Kaushila Khanal Karmacharya was only 9 years old when she saw tae kwon do for the first time. Standing in the streets of Nepal, she observed a group of young boys moving through their techniques for over an hour before asking herself: “If they can do it, why not I?”
Walking home that day, Karmacharya didn’t understand what she’d witnessed, but she knew she wanted to try it.
Today, Karmacharya is a fourth-degree black belt master. She owns her own tae kwon do studio in North Hill where she teaches kids ages 4-21.
“In our community, it’s not common for girls to do tae kwon do,” Karmacharya says. “They think, ‘What can the girls do? Girls can’t do nothing.’ But for us girls, self-defense is so important. At least they can fight and they can protect themselves if they learn tae kwon do or any martial art.”
For Karmacharya, tae kwon do is an art form. It’s about discipline and being confident. Karmacharya describes herself as someone who is “very independent,” and who doesn’t like to hesitate when pursuing her passions.
“I am strong. I want to do something new every day,” she says. “I want to try new things. I want to support the community I’m in. Especially the women. [Tae kwon do] builds up your inner heart and confidence, and you feel like ‘ooh, I am learning something.’”
Karmacharya started Sunshine Academy in April 2019, and over the last year, she’s coached over 100 kids. About half her students are young girls.
In March, Sunshine Academy had to temporarily close its doors due to COVID-19. Karmacharya currently teaches online, but it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s so tough, so tough,” she says. “I’ve faced ups and downs in my life, and it happens. But so many of my students and parents have symptoms, and it’s hard to send them here. And some live in apartments and they don’t have enough space to do tae kwon do. In tae kwon do you need to run, jump, kick. It is very difficult for them.”
Though Karmacharya’s class size has decreased, she enjoys spending time with the kids who come to her virtual sessions, and continues to believe the discipline and focus tae kwon do teaches kids is valuable.
“When I’m working with the kid and they are doing something successful, it brings me joy,” she says. “The little kids are very active. They are very good and like to learn and have fun.”