Now it’s time to teach others

WHS senior Nicole Topanian already has Hall of Fame credentials


Raider Times photo / Courtesy of the Topanian family

The author, who started in sambo at age 6, was recently honored by the Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Nicole Topanian, Raider Times staff

My father is my role model and my sambo coach.

No, not samba like salsa dancing. Sambo, as in Russian martial arts, a unique form of martial arts that allows striking, kicking, throws, and submissions. This allowed me to also branch off to sports such as judo, wrestling, karate, and jiu-jitsu.

This sport has a great impact on my life. Not only has sambo taught me about the importance of staying self-determined and motivated, it has also built my character. Walking onto the white markings on the mat, shaking hands with my opponent, all of this gives me an adrenaline rush that intensifies my competitive nature.

I am proud to say that my father built a path for me to have had great opportunities for sharing my skills, tactics, and leadership on and off the mat. Ever since the age of 6, my father has been preparing me physically and mentally for this sport.

Raider Times photo / Courtesy of the Topanian family
The author, who started in sambo at age 6, was recently honored by the Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

One could assume that he would be more lenient with his daughter as his student, however, this is far from the truth. As his daughter, I believe that he has pushed me to work even harder every day, whether it is at the sambo club or not.

Sambo has also taught me time management. Having two-hour classes every night has taught me the importance of staying both organized and on track academically. My father’s expectations for everyone on my team are that academic success is of No. 1 importance and that it correlates to our performance on the mat. I am a two-time USA Open Sambo Champion, three-time Baby Bay State Champion, and New England Sambo champion.

The competitiveness in my sambo class influences my academics as well, since my father has a no-tolerance rule of not putting in 100 percent, therefore I never give less. A few years ago, I was elected as Youth Instructor at my sambo club. I had basically the same responsibilities as my father in the room. I organized warmups and acrobatics, taught moves, and ran classes.

I was incredibly honored by my fellow teammates since they believed that I was capable of fulfilling this important role. As a Youth Instructor, I modeled my father’s behavior that I had picked up over the years. Now, it was my role to keep the students motivated and determined to always put in their best work.

Furthermore, this position gave me the confidence in knowing I could help others learn something extremely important: being able to protect yourself.

In July 2019, I was honored by the Martial Arts Hall of Fame as an Outstanding Youth Instructor. I do not have the words to explain the excitement and disbelief I experienced when I found out about this award. This award was such a huge deal for me since it shined a light on the countless hours of work and training that I put into the sport. It was a symbol of how far I’ve come since I started this journey.

–Oct. 22, 2019–