February 18. 2013 2:00AM

From the mat to the classroom

The Good Life

By Erica Breunlin

  
After capturing a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do and both national and world titles in the Filipino martial arts form kali arnis, Dr. Shannon Duval empowers her students with the same strength she has relied on in empowering herself.

Duval, associate professor of philosophy at Mount Mary College, began practicing tae kwon do six years ago with her family, primarily to instill leadership skills and self-discipline in her son, who has high-functioning autism.

As Duval advanced, she gained confidence, mental focus and her own sense of discipline and organization, which she now incorporates into her classroom and curriculum.

"Bringing that mind-body connection together was very powerful for me in terms of my teaching," Duval said. "And I realized pretty soon into my training that because Mount Mary in particular has such a strong focus on women's leadership skills and social justice, that there was a really enriching element that martial arts could bring to that."

In addition to teaching her philosophy students basic personal safety and awareness skills, Duval has led personal safety seminars for Mount Mary faculty and staff, resident assistants and students within other disciplines.

The professor hopes to test for her third degree black belt this summer.

"Martial arts is really about character development, and for that reason there's something in it for everyone," Duval said. "It's not about fighting. It's about every day being a little better than the day before."
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