Name of University: Ohio State University
Name of Athlete: Eissam Farraj- Junior
Belt and or Dan: 1st Dan
Are you a team officer? If so what is your position and what do you do to support the team?
I am the Vice President of the Taekwondo Club. I support the president in anything he needs, set up social events, inform any student interested in the club, inside and outside club time how we structure things, talk with and encourage anyone interested in joining or competing, support and advice fellow club members in any way they need, as well as instruct/lead classes whenever our primary instructor is absent.
Who was or is your primary Taekwondo instructor?
Master Andy Choi
What influenced you to get started in Taekwondo?
My father had my three sisters and I join as we were young children; however, we eventually stopped due to financial issues. We were there for about three-four years and I almost obtained my black belt. Around five years later I started high school and my cousin and I wanted to get back into it so we went back to our old school, OMAC, and we participated in Master Moo-Sung Choi’s Wednesday sparring class. It completely changed how I saw taekwondo, I never realized it was a competitive sport and I’ve also never sweat so much in my life, even to this day. I joined the school once again and began training starting my white belt all over again. What really influenced this decision was how I viewed my self-worth at the time. I was a very insecure, timid boy at the time, and seeing what I could be by looking up to my old coach, influenced me to not just learn martial arts, to not just compete or earn a black belt, but to improve my character beyond what I could have ever believed.
What has kept you going?
My first few years were rough, and I was much more unmotivated as I am now; however, halfway through my high-school year, my previous coach and mentor moved away for something very important to him. The small competitive team we had begun to drift apart as well, leaving me, the only serious competitor at my school branch, to train alone. Although there are many intelligent and hardworking instructors and students at my school, no one was experienced enough to work with me. I didn’t let this stop me. For years, I would train by myself, and everyone at my school began to be very supportive, even new people just passing by would admire my dedication. A lot of people began to look up to me and I began to realize how far I’ve come. The support and love from everyone as well as the impact that Taekwondo has had on my life, has pushed me through difficult times, and I have met so many amazing people not just through Taekwondo, but through martial arts as well. It is all this and so much more that pushes me to do taekwondo for the rest of my life.
How is Taekwondo a positive influence in your academic life?
Taekwondo has had a very significant impact on not only my academic life, but my entire character as well. Competing and training as hard as I did, I realized my potential. When I first began Taekwondo, I never took school seriously, and I was very insecure with my intelligence and also with my physical strength and ability. This insecurity began to fade away as I would train harder, and as I would grow stronger, along with my progress in weight lifting. I knew if I was this capable of growing this much in terms of physical ability, that I could also become more intelligent and wise, as long as I work hard enough. Taekwondo has thought me many words of wisdom to take to heart, but one phrase I always keep in mind is “training of the mind, body, spirit, and emotion”. To become an amazing character in life, it is not just physical feats that I need to challenge myself with, but my mind, spirit, and emotion as well. Meditating in Taekwondo has thought me to be dedicated in anything I care about, to be patient, persistent, and determined. I would apply all of these things I’ve learned throughout my years of training to my academics, and it has taken me to achieve things I never thought I was capable of. It has changed my life, as I used to be lazy and ignorant, I became top of my class in high school, and it has given me the confidence and determination to go to university and achieve my life dreams.
How is your University team special?
My University team is really special in my eyes, as I have met very amazing people in the little over a year I’ve been here. Taekwondo has brought to some very diverse people, everyone is quite unique in my eyes, and I am happy to be a friend to everyone there. Everyone has their own passions, talents, and personalities. Of course there are many members who have previous experience in Taekwondo, but there are also many who are new, and it amazes me how dedicated they are. They defiantly stand out to me compared to many others I have met along University. They all support, and push each other to grow, and they happily learn and participate.
How do your team members support each other?
We are all friends and family at the club, so we not only support each other with club responsibilities but also give a helping hand with anything else. We make sure everyone is doing what they should be doing, and always give friendly reminders when needed. We make sure everyone is doing great and always give emotional and mental support to one another. Whether it is a club member, a competitor, or an officer, we support each other equally and would never turn our back on anyone.
How has Taekwondo been a positive influence to your university or university community?
Twice a year (sometimes more) we host a self-defense night at our club. Usually it is around Halloween and Spring break, and we advertise it as much as we can; we always have amazing turnouts in terms of numbers and diversity. It is completely free, and our instructor, Andy, is very intelligent and experienced in this subject. We spend the entire two hours of class going though different dangerous scenarios, and how to not just physically defend yourself, but also how to mentally go about these situations. He also gives amazing and supportive advice to anyone who comes, and does this out of the kindness of his heart for the University community
What are your goals for after graduation?
After I graduate I have many plans, and I need to make many decisions, which will affect my Taekwondo career depending on my choices. Right now my main goals are to either become a sports medicine physician working with passionate, injured athletes or a physical therapist helping anyone in pain. After suffering from a serious hip injury for the past two years, I understand the stress and pain it is to be an athlete and not be able to train and do what you love. I want to help and heal people so that they can live their lives as best as they can and do what makes them happy to continue to grow stronger as human beings. Along with this, my dream is to open up a martial arts school with a gym inside, and I want to be a Taekwondo instructor and coach. I want to help people become stronger and maybe even change their lives as it has mine. I am also experienced in other arts so I hope to have classes on many other things, a few for example being boxing, yoga, and tumbling.
What are your goals for Taekwondo?
As I said before, I hope to continue being an instructor and pass on everything Taekwondo has thought me. Right now I am working with several students at my university interested in competing, so I am pushing them and training with them to be successful. Along with that, I want to continue being an important role in this club, and doing my best to get more people interested. I still have many personal goals in terms of my ability, and I plan to keep working hard to achieve those. I want to keep moving forward with my rank as school and the club has stopped me lately from making time for it. Overall, I just want to make people smile and have fun at the end of the day, and I want to do my best to help those who are dedicated grow stronger in not just physical ability, but also in mind, emotion, and spirit.