The Mina Lash #SenseiBeyonce
Bold, beautiful, courageous – Mina Yamazaki is working her way to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, all while running her family-owned dojo and motivating other young women to find their inner hero. Our interview with Mina will tell you exactly why she’s inspired a favorite lash!
1. A 7-year-old phenom: Mina was a karate super star and black belt by the age of 7, but karate is a sport you do by yourself and can be lonely. By the time she got to high school, she’d gravitated to team sports and stopped karate completely. Mina tells us she peaked at age 7, but she’s wrong. She’s actually just getting started.
2. Modest Mina: “Starting over was humbling, I wasn’t that good. I was a 7-year-old super star, but now needed to work my way back to the top.” Mina says there was a lot of pressure to be good, but she had to realize in her heart that she could do it. “I could give up or work hard. I decided to work hard.” She is thankful and humbled that she’s had the opportunity to train with the best sensei at the finest dojos in the world. “I remember being the worst in the dojo and training with women that are champions. I was losing so bad. I thought, ‘I can sit here and keep getting my butt kicked, or I can get better,’” Mina said.
3. Just call her SenseiBeyonce! Mina is so nicknamed because of her fierce femininity, independent spirit, and strong character. Being a female sensei in a male-dominated arena isn’t easy. While it isn’t considered strange, it is certainly not common. “Female sensei take a back seat for big decisions, but I think it’s slowly changing,” Mina said. “It is interesting to be where I am and be aware of it, being one of them and making a difference.” We’ll say! Mina draws the same commanding attention in her dojo as Beyonce does on stage. “Young girls know who she is and understand what I mean, when I say SenseiBeyonce,” she told us.
4. Family first! Mina was away at school and working in San Francisco but knew her family needed her back home in Orange County. Her dad needed to retire from the daily tasks of running the dojo, but the board thought Mina was too young to take over. “They weren’t wrong,” she said, “but it was the best thing for my family.” Her non-profit dojo believes in creating strong connections and has a great family vibe. Mina trains families from all over Southern California. One family in particular drives 2+ hours to have their daughter train with Mina. They sought out a female sensei so their daughter could connect with other strong women proving what a difference – Go, Mina! – one person can make within their community.
5. Olympics or bust! There’s no doubt Mina is competitive and goal oriented. “I always want something more and to get there as fast as possible,” she said. “When I know what the goal is, EVERYTHING aligns with that goal.” Right now, Mina is hyper-focused and giving 100 percent to be in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. “2020 is the first year that karate will be in the summer Olympics,” she said. Only the top 10 people from around the globe will be there, so Mina is working to place as high as possible at each tournament. One of her biggest hurdles is funding. Competing in a tournament every month anywhere in the world isn’t cheap. Still, Mina knows she’s lucky because everything has fallen into place. “I’m in a place where this is actually possible. It has worked out for a reason,” she said. And if she fails, “It won’t be because of money, time, or training, but something totally out of my control.” It also won’t be because of haters! “If people around me are not supportive, I can’t be friends with them.” That’s why Mina has surrounded herself with people who are supportive and positive.
6. Strike, block, kick! Don’t be fooled by Mina’s elbow strikes and roundhouse kicks. As she side-kicks her way to the Tokyo Olympics, she’s also maintaining a full-time job as a project coordinator. Amid all the busy-ness of being a sensei, she is learning about a work/life balance and considers everything a learning opportunity to know what to change the next time. Her advice? “Be open! Everything happens for a reason.” Mina knows she can’t just sit around, so she works hard and sees the good things coming from her effort. “Karate teaches you important life skills. I didn’t have an intention of taking over the dojo, but I saw opportunity for helping the women and girls who came in and wanted to help them in their daily lives,” she said.