Hometown: San Francisco, Calif.
Originally from: Potomac, Md.
Education: Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif.
Hobbies: tennis, piano and watching a lot of television, especially Lost and America's Next Top Models.
Sport: Tae kwon do
It's A Fact: Earned a black belt in November 2005 under the watchful eye of Master Ken Craig, capped by a four-hour final exam. 'That was absolutely amazing,' he said of earning the black belt. 'It was very tiring and nerve-racking, but still fun at the same time.'
Jonathan Lee first learned of the Triangle Tae Kwon Do Association about five years ago while attending San Francisco's annual gay Pride Parade. Six months later, he joined in hopes of getting more involved with the LGBT community and improving his physical fitness level.
Lee is, you see, one who needs motivation or admits he can be lazy. 'I was looking for something structured and also something that would be fun,' he said.
He has since 'fallen in love with tae kwon do. ... The club and the sport in general have been a great way to push myself, and I've met some amazing people along the way, many who I probably never would have met through my own social-circle. The club really is a diverse group, so that's been a real unexpected positive.'
And his skill-level isn't too bad either. This past November, for instance, Lee became a first-degree black belt. And he also is an instructor at Triangle, now known as the Triangle Martial Arts Association. He helps with officer duties of the club and also has competed in a variety of tournaments.
'Through the club, I've become more involved with the overall LGBT community, which is something I hadn't been very engaged with prior to joining,' he said. 'Our club is very engaged in the local community, for self-defense and the overall LGBT community.' Triangle is active annually at the San Francisco Pride Parade and several smaller events, such as the Castro Street Fair.
Lee is Chicago-bound this summer for Gay Games VII, his first.
'I never envisioned competing in the Gay Games, let alone as a black belt. Absolutely not,' he said. 'When I joined Triangle, I wasn't even too familiar with the Gay Games. I had no inkling to go ( to Sydney in 2002 ) because I was a very beginner student at the time; I was completely insecure in my technique and ability to handle myself. But now, as my skill has grown, I've started to look at the Gay Games a little closer. I first truly considered attending ( Gay Games VII ) last March, when I was focusing on ( earning ) my black-belt.
'The Gay Games are a nice way to cap my journey from a white belt to a black belt.'
Tae Kwon Do is a martial art with five major components and, at Triangle, to earn the black belt, students have to be successful at all five components, which include technique, form, sparring ( fighting ) , breaking ( boards or bricks ) and spiritual.
'These techniques can kill someone. Many are very lethal, so there has to be a sense of control on when to use them and, more importantly, how not to use them,' Lee said. 'We learn this martial art so that, ultimately, we hopefully never have to use it.'
Lee prefers form and sparring. And, yes, he has done double-breaks, which include breaking two wooden boards at the same time.
The cinder blocks are about an inch-and-a-half thick, available from Home Depot, and weigh about five- to 10-pounds each. Lee has broken two bricks, 'and that was a lot for me.'
'Tae Kwon Do is not just punching and kicking. There's also a spiritual and mental component to learning, mastering and being successful at tae kwon do,' Lee said.
Next up for Lee is training to be a second-degree black belt and starting to train for another martial art, perhaps one that involves weapons.
'Once you achieve black belt status, that's just the beginning of a cycle that you take until you become a ninth-degree black belt,' he said. 'I'm really excited for the Gay Games, but honestly have no idea what to expect. I think that's part of the excitement.'
He will be marching in the Opening Ceremony on behalf of Team San Francisco and it will be his first visit ever to Chicago. 'I'm really looking forward to meeting people from all over the world,' he said.
'I have absolutely no expectation on how I may do, how I may finish. If I come in last place, so be it. If I come in first place, hey, that's great. I'm just going and competing for the overall experience. I won't judge my performance, or the overall experience, on whether or not I earn a gold medal. I really just want to show up and have fun.'
Not yet, he said, laughing. 'Ask me that in June and I might have a different answer.'
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