Breanna Westberg: Certified badass

Ellie Armstrong

Sophomore Breanna Westberg feels her bare feet grip the red and black mats of Z’s Martial Arts Academy. She tightens her gi and bows in with the rest of the Wednesday adult class, urging her friends to recite the student creed displayed on the walls of the dojo.

The first creed: “I will develop myself in a positive manner and avoid anything that would reduce my mental growth or physical health.”

These are the words Westberg has lived by since fourth grade, when she was invited to Z’s on a bring-a-friend day and fell in love with karate. After years of training and achieving all ten beginning levels, she received her junior black belt on Jan. 21, 2018, and now works toward passing her first degree test in January 2020.

“It’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up,” Westberg said. “That perseverance helps me not only in karate but also in life. You have to say ‘I’m going to try again’ and ‘I’m going to get this down.’ That’s where the positive manner comes in.”

Westberg proves her mental strength daily at the dojo, but the next creed in the pre-training tradition takes hours of hard work to perfect.

The second creed: “I will develop self discipline in order to bring out the best in myself and others.”

Five days a week, Westberg develops self discipline at the gym. Four of those days, she teaches classes for the lower belts. Adult classes on Wednesdays, kickboxing on Thursdays, and a combination of all during her 5-hour Saturday sessions complete the week.

Though her training schedule is difficult, Westberg embraces the challenge.

“If you have that positive self-esteem about yourself, you [are] able to do what you want to do,” she said. “You can’t just go out and say ‘I won’t do good’ because you won’t do good if you think that way about yourself.” 

According to Westberg, in order to follow the final creed, you can’t go into a competition or class with a violent or angry mindset.

The third creed: “I will use what I learn in class constructively and defensively to help myself and others and never to be abusive or offensive.”

Though karate is often disassociated with fighting in movies, it is a unique art form of tranquility. Even as Westberg works on her side, round, front, and tornado kicks (her favorite), she knows she’ll have to use her mental training just as much as her physical training to succeed.

“She is probably one of the most, if not the most, dedicated students in the adult class,” head sensei Benjamin Cutinello said. “She always gives 110%, and I put her through some absolutely grueling drills. [Westberg] takes them all the time.”

That is what karate is all about to Westberg. Beyond learning self defense, it’s about giving her all, challenging herself, and following the student creeds on and off the mats. It’s about becoming physically and mentally stronger.

As sweat drips down the side of her face and a call from Cutinello signals for the end of class, Westberg bows out and thanks Cutinello for his time. Then she tightens her gi again, slips on her shoes, and walks out of the dojo into the cool nighttime air. 

Though her classes are over for today, the progress she has made toward her first degree black belt stays with her. After all, at tomorrow’s kickboxing class, she will be picking up where she left off.