Emma Morrisey, 13, is nonchalant about her recent martial arts accomplishment, which is apparently how she usually rolls.
Morrisey is the first student to be promoted to yellow-level in kickboxing in The Sound Martial Arts new program in partnership with Squamish Nation.
She said when she got to the first class, which was held at Totem Hall, she thought it was "a little intense," but she soon settled in.
"I really, really enjoyed it," she said, explaining that after a few laps to warm up she learned how to jab, cross and hook in that first one-hour session.
"I really, really loved it," she said.
Achieving her yellow-belt earlier this month, the first of the group to do so, was "awesome," she said.
Morrisey said she wants to pursue this type of sport as she gets older.
"I would love to keep moving forward," she said.
Gym owner Jamie O'Connor said Morrisey is a laid back and humble student who earns high praise from her head coach, Kasey Smith.
"She is dedicated, she is hard-working. She is everything you want in a student," O'Connor said.
In the latter part of 2020, The Sound started offering martial arts classes and training specifically for children and adults who are members of the Nation.
Adult classes had to be put on hold due to pandemic health restrictions, but the children’s programs have flourished, according to O'Connor.
So much so that the gym is launching a program for even younger Nation kids, aged five to nine years old.
(Under the current provincial health orders related to COVID-19, athletes under the age of 19 are still permitted to continue training and practicing, though regular games and contact are not permitted. All continuing programs must have COVID-19 protocols in place. )
O'Connor said the adult sessions will start up again as soon as current restrictions ease.
He said he looks forward to working more with the Nation.
"It has been an amazing partnership," he said.
As for Morrisey, she recommends those nervous about starting martial arts give it a shot.
"Just try your hardest," she said. "If you don't like it, you don't have to do it."
O'Connor said that the gym's philosophy is to be encouraging with students.
"It is not about intimidation and people yelling. It is a positive energy," he said. "[And] it isn't all about who is the most skilled and who is the strongest and the fastest. It is about who is consistent, who comes with a good attitude, who is a good teammate, who is kind and who is respectful."
Find out more about programs at the gym here: https://soundmartialarts.com/.
A request for comment from Squamish Nation was not responded to by press deadline.
**Please note, this story has been corrected since it was first posted to say Emma's last name is spelled Morrisey.