get to focus on something positive.  Thank you.”  

This positive “something” started as a way to help her 10-year-old son overcome bullying. 

“Bullying set him back mentally where he didn’t want to speak up for himself. Now even in remote schooling Avery is the first one to raise his hand, to want to lead in Action Karate class, starting to speak up for himself to the same little boys that were bullying him. It’s phenomenal his mind is working a little different in a good way because of Action Karate,” she said. 

She had a dream in the back of her mind that she would get to practice martial arts, but she didn’t realize how quickly it would take hold as part of her life.

“Focus, determination, and this unbelievable thing I just cannot quit. I’ve always been a determined person, never let anything stop me. When we say the student creed, it gets to me. It resonates with me on the inside. Winners never quit, quitters never win. I transfer that to school. 

“I’m an RN trying to be a family nurse practitioner. It’s very challenging with Covid, the pandemic and taking care of really sick people.  I always keep in the back of my mind as a student at Action Karate, what we do, what we say before each class. I remember that and it sets me up for success. I do not quit, I never give up,” she said.

 “We truly thank you and everyone at Action Karate for helping us achieve our goals.”

Martial arts has helped her lose weight, feel more comfortable in her body and have more energy for her husband and son. When karate classes were exclusively on Zoom, she adjusted quickly because she was familiar with online training in her education. “Learning shouldn’t stop because of other things,” she said. 

It’s a lesson she sees in her instructors and martial arts peers. Other parents and families working hard toward their goals and having fun.

“You don’t want to get hurt, kicked or punched but life is hard, life is kicking and punching us right now. Go out and do it. Do it right now. Do a side kick. You’ll love it and never turn back and keep going forward,” she said. “No you’re not going to be perfect your first time. Your 10th time. You’re not going to know how strong you are until you put yourself out there in an uncomfortable situation. That is hard no matter what age, what fitness level, but it’s so much fun. Look at it as if to say bragging. ‘I did my first class. I did a kick and a punch, what did you do?’ Keep that momentum flowing before you know it you’ll have someone text you you’re eligible to earn your black belt.” 

She’s referring to a text we sent her a few weeks ago, indicating she and her son are eligible to test for Black Belt at the end of 2021, she replied: 

 “This is the best news I’ve heard since 2019! We will continue to work harder! My dreams are coming true! Thank you! Asah”