Melanie began training Haidong Gumdo in Spring 2011. She had just finished reading The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and was inspired by the portion of the novel where Kvothe first learns true swordsmanship. It helped Mel discover that her life was craving that same kind of discipline that comes from training the body, mind, and spirit. Around the same time, her fellow Hamline alum Kayla Curtiss mentioned that her University Taikwondo instructor was teaching Korean Sword on the side. The timing felt perfect, and ended up being exactly what Mel was looking for.

Mel and gumdo students performing “Dragonites in Space” at MarsCon 2017

Much of Mel’s enjoyment in training and leadership came from connecting Gumdo with the other communities in the Twin Cities. She has instructed introductory classes at the Geek Partnership Society, and advanced classes at the University of Minnesota Gumdo Club at the with Sabum Russell Chapman. She has hosted panels and demonstrations at conventions such as CONvergence, MarsCon, Anime Detour, and Wizard World Comic Con. She also choreographed light saber battles with gumdo techniques to use in exhibitions for MarsCon masquerades.

Growing up, Mel never saw herself as much of a competitor. She still doesn’t, but has nevertheless come to greatly enjoy the spirit of martial arts competitions. She appreciates the motivation to spend extra time training harder than usual and really fine-tuning certain techniques, but more importantly, enjoys the great opportunity to spend time with all members of the worldwide gumdo community outside her own school. There is always so much to learn from everyone.

Some highlights from Mel’s gumdo career:

  • 2017: was a part of the Demonstration Team for the 1st PanAm Mulimpia tournament in Las Vegas, for which she and Kyosa Nicole Winkler choreographed a gyukgum sparring routine to demo.
  • 2020: competed at the Arnold Classic 2020 in Columbus, OH. Earned 2nd place in bamboo cutting and 1st place in Forms.
  • 2017: was the first University of Minnesota graduate to cut their PhD thesis with a sword at their Thesis Defense.

Mel trains and instructs under Master Robert Frankovich at Twin Cities Headquarters, and currently holds the rank of 4th Dan in Haidong Gumdo. She supplements her sword training with Muay Thai, weightlifting, yoga, dance games, and flaming hot cheetos.