Two people who knew nothing about each other, raised 1,400 miles apart, move perfectly in sync as they practice their first-degree black belt form in taekwondo. That was the experience for Olivia DeAngelis PO ’23 and Cecilia Ransburg PO ’25, president and co-vice president of the 5C Taekwondo Club.
Both DeAngelis and Ransburg have been involved in martial arts from a young age.
With six years of taekwondo experience under her black belt, DeAngelis’s passion for martial arts started with her family, who has a strong background in the sport.
“Both of my parents are black belts in Seido Karate,” DeAngelis said. “I learned karate as a kid, and then I went into dance. When I left dance, I still wanted to move around … and so I did aikido and kendo for about a year, and then I started taekwondo.”
Ransburg has been practicing taekwondo for nine years, receiving her first- and second-degree black belts in high school. Though she is passionate about participating in the sport, Ransburg said she enjoys teaching taekwondo even more.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s just so much fun for me.”
Soren Laskin PZ ’25, another co-vice president of the club, said their love of martial arts stemmed from an interest in sci-fi.
“I’ve always loved martial arts because growing up as a sci-fi kid, you see all the cool stunts,” they said. “I wanted to do that.”
While researching Pomona, Ransburg was surprised to find that there was no formal taekwondo club.
“One of the only reasons that I was like, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t come to Pomona’ was that there was no taekwondo club,” she said. “But then I also thought, ‘You know what? I love everything else about Pomona, so that’s not a good enough reason not to come here.’”
When DeAngelis found out that the 5Cs did not have a taekwondo club, she took matters into her own hands.
“When I first came to Pomona, I was shocked that there was no taekwondo club,” DeAngelis said. “There were actually no martial arts clubs that I knew about.”
DeAngelis founded the club during the pandemic.
“During COVID is when I really started pushing to get a taekwondo club,” DeAngelis said. “I founded 5C taekwondo with the help of a few other students, and our first semester was entirely virtual.”
Ransburg found out about the club during an in-person club fair and started regularly attending practices. Impressed with what Ransburg brought to the club, DeAngelis gave Ransburg the opportunity to teach during her first year as a member.
“Cece [Ransburg] has such a wealth of knowledge, both with teaching taekwondo and self-defense,” DeAngelis said. “So when she was like, ‘Hey, can I show you guys self-defense?’ my eyes lit up. I was so excited because I actually hadn’t done self-defense before, I had just done taekwondo.”
According to DeAngelis, Ransburg was instrumental in last year’s highly successful self-defense seminar. The club plans to host another two this year, one in October and one in the spring. Seminars attendees have important conversations with the leaders in addition to practicing critical moves.
“At the self-defense seminar, we had a 30-minute conversation about attacker psychology and how to prevent a situation where you need to use self-defense,” Ransburg said.
Laskin reflected on how self-defense has transformed them into a more confident individual.
“I feel a lot more confident now because I know I can take anyone in a fight,” they said. “I like teaching other people as well because I feel like [self-defense] tools … are just always good to have and so easy to learn!”
This year, the club plans to collaborate with the archery and fencing clubs to host a “Camp Halfblood” event where they will host club-specific seminars for people to try new activities with the guidance of the leaders. Aside from their planned special events, the club will hold practices on Mondays and Wednesdays at Roberts Pavilion.
“It’s been a battle to get [in-person] martial arts clubs,” DeAngelis said. “It’s been hard because there’s this idea that martial arts are always contact, and it’s hard to clear the way for a contact sport.”
The club has found ways to minimize contact, however.
“[In practice] sometimes we’ll do forms or study-sparring,” Ransburg said. “Sparring is kind of intense, but study-sparring is the less-intense version of that, where you have a sparring partner, but you don’t actually hit them. You either lightly touch them or not at all, but it’s just a practice of motions and the strategy of sparring.”
Since both DeAngelis and Ransburg are first-degree black belts, when they practice their form — or “poomsae” —together they find themselves doing the exact same routine, perfectly in sync.
All three leaders expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to lead such a tight-knit, welcoming club and hope to expand it more this year.
“It would give me peace of mind to know that it’s continuing and has people in it when I leave,” DeAngelis said. “ … We want to get a lot of people coming to the club and experiencing taekwondo because it’s really fun.”