By: Abigail Chow
Lilian Mellor, (11), is a black belt, National Taekwondo Champion, and a girl with a wicked nickname.
Mellor was testing to earn her first-degree black belt in August when she broke her toe. The injury may have stopped many people from competing, but not Mellor.
“For the first board, I did a double-action front kick and broke my toe,” said Mellor. “I changed the break and did a step behind sidekick and just went on to the hand technique, broke it, step behind side kick, broke it. So I broke all my boards with a broken toe. It hurt, but I had to do it.”
She pushed through excruciating pain and received her black belt that day along with the well-deserved nickname “Kilian”. Her friends say they nicknamed her “Kilian ” because it rhymes with Lilian, but the moniker could not be a more perfect fit for this hard-working fighter.
Mellor started taekwondo in the 7th grade because her stepmom encouraged their whole family to take lessons as a family at Crimson Sparrow Martial Arts in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. The main reason Mellor joined was for self-defense purposes.
“The idea of being on the street and being able to defend myself is really important to me,” says Mellor. “[Taekwondo has] made me more aware of my surroundings. I’m always looking. My reflexes are definitely better and I’m definitely more flexible.”
Taekwondo is a challenging sport that takes a lot of courage, patience, and grit to succeed. Individual progress is marked as participants develop increasingly difficult skills to earn belts. Mellor earned her first belt, a white belt, in 7th grade. She began competing after she earned her yellow belt. At Crimson Sparrow Martial Arts, testing is every two months and every test Mellor has done, she’s passed, meaning every two months since 7th grade, Mellor has gone up a belt. Mellor passed every belt test the first time she took it, including the black belt test.
Taekwondo competitions involve two events: patterns and sparring. For context, patterns, also known as forms, are when individuals perform movements in an open space in taekwondo. Different pattern names are given to each rank or belt. It starts out easy like a low block and punch for someone competing as a white belt but progresses to more advanced moves like jumping kicks and flying sidekicks. Sparring is when two individuals go against each other in a controlled environment with protective sparring gear such as a helmet and chest protector.
“When I’m doing patterns, I need to have a lot of power and have a serious look on my face because it’s like we’re actually fighting someone. Every move is like defense or offense, so it needs to have meaning. For sparring, it’s like fight or flight, you’re up against somebody, so you always have to worry about covering your face and your body, and you’re always looking at their eyes because their eyes give away where they’re going to kick so you always have to be aware and on your toes.”
Mellor consistently won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards for sparring and patterns in numerous tournaments over the years, but had never competed at the National level. On November 13th, she went to the World Taekwondo Alliance National Tournament. Although she did not do as well as she’d have liked in patterns, Mellor won 1st place in sparring. Her cumulative score, which included her performances in all her other tournaments, earned her the title of National Champion for the 15-17 girls division.
Her school, Crimson Sparrow Martial Arts, ended up having the most national champions. They won the award for the best World Taekwondo Academy (WTA).
As part of her training, Mellor normally spends 6 hours a week training or helping younger kids at taekwondo.
“Because I am a high rank, I have to help with the kids class which is before the adult class, so I will be on the floor for an hour helping the kids and then when that class ends, I’ll be doing my class for an hour,” says Mellor.
As an assistant in the kid’s class, Mellor helps them stretch out and makes sure they behave for the instructor.
“The kids can always improve on something, so I like helping them out if their punches could be more lined or their kicks could be snappier with more power,” says Mellor. “I like to help them improve especially if they’re a low rank because it’s better to break habits at a younger age because even now as a black belt, they’re telling me to fix my sidekicks as a black belt.”
Mellor’s advice for people who want to excel in taekwondo is to not give up.
“No matter how hard you think it is, you’ll get better,” says Mellor. “And remember, if you ever need help, ask someone for help like your instructors.”
If you’re interested in taking taekwondo, check out Mellor’s taekwondo school, Crimson Sparrow Martial Arts in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. You can also find out about other self-defense classes in our last month’s article, In Defense of Self-Defense by Kendall Webber.