Upon entering a taekwondo class at the CdM Black Belt Center, one can expect to find instructor Danielle Tolsma demonstrating the form curriculum, or poomsae, to a group of students.
Her uniform snaps with every sharp movement. She slices through the air with clenched fists, packing powerful punches, while wide-eyed children stare in awe. With her final motion, Tolsma’s energy bursts forth in an echoing shout, or kihap, a direct contrast to the Corona del Mar senior’s quiet demeanor in the classroom.
“Most people are usually a little surprised that I do martial arts,” Tolsma said. “But they think it’s cool.”
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art with an emphasis on precision, kicking techniques, and self-defense. There are multiple facets of taekwondo, including sparring, forms, and demonstration.
Tolsma, a certified second degree black belt, started taking martial arts classes when she was in fifth grade. It was not until she moved to Newport Beach as a freshman that her competitive training in forms began.
She first tested her abilities in local tournaments and has since gone on to compete in several international championships. The young instructor advanced to the semifinals in the U.S. Open and National Championships and won first place in the California State Open.
“The competition can be quite intimidating, but finally performing what I’ve been training for is always rewarding,” Tolsma said. “It’s also eye-opening to see athletes from around the world.”
Today, Tolsma spends her afternoons and weekends training young students in the color belt curriculum at the CdM Black Belt Center.
“Being an instructor has been really fun,” Tolsma said. “The limitless variety of activities and, of course, cute kids, keeps the job interesting. It’s the perfect job for me because I can teach students everything that I myself learned over the years.”
Tolsma assists the masters in teaching everything from the Little Warriors class for 4- to 6-year-olds to the family class for all ages and belt levels. It is her job to lead warm-up exercises and teach the curriculum, which includes hand techniques, forms, and board breaking.
“Training with Danielle has had a very positive influence on me,” senior Sarah Milliken said. “Not only has her skill inspired me to work harder, but her kind personality has also made the overall training experience very enjoyable.”
As an instructor, Tolsma has the responsibility of teaching the five core values of taekwondo: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. She teaches these values by setting a positive example for her students.
“This sport is the best for teaching kids discipline and respect,” Tolsma said. “I am proud to exemplify the core values of my sport in my daily life.”
Tolsma is a member of the Corona del Mar National Honor Society and encourages her peers to act with academic integrity. She is also co-president of International Club, a board member of the Doctors of Tomorrow club, and a member of the Triton Tech robotics team.
In both academics and athletics, Tolsma is always eager to further her education.
“I’ve continued taekwondo for all these years because there is always something more I can learn,” Tolsma said.
Tolsma’s favorite kicking technique is the side kick, in which the kicker drives their knee up toward the target and extends their leg, using the full power of their hips, core, and back muscles to deliver a forceful impact. The side kick was once Tolsma’s weakest kick, but after she dedicated time to perfecting the motion, it became her favorite kicking technique.
As a second degree black belt, Tolsma is no stranger to challenges. It took years of instruction and perseverance to reach her current belt level and competitive ability.
“Black belt tests are brutal,” Tolsma said. “I came out of each of my tests with black and blue knuckles that lasted for weeks, but it was worth it.”
Tolsma’s motivation and passion for the sport allow her to push through the pain and find success as an athlete, competitor, and an instructor.
“There is never a dull moment in taekwondo,” Tolsma said. “And in my completely objective and absolutely unbiased opinion, it is the best martial art. I love it.”