by Herb Borkland
At ninth degree, Caroline Goodspeed is Keith Yates’ highest-ranked Black female grandmaster. Her martial arts career spans amateur boxing, aikido, goju karate, taekwondo and kobudo. She is especially proud of the girls, including her daughter, she has taken to black belt. Goodspeed also ranks among the most delightful personalities in the American martial arts.
MASuccess: Where did you grow up?
Caroline Goodspeed: I grew up in little Port Arthur, 83 miles southeast of Houston, Texas.
MAS: Do you remember the first time you heard about martial arts?
Goodspeed: I was a scrappy little girl — 5 feet 2 and 98 pounds — and when I was in my teens, I liked boxing with my amateur brother. It’s why I use my hands so much. When I was 19, this aikido instructor tried to recruit students. I told myself, “Here you go!” Lasted a year and a half. I got tired of being thrown to the ground by men.
After that, there was no more martial arts until goju for three and a half years. I was 30-ish, had a child, had moved to Dallas and decided to join a rec center class. I was taller: 5 feet 4 and 110 pounds. I wanted to hit somebody, kick somebody. The goju instructor told me to stop because I was three months pregnant. Today I have a boy, 21, and a girl, 36.
I stopped martial arts for six years, but I worked out at a gym. One day, I walked in and saw a guy — Grandmaster Yates — teaching little kids, all boys. My first thought was, OMG, I need to get my daughter into this! I loved the way Mr. Yates went about teaching kids. I signed up my daughter and sat around watching and talking to the other parents. I thought, I need to do this! Next time, I signed myself up. That was 1990.
My daughter, at the start, was the only little female in Grandmaster Yates’ class. I thought he was showing her preferential treatment because she was a girl — no knuckles-and-toes pushups for her, only palms and knees. I told him after class, “Whatever the boys do, she must do because that’s the way the world is.”
When I made black belt in 1993, I started having my own class. I’ve been teaching since then until today.
MAS: What was your turning point?
Goodspeed: Never was a turning point. Boxed. Stopped. Aikido. Stopped. Goju. Stopped. Martial arts kept tapping me on the shoulder, and I couldn’t resist. I keep enjoying doing it.
I’ve been with Grandmaster Yates 30 years, and, to be perfectly honest, I have thought of calling it quits, but for some reason I’m unable to. There is always that kid, adult or woman I want to see grow and make it to black belt like I did.
Practice at home, I tell my students. One day a week of martial arts won’t cut it. For every hour in class, do another hour outside of class training. [It’s the] only way to become proficient. Keep practicing, and you will have the knowledge to protect yourself. You’ll have this confidence.
MAS: What is the secret of your longevity in martial arts?
Goodspeed: I have a kobudo black belt: sai, bo, nunchaku. Grandmaster Yates encourages students to go out and learn other aspects of the arts. But always research the people you’re learning from.
MAS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Goodspeed: Walk in this troubled and uncertain world with confidence.
To contact Herb Borkland, send an email to [email protected]
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