“I just wanted to be a Power Ranger”


Courtesy Chance Martial Arts

Team Intensity after a performance

Meagan Rockafellow

Light glinted off the shiny metal of the kamas she held in her hands. The curved blades met the handles at a 90-degree angle, similar to a scythe. The blades were dull, but deadly. Her hands gripped the handles; she trained her eyes on the floor. Her shoulders rose and fell as she took deep breaths.

    When she looked up, she saw her instructor motioning for her group to enter the gym. Her fists tightened around the kamas and she strode through the doors.

 Before her seventh-grade year, Soph. Lauren Gaerte tried almost every extra-curricular activity she could. The list was a mile long: soccer, gymnastics, dance, robotics. Gaerte enjoyed switching activities year after year, always looking for something new. 

  As seventh grade started, Gaerte searched for another activity to add to her impressive list. After some research, Gaerte found martial arts and decided to try taekwondo. 

   “It’s not a good reason, but I just wanted to be a power ranger,” Gaerte said.

    In pursuit of her childhood dream, she started taking taekwondo classes at Chance Martial Arts (now called Champion Martial Arts). “I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I mean, I wasn’t even that flexible or anything,” Gaerte said. However, as she took more classes, Gaerte fell in love with martial arts. 

   “At first I was just going for the normal classes, you know?” Gaerte said. But as she attended more and more classes, Gaerte learned about additional groups that practiced at the studio.

    “There is the basic level, there is black belt club, and now there’s a thing called master’s club and those are groups you hear about that you want to be in on top of going from belt to belt,” Gaerte said. One group piqued her interest, Team Intensity. 

    Instructor Chay Flipse explained that Team Intensity performs at multiple events. “We put on a show of our skills, whether that be weapons, forms, board breaking, brick breaking, self defense etc. to show the community our passion for the art as well as to inform others of the art,” Flipse said. 

   While Team Intensity’s uniforms were black robes, not power ranger suits, Gaerte knew she needed to be part of the team. 

   However, Team Intensity is very selective and new prospects have to go through three, five-hour sessions in order to try-out. At the end of the three sessions, prospects perform their newly learned routine in front of the instructors and the other students trying out. 

   “I actually forgot mine halfway through because I panicked. I blanked,” Gaerte said. Amid her panic, she heard another student whisper “punch,” and the whole routine flooded back into Gaerte’s mind. 

   Despite her panic, Gaerte quickly recovered and finished. Ten minutes later, Gaerte found out she made the team; she was ecstatic.

  However, long practices and intense workouts didn’t end at try-outs. The team meets every week on Friday and sometimes Saturday for two to four hours depending on the performance schedule. 

   “All practices vary from what we do inside them,” Flipse said. One day, Flipse will have her students focus on weapon training, while on another day, the team will run through routines repeatedly. “We also try to do team bonding stuff as we believe to perform the best that we can, we have to all be cohesive on a personal level too,” Flipse said. 

   All the hours of practice are necessary for the group to prepare for the intensity of their shows. Gaerte’s friends and family recognize the dedication she has considering all the hours she spends practicing.

Gaerte (right) and her friends pose after being promoted to a red-black belts

   Jr. Sophia Koon, one of Gaerte’s friends, recently went to one of her practices. “I was pretty impressed because you can tell that she knows what she is doing and she is very determined,” Koon said.

   She also added that Gaerte has recently suffered from a knee injury, but that does not deter her in practices. Flipse agrees with Koon. She explained Gaerte continues to show up to practice and is learning the routine while sitting down because of her injury.

   “She could have easily asked to sit out, but instead she showed how much she wanted to be there even without being able to do anything. I love that about her,” Flipse said.

   Gaerte’s and her teammate’s dedication to hours of practice and rehearsals are crucial in producing a successful performance because they are so elaborate. 

   During a show, the team splits into six or seven groups, each with their own routine. Some groups do skits, while others show weapon control and perform intricate routines. 

   “My one friend, he is in this group and they are doing a knife defense skit. I am in more of the showing of routines, so I have this one hand and kick drill routine and this kama routine,” Gaerte said.

   The groups have a specific order in the show and they perform one after another. They show a variety of skills to promote martial arts and their studio.

  While Team Intensity performs multiple times each year, one specific performance was Gaerte’s favorite. In September 2019, the group performed at the Civic Center during belt promotion.

    “It was huge,” Gaerte said. Parents and friends filled every inch of the gym. The large room was chaotic and loud as the crowd waited patiently for the show to begin. 

   Gaerte and her team watched the audience as they found their seats. They were nervous but excited. “We have one kid who throws up before every performance,” Gaerte said. 

   Despite the nervous jitters they had, Gaerte and her team entered the gym. When they entered, the crowd went silent and she could feel every pair of eyes staring at her.

       The team lined up in an x-formation on one end of the floor and loud music played over the speakers. In unison, Gaerte and her team moved across the floor, performing various stunts and combos.

    “Some people were doing dive rolls, some people were doing aerials, all sorts of stuff from cartwheels to thunder kicks,” Gaerte said. The crowd went wild after every stunt, and confidence filled Gaerte.

    The team finished the last part of the routine and lined up. Gaerte, still breathing hard, shuffled into line with her teammates, adrenaline pumping. 

    In one fluid motion, she bowed down, her upper body creating a 90-degree angle with her legs. The crowd erupted in applause, and Gaerte smiled.

 While she wasn’t fighting Master Xandred in a brightly colored suit with a team of power rangers, she still felt powerful.