Courtesy of Isabel Pruitt
Isabel Pruitt is an avid belt collector.
A senior and third-degree black belt, Pruitt has been participating in Tang Soo Do since she was 6 years old. She was one of the first students of her studio, Kick Start Martial Arts, which started in a multi-purpose room at the East Lake YMCA.
Since becoming a black belt, Pruitt has been helping teach younger members of the school, known as the Little Ninjas.
“We are the leaders in the school,” Pruitt said. “We’re seen as senior members and that comes with responsibility.”
Most of the classes at the school are 45 minutes long, but due to Covid, many classes have switched to 30-minute Zoom sessions.
“We decided that we weren’t being very effective with the 45-minute classes,” Pruitt said. “The little kids just can’t really focus that long.”
A typical class Pruitt leads involves extensive stretching, punch exercises and front stretch kicks. Then, each week she focuses on a specific topic, such as jump kicks.
“We really just break it down where you can consistently do something new,” Pruitt said. “However, we’re constantly getting new white belts (beginners), so we have to continuously go over the basics as well,” Pruitt said. “Our assistant instructors, which are the red belts and higher, along with the advanced belts, also help me teach the class.”
Liam Diaz-Williamson, Pruitt’s co-worker, emphasized her ability to connect with the younger members of the school.
“She’s very perceptive of her students, so she can always tell when a kid is tired, sad or hurt,” Diaz-Williamson said. “Now with Covid19, she looks at their body language, their eyes or how they’re training. She will take a student to the side or do some sort of drill in class to make the kids feel happier.”
Because Renard Beaty, the school’s instructor, has to work more on the administrative side, Diaz-Williamson and Pruitt run most of the classes.
“My instructor has given me so much and contributed to the person that I am today, and I want younger kids to be brought up in the same community that I was,” Pruitt said. “I just love the reward of teaching, especially the Little Ninjas. When they get excited about doing something that we do in class or a skill they finally accomplished, I feel great, too.”
Freshman Cora Pruitt, Isabel’s sister, also participated in Tang Soo Do but stopped because of her busy schedule.
“It pushed me to have patience, self-control and determination,” Cora said. “I had to stop because it just didn’t fit in with my schedule, but Isabel is so passionate about it and always found a way to fit time at the school in. I know she is part of a family there.”
Aside from teaching, Pruitt continues to sharpen her skills as a martial artist. Because of her black belt level, Pruitt has been practicing hands-on self-defense.
“If someone were to grab my arm, I can get out of that pretty easily,” Pruitt said. “I also know knife defense. With Tang Soo Do, there’s always something to learn, and that’s honestly the main thing that I love about it.”
One point that Pruitt made sure to emphasize was that others should never physically know that she is a martial artist. As a teacher, she emphasizes to her students that they should only use their art if they are in danger.
“Tang Soo Do has definitely had a big impact on my life, and I honestly didn’t realize that until a few years ago,” Pruitt said. “I absolutely love it, and teaching is probably the highlight of my day. I know that I will be continuing on my Tang Soo Do journey hopefully for a long time.”