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Astrid Haugen: Wife, Mother, Black Belt

By Blondell Peterson
January 2006

From left, John Stranzl, Jr, Astrid Haugen and Master Kang Seok Lee gather for photos after Haugen's husband received his deputy  black belt.
From left, John Stranzl, Jr, Astrid Haugen and Master Kang Seok Lee gather for photos after Haugen's husband received his deputy black belt. (Photo Courtesy of Astrid Haugen)

When Astrid Haugen graduated from eighth grade and was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she quickly said, "I want to be a Master one day and own my own school." Since she was so impressed with martial arts and Bruce Lee, her parents thought it was a logical answer.

Now a scientist in the NIEHS DNA repair lab, Haugen has made great strides toward fulfilling the goal she set in junior high school. She is an assistant instructor at K. S. Lee Martial Arts Academy in Cary, and she will test for her second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do in May or June of 2006. "Being a black belt is really the beginning of training, and not the end," Haugen said. "It is a milestone, and nothing more. I still have a lot of learning and improving to do, especially in my self-defense techniques and ability to focus."

Haugen says her goals are more of a one-day-at-a-time philosophy. Everyday she hopes to improve her knowledge and skills in martial arts. "My intention is to be the best martial artist I can be," Haugen said. "The only way I can do this is to look at what I can learn today. Becoming a Master is down the road at this point."

According to Haugen it takes approximately 8-10 years to become a master. Students who test for master must learn 20 forms and 140 self defense techniques, and spar with 5 people at the same time. In addition to proficiency in at least one weapon, breaking requirements are intensified. Her instructor, a 7th degree black belt, broke fourteen slabs of marble in a demonstration last summer. Those who test for Master normally go to Korea to train with other masters prior to their test. "It's hard enough being a scientist, and a good wife and mother," she laughs.

Fortunately, spending time with her husband, John, and her eight-year-old son, Kent, isn't a challenge since the threesome trains together at least two nights each week. Haugen's husband has a black belt and her son has a red belt in Tae Kwon Do. Haugen said the school they attend is unique. Out of several families who attend evening classes, 5 families that Haugen is close friends with, consist of all black belts. At Haugen's school, children and adults train together and only break off into belt groups for sparring or other specific techniques. The 11 forms and 120 self-defense techniques are common for all students testing for a black belt. Adults and children training together is unusual among martial arts schools.

Learning the forms and self-defense tcan be a challenge, especially for children. Haugen's son, who has trained since he was 5 years old, can attest to that. "When he had earned a green belt, he wanted to quit becausehe wasn't ready to test for three testing periods," Haugen said. "He said it was just so hard to learn the green belt form and self defense techniques. "I almost let him quit because he was so adamant, but I told him to just keep trying. He did and when he got that orange belt, he was so proud of himself! It's been smooth sailing for him ever since. Now, he even performs with the school's demonstration team." Haugen's son will test for his deputy black belt in the spring. His next step is knowing all the forms and self-defense techniques from all the lower belts and cinder block breaking when he tests for his black belt.

Haugen said she is pleased that her son learned the valuable lesson about how to persevere to reach a goal. Another reason Haugen enjoys having her son come to class with her is the other values that are taught along with the physical training. Master Kang Seok Lee requires that each student learn, and be able to recite, the "ten commandments" --a list of instructions for conduct in and outside of class. The "commandments" are:

  1. Be loyal to your country,
  2. Honor your parents,
  3. Be loving between husband and wife,
  4. Be cooperative between brother and sister,
  5. Be faithful to your friends,
  6. Be respectful to your elders,
  7. Establish trust between teacher and student,
  8. Use good judgment before killing living things,
  9. Never retreat in battle, and
  10. Always finish what you start.

Haugen said her favorite "commandment" is "always finish what you start." "I'm also a writer," she said. "So, every time I start to write another book, I keep that in mind-that I've got to finish it."

Under the alias of, "Lora Kenton," Haugen co-authors historical romance novels with her best friend, Susan Sipal. The pen name is a combination of Sipal's daughter's name, Lora, and Haugen's son's name, Kent. Both Haugen and Sipal write separately as well. Right now Haugen's publisher is holding her newest novel, and will publish it at an opportune promotional time. "There are thousands of manuscripts out there. It's all about timing and marketing," Haugen said.

There are several genres of romance novels, according to Haugen. Historical novels have a story line set before World War II. She also writes contemporary novels or "Chicklits." According to Haugen they are written about today's woman, ranging from the twenty-something to the woman who's gone through a divorce, or seen her children go off to college. Haugen writes more about the thirty-five and older woman starting a news phase in her life. Haugen said examples of movies that carry this type of story line are, "Something's Gotta Give," "Under the Tuscan Sun," or "Waiting to Exhale."

In a case of life imitating art, Haugen met her husband at Tae Kwon Do class. "I was conducting some training sessions, and he started coming to observe," she laughs.

Romance bloomed, and now the couple shares the distinction of having martial arts Black Belts. The couple, now assist instructors at the school while Haugen's son trains and performs with the school's demonstration team. The team performs at schools and other organizations. Their demonstrations include forms, self defense techniques and breaking boards and cinder blocks.

Haugen said she plans to make the trek to Korea with Master Lee in the future. "Nothing would be better than going to Korea with Master Lee," she said. "He knows the country. Also, I would get to practice with Tae Kwon Do martial artists in the land where the art was born."

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