Black belt perseverance
Growing up, Cassandra Senchuk watched her friends being active in various sports. Senchuk couldn’t participate alongside them because she has cerebral palsy, a disorder that causes the muscles to be very tight and also causes unsteady balance.
One day, Senchuk’s mom received a newsletter from the Children’s Treatment Centre and noticed an article detailing how martial arts had been shown to increase flexibility and balance, strengthen bones and increase one’s self-esteem.
At 15 years of age, Senchuk decided to give karate a try.
She started off with private lessons and fell in love with the sport. Through consistent attendance and a capable attitude in her private lessons, Senchuk trained her way up to an orange belt within a couple of years. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, Senchuk was forced to discontinue her lessons. In sheer disappointment, she found herself, once again, sitting out of most sports activities.
After karate had made such a positive impact in Senchuk’s life, parents Joanne and Walter, knew there had to be another opportunity out there for their daughter — it was just a matter of finding it. Little did they know their finding would be the spark of a flame, reignited by a passion that would keep burning — with Senchuk persevering through to the top level in the martial art.
Under the careful teachings of instructor Steve Gagne at Impact Martial Arts Academy, Senchuk was able to continue her training within the art of Taekwondo. Even more, she was brave enough to accept Gagne’s invitation to participate in regular group classes.
“Being part of the class makes me feel happy that I belong and I fit in like everyone else,” the teen said. “Nobody treats me differently. Instructor Steve is a great mentor and talks to us all the time about setting goals and reaching those goals. My goals were to compete in a tournament and to get my black belt.”
After one year, Senchuk had reached the blue belt intermediate level. She summoned up all of her courage and participated in her first local tournament.
At the end of the event, she felt very proud of her achievement. “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I did it!”
With a new glowing confidence collected throughout the local tournament circuit that year, Senchuk then decided it was time to set her eye on the prize — her ultimate dream of becoming a black belt.
What followed, were three years of repetitious drills of kicks, punches, forms, self-defence, sparring, and board breaking. Training had become as important as breathing.
Clearly knowing her weaknesses and always wanting to better herself, Senchuk knew she couldn’t afford to miss out on any classes.
“I only recall her missing about two classes in the four years she’s been here, and they were only because of extreme circumstances,” Gagne said.
“On top of training, I had to prepare several classes and teach them to the beginners in order to prove my leadership skills,” Senckuk added.
Upon receiving the invitation that would give her the opportunity to achieve her lifelong dream, she embarked on her final mission with just as much enthusiasm and passion as she had when she began.
On Dec. 12, 2012, Senchuk had successfully persevered through the entire gruelling process and was awarded her black belt, demonstrating that an incredible ability lies within every disability.