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Kick, Mijita This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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“His head! Keep trying!” I can hear my father's voice from behind the dojo's glass.

I dance around Victor, switching my stance. I am his mirror; whatever he does, I do as well. I refuse to leave my chest piece vulnerable. This samurai mentality, however, is met with some resistance by my not-so-samurai body. My hamstrings protest from the strain. I'm frustrated. Why can't I get my leg up to Victor's head? I've done it before, and now my foot is caught on his neck. Feeling his sweat, I'm glad. At least he's nervous.

As soon as I drop my leg, though, I lose my balance. Taekwondo does that to me. I'm bouncing frantically now, almost falling. I can feel drops of sweat tracing a sticky, uncomfortable path down my back. Victor kicks more with his right leg, so I adjust myself accordingly, but now my knees are weak from too much bouncing. A headshot would give me the points to win the sparring match, but I just can't bring my body forward.

My stomach clenches as I lurch forward in an attempt to fake Victor out. Ouch. His defense blow reopens a cut that had almost healed.

The black emblem on his headpiece, the emblem of Won's Taekwondo Academy, is all I can see. I breathe in. Damp. Humid. Alive. Like a slow reenactment on CSI, I see my father in slow motion, excited and urging: Kick, mijita.

My leg flies up and I feel the clap of the perfect, satisfying roundhouse kick; it reaches the center of his chest. I haven't gotten Victor's head yet, but I keep kicking. I keep my leg up even when my muscles pull in pain and I cannot feel anything. I keep kicking, striking the side targets, relishing the sound and the feeling of my foot on the chest piece.

After stumbling back, Victor charges with an aggressive side kick. He misses my chest, but not my back, which my chest piece doesn't cover. I hear my master's voice above my breathing. Persevere. Finish what you started. I gather up any energy I've been saving; I put the classic tenets of taekwondo into practice. Clap. My foot reaches the goal, the endpoint, and the black emblem of Won's Taekwondo Academy.

I am content.

My braid spills out of my headgear as I lean down to shake Victor's hand. My breathing is now level.

With this match over, I stare at my hands. They are small but persistent, delicate but strong. I remove my arm guards and exhale. I've won this match, but I have many more ahead of me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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