Nearly 12 years ago, Erika Lee ’12 became infatuated with a “bad” martial arts movie and began training at a local taekwondo place near her home in California. Today, Lee boasts a second degree black belt, appearances in international competitions, and a love for electrical engineering and computer science. This senior is quite the star of the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club, and also serves as treasurer and instructor for the team this year.
Lee’s journey over the years has been exhilarating and challenging. Back home, she practiced more of a traditional style of taekwondo and stuck with the sport throughout high school. At MIT, she knew she wanted to continue the sport, and tried out multiple taekwondo clubs before eventually sticking with the sport club, which practices a more competitive style.
These competitions have become a way of life for Lee, as MIT competes in the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference (ECTC), which holds five tournaments per year. MIT is hosting the first tournament of the year on Oct. 22 at the Johnson Athletics Center track. In the past, tournaments have been held at Cornell, Princeton, and West Point. Two major events take place during the tournaments: sparring and forms. In sparring, two people, usually in red or blue, fight against each other and try to score points by hitting each other in the head protector. In forms, a group usually executes a set of choreographed movements that must be done correctly.
A major highlight of Lee’s career has been traveling to Shenzhen, China this past August for the World University Games. Lee competed in the women’s team division with Rene R. Chen ’07 and Carissa Fu, a Princeton graduate. They performed Taeguek 8 and Koryo and showed a strong performance in the semifinals. In the end, they finished 9th, falling just shy of the finals by one place and 0.08 points overall.
Lee also competed at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships in Davis, CA from April 9–10, 2011 and placed second in black belt sparring and first in the women’s team competition in the U.S. Collegiate Poomsae Team Trials.
A seasoned athlete, Lee is rarely one to boast about herself. Instead, she recalls that some of her favorite memories from competing in the ECTC have been watching the growth of her peers. “It makes me so happy to see my teammates compete and do well, when they train so hard. We have a very close league … like a family,” Lee said.
Another defining moment of Lee’s ECTC experience was during her sophomore year at MIT, a time when she said that taekwondo really clicked for her. She began to see the sport in a different way and learned how to approach sparring better. Lee’s competitive nature came out when describing “winning a match against an opponent who was definitely technically more advanced than me.”
Outside of Taekwondo, Lee is very involved in her Course 6 coursework. According to her biography on the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club web page, she likes to “play video games, eat things, and kick people.”
Lee says that the club sport is extremely time-consuming, but she greatly enjoys spending time with the team — no other activity at MIT fit the same way. As team captain last year, Lee was very involved with leadership and executive decisions and has since helped out with training seminars. She loves working with the new members and watching them excel at competition. As Lee said, “Taekwondo is my home at MIT.”
Erika Lee and the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club train twice per week, on Fridays and Sundays, and are preparing for their first tournament of the year on Oct. 22. The club also holds physical education classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.