attitude

MUSIC VOYAGER
The Bahamas: Raking and Scraping Across the Islands

 

MUSIC VOYAGER travels to Cat Island in search of the roots of rake and scrape, the local music style Bahamians call their own. After a beach-side performance by traditionalists Bo Hog and the Rooters, it’s a trip to Grand Bahama in search of Stileet, a new generation rake and scrape singer who is bringing urban attitude to the style.

 

The Forever Wisdom of Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

Celebrate the late iconic thinker Wayne Dyer’s wisdom, teachings and unique ability to translate abstract ideas into down-to-earth lessons that can be applied to everyday life. This inspirational memorial tribute includes memorable stories, both funny and soulful.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Linda Furuto

 

Linda Furuto is a math education professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and uses math regularly as she trains as an apprentice navigator on the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hokulea. Math didn’t always come easy to her; she struggled in her tenth grade algebra class at Punahou. But she worked hard to pass the class. “I really did learn the importance of a positive attitude, working hard, and having a support network of people who want you to succeed can help you,” Linda says.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wednesday, May 18 at 11:00 pm and Sunday, May 22 at 4:00 pm.

 

Linda Furuto Audio

 

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I studied about six hours day, just on mathematics, because I wanted to keep up with my peers. And um, one of the greatest accomplishments of my—of my life as far as passing that class um, and uh, above and beyond passing that math class, I really did learn the importance of a positive attitude, working hard, and having a support network of people who want you to succeed an—and can help you. I wanted to go into mathematics because I struggled with it, and I know so many of our local kids struggle with mathematics.

 

 

Linda Furuto is next… On Long Story Short.

 

Aloha Mai Kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox.

 

University of Hawaii Associate Professor Linda Furuto is an accomplished math teacher who shows students how to use math to better understand their world. It’s one of the reasons that in 2010… Linda Furuto was named one of Hawaii’s top “40 under 40” professionals. She’s cerebral and she’s physical. She was invited to train as an apprentice navigator on the double-hulled Polynesian voyaging canoe… Hokulea, and she is picking up different legs of its current worldwide voyage. While math was acquired passion, Furuto took to the ocean right away, as a keiki growing up in Hauula on the windward side of Oahu.

 

I had the most wonderful and best childhood. I grew up in a 12.5-mile stretch between Kaaawa and Kahuku, and to me, the most important things in life are ohana and values. Um, I’m really grateful for the opportunities that I had to um, let’s see, go spearfishing. With—with my dad and uncles. And um, borrow the plastic trays from McDonald’s to go bodysurfing with my friends. But we always returned them.

 

We just really—

 

Bodysurfing with the—

 

Yeah.

 

–plastic trays?

 

Yeah.

 

They’re kind of small, aren’t they?

 

Oh, but they’re the perfect size if you reach under your arm, like that.

 

Oh, like that.

 

Yeah!

 

Oh, bodysurfing.

 

M-hm.

 

Right.

 

M-hm. And we always returned them.

 

Just maybe not in the same condition.

 

That would be which McDonald’s? The—

 

Uh—

 

The one in—

 

Laie. Um, but my favorite was um, jumping into the dumpsters be—behind Hauula Shopping Center. Used to be Pay ‘n Save there. And we’d grab out the cardboard boxes. My three younger brothers and I; Matt, Nick, and Dan. We—we’d flatten the cardboard boxes, and see who could ride them the fastest down the dirt hills behind Hauula Shopping Center. It was so fun.

 

Dirt and mud, or just dirt?

 

Um, it was mostly dirty. But that’s a great question, because it was—

 

Mudsliding—

 

–even better.

 

–would be fast; right?

 

Exactly.

 

Mudslides were the best. But that was—that was my world.

 

So, your parents saved a lot on toys for you.

 

I think so. Nature was—provided all the toys that we needed. Yeah.

 

What’s your family like?

 

My family . . . my family’s just amazing. They’re kind, they’re loving, unconditionally loving, and generous. And supportive in everything that I’ve done so far. I also want to clarify that—that to me, ohana is not just necessarily the people that we’re related to by blood, but to me, my definition of ohana is the extent to which we’re willing to do something for another person. The commitment that we have to each other, the dedication to the projects and visions, and love. And so, my ohana is really stretch—really stretches from hanabata days in Kahuku, to transferring to Punahou as a tenth-grader, leaving the islands for school and work, and then coming back home to be part of the University of Hawaii, East-West Center, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society ohana, among others.

 

Did your parents explicitly give you values, or did you just soak them up by osmosis?

 

I would say both. I would say that it’s extremely difficult to measure the size of my mom’s heart.

 

Tell me about your mom. I believe she’s a social worker; right?

 

M-hm; yup. So, typically, when the kids—the four kids would come home, and my dad, who’s a—a mathematician would say, Okay, tell me what you did chronologically, from the time you got out of school until the time you went to soccer practice, or hula, to the time you arrived home. And then my mom would say, Honey … you know what, tell me how you feel.

 

Oh, you’ve got one on this side—

 

–and one on that side. Perfect blend.

 

Yeah; my mom instilled in me a sense of social justice and equity in all I do. I strive—

 

And your dad could measure it.

 

And my dad could measure it. Yeah; yes. My dad is very strict, growing up. And he … he showed us—showed his love in different ways. So, instead of saying, I love you, he would show us his love by the things he did, his actions.

 

For example, when my family moved from Kahuku to Punahou, I was in the tenth grade. My parents commuted from Honolulu to Laie, five days a week, sometimes more. So that—

 

Rather than make you commute, they commuted.

 

Yup.

 

Wow. How long did they do that?

 

Uh … maybe about a decade.

 

Linda Furuto’s Transition from Kahuku High School to Honolulu Prep Academy Punahou School in the 10th grade was not easy. And although her father is a mathematician…she struggled with the subject in school.

 

That was a culture shock, as well as—

 

M-hm.

 

–an academic shock; right?

 

M-hm. M-hm.

 

What was that like for you socially?

 

It was socially very difficult at first. I remember eating lunch in the bathroom, because I didn’t have any friends, and felt like a lot of folks all already had their cliques.

 

M-hm.

 

But life has a way of always opening a door, sometimes in the least expected ways. And I found a network at Punahou School of friends, lifelong friends who I cherish to this day.

 

How’d you find them?

 

I think Punahou—Punahou has a very nurturing environment.

 

M-hm.

 

And so, I … tried out for the swim team, track, marching band, jazz band.

 

Speech and debate. Yes, Golden Key, Honor Society, various clubs and activities where I learned to find my voice, literally, like in speech and debate.

 

Were you getting As?

 

No.

 

No; I was getting Ds and Fs.

 

I had Ds and Fs my first quarter. I received demerits because I wasn’t passing my classes and I just remember thinking, I’m working, I’m physically, intellectually, mentally working as hard as I possibly can, but I’m still not passing.

 

 

The hardest math class that I’ve ever taken to this day was Algebra II Trigonometry Honors in the tenth grade at Punahou School with uh, Mrs. Craven and Mr. Best. So, that was the year I transferred from Kahuku to Punahou. I was about two and a half years behind my peers. Um … but I really—I really love a challenge, and maybe I’m a little bit stubborn too. But I didn’t want to drop that class.

 

Did your father see you struggling with math—

 

M-hm.

 

–so much?

 

M-hm.

 

And what were his thoughts about that?

 

He let me struggle.

 

Not an enabler.

 

Um, he would say … hypothetically, say I was working on the derivatives, the math problem in—in calculus. He would say … Okay, kid; you want help? I want you to prove to me the fundamental theory about calculus, and then I’ll help you. By the time I had proven a theorem or postulate that would actually help me answer the question, I didn’t need his help anymore. So, it was a life lesson again in helping me – guide my path along—along um, learning about … my own self, my identity, the values, what I—what I was … and continue—continuously willing —to work hard for, to [Indistinct] for.

 

 

Linda Furuto’s perseverance is a defining trait. She works hard on her goals. She earned a math degree from Brigham Young University in Utah, a Master’s in math education from Harvard University and she studied at UCLA for her Doctorate. After almost a decade on the mainland… a job offer…brought Furuto home.

 

I’m very passionate about ethnomathematics, and—

 

What is ethnomathematics?

 

Ethnomathematics is defined as the intersections of culture, historical traditions, sociocultural roots, among others. It encourages the investigations and adaptations of these concepts, both within and outside of the classroom in real world experiences. The goal—

 

That’s the answer to the question, then, when kids say, How is this relevant to me? Why should I take this?

 

Exactly; exactly as you’ve said. The goal of ethnomathematics is to acknowledge that diverse systems and cultural frameworks have existed since the beginning of time, and to help educators foster pathways that lead to increased student engagement through disciplines like mathematics, science, technology, and engineering.

 

… I’m so grateful that the University of Hawaii West Oahu hired me. I was hired as the first math faculty to—to build the math program um, and … I was the only math faculty for the first six years as UH West Oahu transitioned from a two-year to uh, a four-year liberal arts comprehensive university. It was an amazing opportunity to be part of that, because … I utilized Hokulea and ethnomathematics to help me build that program, to seek out, help from the other campuses within the University of Hawaii system, all who helped me design, from the ground up, um, institutional learning outcomes, go through accreditation, admissions and graduation requirements, design a baccalaureate degree in mathematics, um, which would not have been possible without enrollment in mathematics courses increased fourteen hundred percent. We started off—

 

Wow.

 

–with a population of about eight hundred sixty-six students in 2007, and when I left, there were approximately twenty-four hundred students. We had a couple math classes when I started. There were upwards of twenty math classes by the time I left. And, those are quantitative statistics, but qualitatively when we take a look at the individual students who would say things like … I hated math, I used to think that it was … boring and I felt no connection to it, but now I see that math is my culture, that math celebrates me, and mathematics validates who I am, and because of that, I want to be a secondary math teacher in Hawaii. I want to go back to my community on the Leeward side of Oahu, because this is … this is what matters to us and our students. And I think that, to me, speaks … volumes, much more than the quantitative part, just knowing that, the life of a student has in some way, shape, or form been transformed, because that student is a link in generations and will help to raise many, many generations—

 

M-hm.

 

–to come afterwards.

 

In 2013, Linda Furuto accepted a job as an associate professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There…she continues to encourage her students to think about math in a new way… to integrate math into their everyday process and world view. She has been recognized with two Excellence-In-Teaching awards from the U.H. Board of Regents and the Math Association of America.

 

Could you tell me, if you’re trying to introduce or recruit a student to the study of mathematics, and they want to know, why should I care—

 

Mm.

 

What do you tell them?

 

On the first day of class, I always share with my students is the—is the old adage that, people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. And I really believe that’s true. People … people don’t really care about your CV or your resume until you know that you’re gonna walk beside them in their mathematical journey, and beyond that in life as well. I always strive to help my students understand that their knowledge matters, and that their culture matters, and what they bring to the mathematics classroom is … centuries, centuries of rich mathematical traditions. And that just because … their ideas of mathematics aren’t written in a mathematics textbook doesn’t mean that’s not exactly what it is.

 

 

Seems like, Linda, as you talk, I’m thinking very literally and you know, mathematics. And you always kind of take it metaphorically and to … a more expansive place.

 

Mm.

 

A more visionary place. But it all starts with—

 

M-hm.

 

–your sense of how things work.

 

M-hm.

 

Right?

 

So, maybe we can—I’ll go back to the ethnomathematics and STEM institute.

 

Sure.

 

So an example of a literal example, a specific example of mathematics, actually, STEM is, for example, when we go to from the heavens down to the valleys, when we go to Waimea Valley, we um, debark some of the trees with the workers there. And we talk about rock wall formations and the significance of the pohaku stones. And we talk about vectors. So, direction and magnitude in the placement of these stones. We need to know where they go, because we don’t have cement. And as we talk about vectors, we connect them to standards, such as the mathematics common core state standards or the next generation science standards.

 

In terms of the makeup of the rock wall?

 

And the mathematical content involved with attention to precision and finding … beauty, power, clarity, and precision, and symbolic reasoning. So, making the connections be—uh, really in P-20 education, from early childhood education through higher ed. At the four hundred year old Waikalua Loko fishpond, with the Pacific American Foundation, we talk about ellipses and foci. So, why are fishponds oriented in a certain way? Why is the auwai um, the connection between the ocean water and the fresh water – why does it have a certain placement?

 

M-hm.

 

How does that relate to rates of change or derivatives? And how do we take that back to the classroom? And how do students understand what a derivative is, and how does that impact the way that they … not just memorize them for a math test or a physics exam, but then carry it with them so that we can eventually prepare them for college, career, and community readiness?

 

How did math figure prominently in the life of ancient Hawaiians? Who didn’t have our tools. But who loved tools.

 

Great question. There’s no exact or formal term for a mathematician or a scientist, but what they did in order to build with pohaku or what they did to design the—like the structural engineering involved with designing a fishpond, or what they did to … take a look at the ecosystems and how—how we’re connected through place-based education, those are—those are some other ways that they incorporated mathematics.

 

University of Hawaii Associate Professor Linda Furuto is using her knowledge of math principles…as an apprentice navigator and education specialist on Hokulea’s Worldwide Voyage…which was launched in 2014. The Journey is called Malama Honua or “Caring for Island Earth.” Furuto was there at the very beginning of the epic travels-that first leg from Hawaii to Tahiti.

 

Our kumu, like … Nainoa and Bruce Blankenfeld, Kalepa Baybayan, Bob Perkins, as part of my apprentice navigator and education specialist training, they would ask me questions like, Linda, what do you think is the purpose of education? When do you think a child starts learning? And where do you see yourself in forty years? Uh, no pressure.

 

And do it in twenty-five words or less.

 

So, we studied really, really hard. We looked at charts, we mapped things out. And because we had done all that work beforehand . . . as Uncle Pinky Thompson said, ninety percent is preparation, of voyaging is preparation. We’d done that preparation. So, we’d reached the point where we had to trust ourselves. And that’s really hard sometimes, between the squalls and the massive waves, to trust what your naau is telling you. But I do know from experience that … it helps you, and that you need to know that, because when you’re trying to find coconut trees after twenty-five hundred miles … something inside of you has got to trust itself and to know that … that we’ve done the preparation, and to also know that we never sail alone, and even if there’s thirteen people on Hokulea, thousands of people are guiding Hokulea on her journey … on her journey to Keala Kahiki.

 

 

What was that first trip like, the first leg of the worldwide voyage? Tell me a little bit about that.

 

I remember when we left Hilo … Kumukahi, in May 2014.

 

We waited until … nature told us it was the right time. And it was the right time, because when we hit the … the intertropical convergent zone and the doldrums, which can typically be dark, very dark, we had the full moon, the light of the full moon guiding us like a spotlight. And we could see the door, this like quadrilateral at the end of the horizon, just showing us where we needed to guide Hokulea to get through. We barely touched the sweep, which is how we steer the canoe, because it’s Keala Kahiki Hokulea was finding her way home, from Hawaii to Tahiti. And we used principles of science, technology, engineering and math to um, use weight distribution, forward or aft so that we could, guide the canoe into the wind or off the wind. We also used … sails. We brought so many sails, so we could use the dynamics of the winds to get us there.

 

Rangiroa was the first land that we saw after sixteen days of being out on the open ocean. And Nainoa said, Okay guys, you know your calculations, but you need to put that on the side and you need to trust your naau. You need to trust what it’s telling you, because those are the signs that are gonna help you find the land. And we did.

 

I love the Promise to Children document that we’re carrying with us on Hokulea around the world. And part of it reads, We believe the betterment of humanity is inherently possible, and we believe our schools from early childhood education through graduate studies are a powerful force for good. As we sail forty-seven thousand nautical miles around the earth, we will share Hawaii’s gifts of kindness and caring with our—with our brothers and sisters.

 

To me, the real highlight was just seeing the smiles of the children and … having them experience um … their, our shared culture. And thousands have been able to come onboard the floating classrooms, Hokulea and Hikianalia, models of island sustainability and exploration of ancient wisdom and modern connections.

 

What’s it like, just day-by-day, on the Hokulea, heading out across a huge expanse of ocean? Where do you sleep?

 

We sleep in the hulls. The hulls are pretty deep, and there’s a platform that goes on top of the hull, with a little puka, so you can descend below. And when you descend below, we keep, there we keep like food, water, miscellaneous supplies, and then … so you have a puka. And then, there’s a hatch cover. On top of the hatch cover is a plywood. On top of the plywood is a foam mattress; it’s maybe a few inches thick. That’s what we sleep on. And then, there’s a canvas … a canvas tent above us. But we’re not dry.

 

You’re not dry?

 

No, we’re not dry.

 

Throughout the night, you’re not?

 

We are not—well, um … people like me who are apprentice and at the very bottom, we’re never dry.

 

And you could still sleep well?

 

M-hm; m-hm. Because we know we’re exactly where we need to be. And so, when our master navigators they sleep at the—at the back of canoe, where it’s drier. But eventually, maybe we’ll get to move back–a little bit more each voyage.

 

Linda Furuto says navigator Nainoa Thompson…one of her mentors…asked her several times to become an apprentice before she said yes. Furuto had to be sure she was ready for the monumental responsibility.

 

… I realize that this is a lifelong commitment, and that this is something that I’m pledging to do for the rest of my life, not just for myself, but to help in schools and to help through … education, P-20 education and beyond the classroom through place-based education. And these are things that I think about every day, because this is my commitment to—to honor my teachers

 

This is—this is my path, this is not something I asked for, and never asked to be an apprentice navigator. I never asked to be on that first leg from Hawaii to Tahiti. It’s a gift that comes with lifelong kuleana, and I embrace it.

 

 

It’s a lot of kuleana. And you’re looking for the—I mean, you’re on your way to having that burden.

 

I do think about that. And Leslie, if I could share with you a quote. Just because I think navigating past, present, and future visions is one of my pillars, and something that I think about every single day. As we were getting ready to leave for Tahiti, Nainoa called me up about eight-thirty at night. He’s like … Eh, Linda; what you doing?

 

But Leslie, I was really watching TV.

 

But I didn’t want to tell him that.

 

I was looking at the stars, Nainoa.

 

Exactly. And it—yes, I saw this, at this declination. We ended up meeting about ten-thirty at night, and we went walking at Paiko’s. And …

 

That’s East Honolulu.

 

M-hm.

 

Lagoon.

 

M-hm.

 

Okay.

 

M-hm. And we watched the star constellations, Hokulea, Hawaii’s Venus star, and her companion star Hikianalia. So, our Taurus and Spica just rising in the heavens. And Nainoa imparted wisdom that I hope I’ll always carry with me. And he said, Linda, you have to have a vision. If you don’t, someone will take it away from you, or they’ll give you theirs. And that’s really important. We need to always be grounded in what we’re willing to sail for.

 

At the time of this conversation in 2015, Linda Furuto had sailed on 3 legs of Hokulea’s voyage around the globe. Mahalo to Math Education Associate Professor Linda Furuto of the University of Hawaii at Manoa for sharing your story with us. And thank you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha A Hui Hou.

 

 

CREDITS: (30-40 SEC)

 

Two of my favorite places on Hokulea are the front and the back. On the back is a plaque; it’s for our na aumakua and it starts with Pele. And when we have the gods and goddesses, and up to this day, people who have gone before us uh, Papa Mau Piailug, our very first teacher and master navigator, um, and we have Lacy Veach, NASA astronaut and Punahou alum who says you need to take Hokulea around the world because Hawaii is a laboratory for living well on islands, including Island Earth.

 

Mm.

 

And when you have Eddie Aikau, whose plaque on the front of the canoe—so that’s my other favorite part. It reads, No greater love hath a man than this, that he laid down his life for his friends.   And I’m filled with courage, and I’m filled with peace, that I know I’m in the right place.

 

[END]

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Clarissa Chun

 

Original air date: Tues., May 8, 2012

 

Long before winning an Olympic bronze medal in wrestling, Clarissa Chun started competing in judo at age 7. By the time she took up wrestling at Roosevelt High School, Clarissa was unfazed about grappling with both boys and girls. Clarissa talks to Leslie Wilcox about her experiences in what she calls a “fun but gruesome” sport — one that until recently faced an uncertain Olympic future.

 

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Gearing up for that match, you would have thought I was crazy, ‘cause I was hitting myself, pulling my hair. I was like, no one’s gonna beat me up but myself. So, I just gotta go out there and compete and have fun doing it. I’m not gonna let her beat me up.

 

Wrestling is traditionally a man’s sport, but a woman from Hawaii is breaking down barriers with international success in the sport of female wrestling. Olympic bronze medalist Clarissa Chun, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

From a young age, Clarissa dreamed about competing in the Olympics, but not as a wrestler. Growing up on Oahu, Chun was a five – time national judo champion, and competed on her high school swim team. As fate would have it, women’s wrestling became a sanctioned sport in Hawaii high school athletics in 1998. Drawing on her judo background, Clarissa tried out for the wrestling team at Roosevelt High School in Honolulu. It was a move that would alter the course of her life.

 

Really, it was my sophomore year, after swimming State tournament. I don’t know; I always thought that I could do more in swimming. But at four – eleven, I was just, ah, okay, not getting to where —

 

You didn’t have Michael Phelps sized feet or anything like that?

 

No, I didn’t have his —

 

Flippers.

 

Yeah. So, I was like, oh, I love my swimming team. It was really hard for me to be — I don’t know, ‘cause I’m competitive. I want to be better, I want to do more. And I had friends who did judo, and a lot of them were wrestlers, and come out for wrestling. And I was like, I’ll try it. And it was a nice transition, judo to —

 

Judo helped you a lot, I imagine.

 

Yeah; it helped me a lot. I remember not really learning — I learned takedowns and stuff, but never really used it. [CHUCKLE] ‘Cause I would just throw people. Then when I started, it was against guys. It was the first —

 

There wasn’t a girls wrestling team?

 

That was the first year they had girls wrestling, but it was just me and another girl, so we didn’t make a full lineup. And they allowed females to wrestle guys during dual meets.

 

What was it like joining the boys wrestling team?

 

It was all right. It was nothing to me, really, ‘cause I grew up doing judo.

 

It might have been new to the boys who wrestled.

 

Yeah; to the boys. To the boys, it was.

 

‘Cause either way, I can see a certain mindset where they’d say, one, I don’t want to beat a girl.

 

Yeah.

 

And two, I don’t want to be beaten by a girl.

 

Yeah. So, at first, I think there was hesitation for some of the guys on the team. But I mean, we trained every day together; they get over it real fast. [CHUCKLE]

 

Is that right?

 

Yeah. Then it’s like —

 

There wasn’t some lingering, Oh, why does it have to be around her?

 

Yeah. No, it was like, I had a great team, so I can’t complain. I can’t say that I had much struggle there.

 

No resistance?

 

Yeah. My team would get a kick out of it if I’d win. [CHUCKLE] ‘Cause it’s like, yeah! [CHUCKLE] Poor guy and whatnot. And even still, I’ll see some of my old teammates, and they’re like, Oh, I bet those guys feel different now, like oh, it’s not so bad losing to a Olympian now. [CHUCKLE]

 

Well, when you would face off with each other, did you do any psychological stuff?

 

No.

 

No? No trash talking?

 

No; I’m not good at stuff like that. I’m not.

 

It’s all straight – on competition?

 

Yeah. I don’t know if it comes from my judo background, or just my culture in general that it’s just, I’ve always respected my opponents. I never trash talk.

 

Throughout her long journey from Oahu to Beijing and to London, Clarissa Chun’s family has always been a huge influence in her life. She says that sibling rivalry with her older brother Shaun helped push her to compete in athletics at a young age.

 

Your mom and your dad have been so supportive of you. Do you get your competitive fire from them?

 

No; I don’t know where I get it from. [CHUCKLE] They’re so easygoing.   I mean, yeah, my dad’s super laid back, kinda softs – spoken kinda guy. And my mom’s complete opposite, very talkative. Maybe I get it from her. I don’t know. I probably get it from both in some way or another. But yeah, she’s the one that always goes and goes. She would be the one that would drop us off, pick us up and run all over the place.

 

Sort of a whatever it takes mindset, which is what an athlete has too.

 

Right; right.

 

You’ve mentioned your brother; three years older than you, Shaun.

 

M – hm.

 

What part has he played in your sports career? Because I believe athletically he did encourage you.

 

Oh, yeah.   It didn’t just start and stop at judo. Even growing up, when we were doing judo, he was bigger than me, he would always pick on me. We’d fight a lot.

 

Physically?

 

Physically and just play tricks on me. I don’t know, just be the big prankster brother that he was. [CHUCKLE] But yeah, and still to this day. Well, before I made the decision, when I went off to college, he was like, Why not take the scholarship and try wrestling? ‘Cause I was kind of at a crossroads. I’m like, Missouri? I don’t know. And he said, If you don’t like it, you can always come back and go judo or whatever route you want. And so he kinda helped guide me to that decision.

 

I heard somebody describe wrestling once. I think it was a collegiate level wrester saying, It’s the tactical manipulation of your opponent to take control, normally through pain.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Would you agree?

 

Yeah. When you’re on the mat competing, it may sound dirty to say that you want to cause pain to your opponent. But at that level, I feel like … I mean at that level, there’s so many different styles of wrestlers. You can be the tactical and strategic and fluid, you can be the brute and abrasive. I remember, I think, one time I was in Russia, and I felt like I got punched in the eye during my match. And I’m like, Whoa, where did that come from? Like, how? And I was just thrown off for a second. And it just got me off focus like that. And any time you can — not saying that I’ve ever punched anyone in the eye or anything during a match, but whatever her strategy was, it worked. In the wrestling world against females, it gets pretty intense sometimes.

 

You mean, when females oppose females?

 

Yeah. It almost seems worse, ‘cause it becomes kind like, claws come out, hair gets pulled. Which is why I chop my hair off. And I even got bit my first round at the Olympics.

 

What do people know you as, do you think? I mean, everyone has ways of pigeonholing or just have some kind of short description.

 

Yeah.

 

What’s yours?

 

Well, I’ve heard people say that I’m quick, I move fast. There’s a move that they like.

 

What’s it called?

 

I don’t even know what it’s called. Actually, I learned it off watching video from the Russians. The men Russian video. Yeah; so just playing around with that with a friend in practice.

 

What do you do?

 

I just attack with my legs, rather than my arms. ‘Cause it’s a little bit of judo in a sense, but it’s not really a judo technique. Most takedowns, people would expect that I would shoot with my arms, not with my legs.

 

So where are you kicking them?

 

Behind their leg, and I’m wrapping around them, and then bringing my arm behind to secure it in a sense. So, yeah, it’s a little funky, people would say.

 

So, you just mentioned the word funky. So, I’ve just got to ask you; it’s probably really trivial and unimportant. But I know I’ve met women who’ve said they would never consider going into the man’s sport of wrestling at the time.

 

Uh – huh.

 

Because of the stinky factor.

 

Yeah; it can get gross. [CHUCKLE]   The mats; yeah, it gets funky. And the smell, in each country or region, they have a certain funk to themselves too. But I don’t know, I guess it’s just one of those — it may bother us for a split second, like, Oh, gosh, that’s horrible.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You know.

 

That’s another of those gruesome things.

 

Yeah. One of those gruesome things.

 

Clarissa Chun attended Missouri Valley College on a wrestling scholarship. In 2002, women’s wrestling became an official Olympic sport, and Chun set her sights on Olympic competition. In 2008, she qualified for Team USA and competed in the Olympic Games in Beijing.

 

I think a lot of folks in Hawaii know what it’s like when you have to go from JV to Varsity in high school, and then you decide if you’re gonna go collegiate, and a lot of people — No, I’m out of there, I’m not gonna perform at that level. And then, of course, you went beyond that.

 

Yeah.

 

What’s different about the Olympic level?

 

Oh …

 

The highest level of the sport.

 

Oh, man. I think … and in every aspect, there’s discipline. In high school, you had to be disciplined about schoolwork along with practice. Being at practice and giving it your all in practice. And it carried over into college. And then at the Olympic level, it was even more focused. This is what I do every day; I wake up, I train. Gotta make sure I eat right to fuel my body for practices, to recover from practices. And making sure I do all the right things, meaning sleeping at a decent time. When I was in high school, I was a terrible eater. I would eat all kinds of junk food; li hing mui, everything and anything. And I wasn’t really the greatest at sleeping. I’d get home late and sleep late, and wake up early ‘cause I live so far. I don’t know; at the Olympic level, especially the year before, it just seems the energy becomes more intense ‘cause everyone wants it. Everyone wants that spot. And for women’s wrestling, there’s only four.

 

Okay; you walked away from the 2008 Olympics empty – handed. You came in fifth.

 

I know; it was terrible.

 

But next time, you won the Bronze. Did you notice anything that allowed you intensify or do something different?

 

Differently; yeah. Well, in 2008, it was my first Olympics. But at the same time, when I lost in the semis, I couldn’t get over it. That match was done but I still kept thinking about that match. I was emotionally … I was on an emotional rollercoaster.

 

But you had lost before and gotten over losses.

 

Yeah.

 

But this was different?

 

‘Cause it was the Olympics. In 2008, I was like, I should be going for Gold. I could have done — I regretted not giving even a little bit more in my semifinals match. Then my coach told me, That’s in the past, fight for third. You’re still fighting for a medal. And so, I’d be upset that I wasn’t in the Gold Medal match, I’d be sad for myself that I wasn’t in the Gold match. I’d be angry and like, I’m gonna beat up the next person I gotta wrestle. So I was on a rollercoaster ride.

 

After her fifth – place finish in the 2008 Olympic Games, Clarissa Chun refocused her training beyond the physical aspects of wrestling. In 2012, she qualified again for Team USA and returned to the Olympic Games, this time in London.

 

And I remember before the 2012 Olympics, I sought out a sports psychologist consistently. I’ve worked with sports psychologists before in the past, but it was sporadic. It was more that I had to find my weaknesses, and then work on them. On and off the mat.

 

How do you do mental training? I want to learn some of that.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

How do you do that?

 

Breathing techniques or concentration drills, or … let’s see, meditation.

 

And that’s all about controlling your thoughts.

 

Yeah.

 

So that they’re positive in terms of what you need to do.

 

M – hm; yup. Yup. So, it’s just like visualization. A lot of that.

 

What do you visualize?

 

Getting my hand raised.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Hearing the National Anthem.

 

So, it’s not this —

 

No. [CHUCKLE]

 

— boom, takedown.

 

Well, sometimes.

 

It’s more like, Hello, everyone.

 

Yeah. No, no, no.

 

Gold star winner.

 

No, no. [CHUCKLE] They just raise their hand.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Like brute style, right? Gladiator. [CHUCKLE] But sometimes it is technique. Feeling the mat, your surroundings, hearing he cheers and the crowd. It’s very detailed.

 

But you have to be able to do that when you need to.

 

Yeah. It’s kinda like zoning in, being in the moment. In 2012, when I lost, I felt that well, I gotta keep winning to … basically fight for my medal. My emotions were more focused. I contained emotions, as far as I didn’t go on a rollercoaster ride.

 

How could you do it the next Olympics, when you hadn’t done it the first one? What did you learn in between?

 

Just … letting it go, I guess. Letting that match go. I couldn’t let go of it in 2008; and ’12, I could. I just focused on the match in front of me. And preparing for my Bronze medal match, that one was tough, because it was the female that beat me in 2008 for the Bronze. So I was like, Oh … I had to be mentally tough, and physically tough.

 

I thought I read something about how at some point during that match or the series of matches, you looked at the podium and you remembered you didn’t get to go up there the last time.

 

Oh, yeah. It was my match against Poland, the girl who bit me. They were setting up the podium behind her.   And I had to beat her in order to go into the medal round.

 

I see.

 

So, her back was towards the podium, and I was facing it. So, I kinda passed her. I already had lost the first period to her, and before the second period I kinda glimpsed past her and I was like don’t let this slip through kinda thing. I want to get on there, and I’m so close. And that’s when I did my painful front headlock throw on her, [CHUCKLE] and then pinned her. And I was like, Yay! Okay; next. [CHUCKLE]

 

I understand you had quite a crowd from Hawaii cheering for you.

 

Yeah.

 

How many people came?

 

I think thirty – eight. Yeah.

 

Who were they?

 

My family. My mom, dad, brother, my judo family. So, my old judo sensei and my judo teammates, my high school friends. Even some of my swimming friends that I swam with at Rooselvelt came. My high school wrestling coach and his brother and his family came out. So, I was just very blessed to have such a good solid cheering crowd.

 

Absolutely.

 

M – hm; yeah.

 

 

Clarissa Chun has competed in a host of other national and international wrestling competitions beyond the Olympics. In 2012, she also won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games. Over the years, the sport has taken a physical toll on her, but don’t expect this champion to tap out any time soon.

 

We sent a little questionnaire to you, just asking you for basic information before you came. And I was so amused by what you said about wrestling. You said it’s a fun, if gruesome sport.

 

Yeah.

 

Gruesome?

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE]

 

Are you talking about injuries?

 

Everything. Just training and injuries. I feel you’re lucky if you can walk away injury – free. Meaning, just come out with no injuries at all. Luckier if you can walk away without any surgery to be done. And I know some friends who’ve walked away from the sport without having to get surgeries, but injuries are —

 

So, you’ve had at least three surgeries.   Four?

 

Three on my shoulder, two on my knee.

 

Two on your knees.

 

One on my elbow. [CHUCKLE]

 

Were those breaks? What kind of injuries?

 

Two of them were cleanups, and the rest were tears.

 

Cleanup from what?

 

So, my elbow had bone spurs floating around. So, just go in, take those out. Knee was ACL, and then the cleanup was, just shaving of — it would get frayed and get locked up, and they would just clean the bone up.

 

Same shoulder?

 

Yeah. Well, three shoulder surgeries. So, there’s two on one side, and one on the other. And those were all tearing. Yeah.

 

You must be very good at handling pain.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

Have you always had a high threshold for pain?

 

I think so. Yeah, I think so. That’s the only time my family gets concerned. Each time I get a surgery, they’re like, How much longer are you gonna do this? Are you sure you want to continue?

 

Athletes generally have short competitive careers. Now in her thirties, Clarissa Chun knows that the 2016 Olympic Games could be her last run at Olympic Gold.

 

And the third time around in the Olympics for you —

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I wonder if that means you’ll have further increase in control and awareness.

 

I hope so.

 

And ability to focus on just that.

 

Oh, yeah. I can’t wait for that moment to click. It’s like an everyday thing when I’m in training. Sports psychology is … mental training is just as crucial as physical training. It’s something that I practiced and trained every week.

 

Have you thought about what, after that?

 

Oh … I have. I’m just not sure. I even thought about that prior to making this journey to 2016. ‘Cause it was like, Oh, should I go into coaching? There’s this program in New York called Beat the Streets for inner city New York kids. Teach them wrestling. And there’s a wrestling club in New Jersey was well. I thought about that. I’ve had people come up to me and ask me if I want to be a coach or an assistant coach at a college program. I wish we had no expiration date on an athletic career.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I wish I could go ‘til the end of time. But it’s just one of those — I’m at my career in my life where I am like, the older age of competing.

 

In your early thirties.

 

Yeah. And I’ve even known some who competed in their late thirties.

 

You mentioned mixed martial arts a bit ago.

 

M – hm.

 

Which is pretty much anything goes.

 

Yeah.

 

Would you ever feel comfortable doing something like that?

 

I don’t know. I get offers, and I get asked a lot. ‘Cause a lot of my friends who were wrestlers are doing it now. A lot of the top guys who compete in MMA were top level wrestlers, and they try to get me to go to that side. [CHUCKLE] I call it the dark side. No, I’m just joking. [CHUCKLE]

 

But it has some appeal to you?

 

Yeah.

 

Because you like to compete.

 

Yeah.

 

And that’s anything goes.

 

Yeah.

 

You can bring out your whole arsenal.

 

Yeah. It’s funny, ‘cause when I talked to my mom and dad about it, and even my brother, but more my mom and dad, and the look on their face; they’re like, Ooh. ‘Cause that’s a whole kind of different beast to them. ‘Cause wrestling, there’s still rules.

 

Exactly.

 

In MMA, there’s rules, but a lot less rules. You’re getting kicked in the face, hit in the face, punched, whatever. You’re getting choked out, someone’s trying to rip your arms off, or break your knees, your ankles, whatever. And I mean, when I think about it that way, I’m like, Whoo! [CHUCKLE]

 

Especially when you see them making big body, tan – ta – ra before.

 

Yeah.

 

And they say, I’m gonna kill that guy.

 

Yeah.

 

You think, Wow, you know, actually, they could.

 

Yeah. [CHUCKLE] They’re beasts, right?

 

Is there anything you regret giving up or sacrificing for this Olympic dream?

 

No. I enjoy every moment of the Olympics, from making the team to even after making the team. Or even after the Olympics is done. After my first Olympic experience, I was like, What winter sport can I do? [CHUCKLE] Because I want to go to every single Olympics, and I absolutely love the spirit of it. I love how each country can come together. I love how each sport can come together within each country. I don’t know, I just love everything about it.

 

Women’s freestyle wrestling Olympic Bronze Medalist Clarissa Chun recently signed with a new coach in the hopes of expanding her wrestling repertoire. When we talked with her, she was preparing to return to the U.S. mainland to begin another round of training. Expect to see Clarissa Chun go for the Gold in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Mahalo to Clarissa Chun for sharing her story with us, and mahalo to you for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I’m looking forward to the six o’clock morning practices sometimes. It’s just I’m ready for that routine, I’m ready to get back in shape and start doing what I love. I mean, I’m enjoying my time at home, but it’s just each day goes by, I think, How can I better myself for 2016?

 

Onstage in America:
Honky

 

A stage comedy about racism in America that throws political correctness out the window in a free-wheeling send-up of contemporary attitudes. The lighthearted, irreverent satire hits squarely home and still finds reasons for hope. The comedy was written by Greg Kalleres and directed for the stage by Sam Woodhouse.