Who is the best person to learn martial arts from? A Grand Master? A Sensei?

Well, for one mother from Bethesda, in the US state of Maryland, the answer is, your kids.

Melissa Marquez has been studying at Coles Martial Arts Academy in Bethesda for just over a year. It is the same martial arts studio where her two sons also train. Ryan Oliver, 13, and Dylan Oliver, 9 had both been training there for some time.

Ryan has been attending Coles since he was just four years old, and over nine years of martial arts training has seen him rise to the level of a third-degree black belt in taekwondo. His younger brother Dylan has been learning taekwondo at the same academy since the age of five, and he too is now a black belt.

Mum had been looking on proudly and a little jealously for some time as they honed their skills and climbed up the rankings. And finally, she decided that she wanted a piece of the action as well, as she explained to

Single Mum Wants to Get a Taekwondo Black Belt

taekwondo black belt mum

“I really watched them going to class, performing, going through the ranks, and I wanted to do it too,” Melissa Marquez explained. “But since I’m a single mum, I sort of had to wait until the timing was right. And the timing is right now that they’re actually both black belts, so they’re good tutors for me.”

A year on from taking the plunge and Marquez herself is not rising slowly through the ranks towards the level her sons are at. She has been aiming towards her red belt and such is her enthusiasm for taekwondo that she has been taking extra classes and much of the family’s time at home is spent practising together.

Marquez praises the technical knowledge of taekwondo which she says has been hugely helpful to her. And the fact that both boys have proved to be able teachers and are not shy about training with the Mum, and telling her when she is doing things wrong, is sure to have helped her.

“I ask them to be extremely picky and they are because it’s their opportunity to tell me what to do and tell me what I’m doing wrong,” she said. “Actually, they’re both very good teachers.”

Learning from a Taekwondo Grand Master

taekwondo black belt mum

All three family members are also taught by Grand Master Michael Coles, who has been practising taekwondo for more than 40 years, and Marquez was particularly gushing in her praise of his teaching of the mental aspects of training.

“The things that he will sort of instil in his students about confidence, about believing in yourself, the mental aspects of the sport that sort of carry over into your regular lives, I think that’s extremely important,” said Marquez. “I like that my kids started at a young age sort of hearing those things. You need to hear them over and over again, and hopefully, it sticks.  But it’s good for the adults too because we need to be reminded.”

Finally a Taekwondo Black Belt?

taekwondo black belt mum

In February, Marquez finally earned her red belt. But before she was presented with it, she had to take part in a graduation ceremony in front of a panel of experts from the academy. Predictably, both of her sons were sitting on the panel.

Marquez was nervous beforehand, but she held it together, and her sons were not too scathing about her performance afterwards.

“I did see her mess up a couple times,” said Ryan. “She got a little nervous and she started looking around for other people to help her, and maybe that’s not the best thing. I just think, just focus on your own thing… [but] I knew she was going to do well from the beginning.”

Dylan echoed his older brother’s analysis. “I knew she was going to do well,” he added. “She messed up, maybe little mistakes, maybe three or four times.”

But the criticism is all good natured and shows what a close-knit family the Marquez’ clearly are. And one thing that will definitely continue to bond this mother and her two sons is their mutual love of taekwondo. And in a couple of years, Melissa Marquez hopes to have finally caught up with her boys and have earned a taekwondo black belt of her very own.

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