Let me start by saying hello. My name is Mersina Giampapa. I own a local martial arts school right here in Ancaster, Ontario. I may seem "too young" to you to be owning a business but it turns out that when you love to do something, anything and everything is possible.
So, "Lion's Heart Family Martial Arts". Why that name? Why not "Giampapa Karate" or something like that? I could go on and on about why I chose not to go with a generic name but instead I think I am going to talk about why I DID choose the name our dojo goes by. This requires a little bit of personal history.
Let's go back 3 summers now. I'm 19, fresh graduate of the Police Foundations program at Mohawk College. I'm working towards my second degree black belt (Nidan, in Japanese) at the end of the year and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Sound vaguely familiar?
I had the whole summer to work and do whatever I wanted until returning to school in the fall for another year and another diploma. This summer, however, was no ordinary summer. I was going to South Africa as a volunteer to work with wildlife.
Since I can remember I have always been in love with wildlife, specifically "big cats", so when I got the chance to send myself to South Africa in the "Living with Big Cats" program....I couldn't pass it up.
Fast forward to the beginning of June this same year. I was walking with elephants, playing with orphaned lion cubs, being chased by ostriches, taking selfies with zebras,
and feeding hyenas. Along with the animal based jobs we set out on ATV rides, monkey sanctuary trips, hikes in the hills, and skydiving adventures.
This was the first time I had travelled alone and I was travelling across the globe. I was terrified. My parents originally thought I was joking when I told them I was going to South Africa for 2 weeks....jokes on them because I wasn't kidding. Eventually they came around to the idea and when they did....my god were they ever supportive. I talked to my family every day while I was there; kept them up to date on every little detail. How could I not?
Fast forward 1 year. I graduate college...again...and this time is it. I am done with school. Why? Because I landed the perfect 9-5 job? Nope. School is done because I realize what I want to do with my life. You see, the entire year I spent back in school, I just wanted to be in South Africa. I felt more myself than I have ever felt before. The culture and the
friendships made such an impression on me, it was the only place I wanted to be. South Africa made me realize that life is too short. You need to seize the moment and you need to seize it now.
...and here we are. I sit here writing this for all of you to read. 4 years later. I'm 22. I have worked toward my third degree black belt (Sandan), I have a steady job teaching martial arts to students with mental/physical disabilities on top of running my own dojo with my own students.
I want to give kids, and adults, the same opportunities that were given to me. Karate/martial arts is about so much more than a black belt and self defence. It is about determination, confidence, perseverance, hard work, and so much more. I wanted to name my school after something that means something to me. South Africa meant so much to me. It showed me who I am, in a way. A lion carries a lot of pride for itself. I try to pride myself in everything I do. I want my students to pride themselves in everything they do and accomplish in life. So why did I chose Lion's Heart Family Martial Arts as my school name? I want my students to go through life with the heart of a lion.