Spotlight Mr. Mike Legaspi
When did you start Taekwon-Do and who was your instructor?
Annyeonghaseyo! My name is Mike Legaspi, and I began my Taekwondo training at the age of twelve in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I studied under instructors Joe Sabas, William Miller, Moon Kim, and ultimately Grand Master Il Keun Kim. My instructors were well-respected, and I looked up to each of them. I earned my First Dan Black Belt at age 15. I was considered one of the youngest Black Belts in the region at that time. I currently continue my involvement in Taekwondo with Master Fabian Nunez in St. Augustine, Florida and assist him as an instructor with his students. My continued involvement in Taekwondo is largely motivated by participating with my two youngest sons Aaron and Adam, who are Green Belt Blue Stripe and Yellow Belt respectively.
Describe how Taekwon-Do has helped to shape you today.
Taekwondo has certainly shaped my personal and professional life. In my younger years, I liked the physical activity and the challenge of competing and trying to do my best with an art form and sport that was both unique and gaining popularity in the 1970’s, partly due to the legacy of martial artist Bruce Lee. As I matured, I could better recognize and understand how the tenants of Taekwondo were expanding within my life. Courtesy and Integrity, no-nonsense instruction, respecting others and working towards a goal were all part of my training. When I became injured outside of Taekwondo, I learned how Perseverance and an Indomitable Spirit included both physical ability and exercising the mind to work through rehabilitation. The Korean saying, “Jun sin il do sa ha bul sung” which means, “Nothing is impossible once you set your mind to it with enthusiasm and persistence” became much more personal to me after that period in my life. I believe Self-Control and confidence go hand in hand. When facing adversity, having the confidence to stay calm and letting the spirit within me remain strong is all part of Self-Control. I am a man of peace and reconciliation today because of the ways Taekwondo shaped me throughout my life. I also practice and share my faith in God with others as an ordained Pastor.
Who or what have been your strongest influences in Taekwon-Do, and why?
I have benefited greatly from the influences of my past instructors, whose own training and collective wisdom have been passed on to me from previous generations and traditions. In addition, those I trained with and those I competed against were a big part of how Taekwondo influenced my life, as each rank advancement and competition propelled me to work harder and try my best. My path, my victories, my setbacks, and my goals have given me a broader perspective in how I approach all challenges in my life due to having attained my Black Belt in Taekwondo.
What significance does Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month hold for you, and why is this celebration of history necessary?
The discussion of Asian American Pacific Islander month honestly is a relatively new concept to me. From my early years in Texas, formative years in Minnesota, and my young adulthood until now living in Florida, I have been a minority due to my heritage. My father was from the Philippines and spoke very little English. He was more comfortable speaking Tagalog in small circles of Filipino servicemen in the United States Navy. Growing up as a Filipino in a largely white community, I did notice that I stood out. I encountered instances of racism from a very young age, and it wasn’t until I became an adult that I had a better sense of why. Our American society is a blend of cultures, but it is not always appreciated for the beauty that diversity brings. I did not grow up in a time when being Asian American or Pacific Islander was celebrated. We have sometimes been referred to as invisible. I am glad to see that we are now beginning to celebrate the differences among people in the hope of building a stronger, more unified society. I consider the example of a braided rope. The rope is comprised of many fibers or strands, and each strand by itself has a limited tinsel strength. Each strand may be a slightly different color or thickness, yet when they are braided into one single rope, the strength is multiplied, and its function is without limits. I think celebrating our cultural differences is a reminder that out of many we are one, and that is worth celebrating.
As we celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, what do you want your Taekwon-Do family to know?
I love this question because it mentions our connection as a family. Training requires individual effort and attention, but we succeed best because of the hours, weeks, months, and even years we come together as a group and spur each other on to be the best version of ourselves. Through the 2020 pandemic, we were reminded to value each other and what coming together in community means. Being a family also involves respecting the diversity in our age, ability, and perspectives, and yet we are also unified by Taekwondo. I would like us to make time to hear each other’s stories. Let’s embrace unity through diversity. Together we are one.