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Training with other leaders taught me how to set and achieve my goals. As a member, I even earned a college scholarship! Look out world, here I come!

From ATA World Volume 19, Number 3 Fall 2012

Experiences with bullies led Senior Master Mark Sustaire to get involved with ATA at age 17. “I was the band nerd, and I’d been picked on,” Sustaire says. “I wanted to learn how to defend myself, and it changed my whole perspective.” He never looked back, and over the past 30 years, Taekwondo for Sustaire has developed into a family affair: his wife, Barbara, is also a Master and a 6th Degree Black Belt. The couple runs Sustaire’s ATA Karate for Kids schools in Allen and McKinney, Texas. But Sustaire still loves to compete—this year, he won a World title in Weapons and Sparring.

What does being in a community mean for a martial artist?

You’re providing a service that’s more than just a team sport. It keeps parents involved in the kids’ lives. Parents are so shut out… and this is something parents can actually be a part of. And a black belt is a sense of accomplishment. A black belt shows that you can stick with something and be committed to it.

Another life skill – honor – is partially about giving back to those who have helped you. Why is honor so important?

Honor is one of the strongest words for a person’s character. You can show respect to someone, but if you have honor it shows the kind of person that you really are. That’s why we’re involved with the H. U. Lee Scholarship Foundation every year. The kids we teach are going to college and the workforce, and it’s important for them to give back.

Why are you so passionate about the H. U. Lee Foundation?

I only attended one year of college. It wasn’t my thing, but kids should have the opportunity. I think back, and my family didn’t have a lot of money. I want other kids to have those opportunities. When you become a Master or Senior Master, that’s part of your role.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be “ATA Strong”?

It means learning how to be yourself and stand up to that. I wish I’d known that when I was a teenager. And we’ve come a long way [as an organization]. We have more to offer our students and instructors—whether it’s careers, scholarships for college, or other competition events. The kids now are so talented because of the way they’re trained.

You’ve been practicing martial arts for 30 years. When you look back on the friends and instructors who helped you become who you are in Taekwondo and in life, what do you most appreciate?

I appreciate people who’ve been good examples in my life and also people who showed that they’re human. Often, students put their instructors on a pedestal and they don’t realize they can make mistakes. The older students have seen us make mistakes, and that’s okay. Hopefully, they’ll learn from that and make a better decision next time. That’s how you learn—it’s not just about weapons and sparring, but about making better decisions in life.ATA