I talked this past week with Jennifer Weitenberner, a physician, mother of two, and (as of this writing) a high-gold belt in karate. Actually the whole family (including Jennifer’s husband Nick, also a doctor) has just earned this rank. What’s remarkable is they’ve already been nominated—and have committed to—the Leadership track toward 2nd-degree Black Belt.
What does it feel like to get on this track so early into your martial arts journey? Read on.
Where are you from?
I’m from South Florida originally. I met my husband (Nick) in Birmingham, Alabama, where we both had a medical residency.
You said your kids “were the impetus” for your family getting into martial arts. How old are they?
They’re four and five. We’d read a lot about the benefits for kids [with respect to] self-control and focus and great things that come from martial arts [training].
Did you and your husband join them right away?
Yeah. When we were searching for potential martial arts schools, Ripple Effect’s family emphasis drew us in. [My husband and I] thought it was a great opportunity to get in shape and prepare ourselves for self-defense.
How are you liking it?
It’s been wonderful. We did it for the kids, but Nick and I have found it amazing. We love Ripple Effect.
What inspired the love for karate, after you’d joined?
You meet those Black Belts and it’s like, I wanna be like you when I grow up [laughs]. They [Black Belt instructors] are such admirable people. Great examples for kids.
As a mother and a doctor, you obviously have a lot of patience, intelligence, poise. How does karate challenge you?
Like I said it gets you in shape, physically. But it gets you out of your comfort zone.
Getting up in front of people—lots of people—doing something you’ve never done before. I’d love more confidence in my job, in my life, and performing karate moves and forms has already helped. Neither [Nick or I] realized how much martial arts could benefit us, including our kids. It’s unnerving at first, because you’re not used to doing any of this. But we put on the uniform, and it makes you grow.
How’s your growth going? What are some highlights?
Our first tournament as white belts. It was low key, lots of fun, little pressure. A great introduction to [karate] performance.
And you’ve now tested into high gold. So you’re starting forms and combos.
We just started Chon-Ji [Heaven and Earth, the first form learned in Ripple Effect’s style of taekwondo].
How are the kids adjusting to that advancement?
The instructors help keep it fun [as the curriculum gets more complex], so they’re loving it. Watching Mom and Dad train in weapons is piquing their interest [laughs]. The want to play with the cool toys.
Any specific inspiration that you or your kids have experienced this early in your Black Belt training?
Right away, you get in there and see what it takes to earn a Black Belt. It makes you admire it so much, especially the young people. Just watching [Black Belt instructors] Ms. Garcia, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Jono teach the classes, watching them command attention, you realize this is so much more than learning how to punch and kick.
You gain confidence, maturity. The amount of work and dedication it takes… I’m so terribly impressed. This will benefit you in all areas of your life.