Melanie Gibson began taekwondo training at age ten. At age twelve she stopped taekwondo to pursue other interests, and resumed training in her early thirties.

Although Melanie had academic and career achievements throughout her life, she struggled with mental illness and low self-esteem. After making some progress through psychiatric treatment and counseling, she knew she needed to do something more substantial to make lasting changes. Returning to taekwondo had always been in the back of her mind, and the timing was right. 

Taekwondo proved to be not only an opportunity to re-learn a beloved skill from her childhood, but also a means to build her self-esteem and confidence, and heal from old wounds. It brought a needed excitement and purpose to her life, which she shares in her blog Little Black Belt (http://littleblackbelt.com). While continuing to work at her full-time job, Melanie dedicated herself to taekwondo training and earned her first degree black belt in 2015. In 2017, she earned her second degree black belt. Although a pandemic and knee injury sidelined her training in 2020, Melanie plans to return to taekwondo and test for her third degree black belt. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Library Science from the University of North Texas, and an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. Melanie has worked in the healthcare industry since 2004, with roles as a hospital librarian, corporate trainer, and learning designer. 


Melanie Gibson was an independent woman with a good job, multiple college degrees, and a condo in the trendy part of Fort Worth. She also had a few mental illnesses, a minor substance abuse problem, and rotten relationship skills. She was nearing a total mental breakdown and needed a good kick in the pants, literally and metaphorically. 

As a last desperate means to save her sanity, Melanie turned to a nearly forgotten childhood activity: the Korean martial art of taekwondo. To her surprise and delight, she discovered her childhood taekwondo instructors’ Grandmaster operated a taekwondo school a few miles from her home. She restarted her training as a white belt and quickly learned that taekwondo had much more to offer than just learning how to kick and punch.

In taekwondo, Melanie felt like she had a fresh start in more ways than one. She found an inner peace she’d never known before, a sense of community, a newfound confidence, healthy relationship stability, and a positive outlook on life. The kicking and screaming she was doing in class quieted the long-suffering kicking and screaming in her mind. Funny and frank, Kicking and Screaming: A Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts  is the story of Melanie’s life-changing journey from troubled, lost soul to confident taekwondo black belt.


  • Hiding in plain sight with mental illness: (May is Mental Health Awareness Month) Many people with mental illness never see the inside of a “psych ward” or have other extreme experiences attributed to popular perceptions of mental illness. Due in part to societal and cultural stigma, they hide behind accomplishments and a normal-seeming life and suffer in private. 
  • Confessions of a crazy ex-girlfriend: Advice on how to beat an addiction to toxic relationships 
  • Overcoming adversity with an unusual hobby: People take up martial arts for a variety of reasons. Melanie returned to taekwondo as a last ditch effort for “emergency” mental and emotional healing. 
  • Tips for dealing with plateaus and setbacks: People seeking to change their lives don’t magically transform overnight. How this applies to martial arts as well as in life.
  • A sports story: Athletes from any sport can relate to the frustration of being a beginner, hitting plateaus, the excitement of making progress, feeling nervous at competitions or other tests of skill, the physical and emotional toll of an injury, the endorphin rush of sports performance, etc.
  • How to get started practicing martial arts: Benefits of practicing martial arts, learning/practicing taekwondo after 30 (or 40), recovering/returning to your sport after injury, how quarantine changes the way we practice martial arts.


  • August is Happiness Happens Month
  • August is Be Kind to Humankind Week
  • September is Self Improvement and Self Care Month
  • September is Suicide Prevention Month.


“Melanie’s story proves that mental illness can be overcome. That alone would be enough, but that fact that she rekindled her love of Taekwondo, and used it for its true purpose (inner peace) made it that much more compelling. A must read for anyone looking to get out of a rut!” — Grayson Berry (Actor on Cobra Kai-Netflix)

“An inspirational, sharp, and disarmingly humorous account about taekwondo and mental health.”KIRKUS REVIEWS  

“I am left in awe of Melanie’s courage to reveal her darkest struggles in the hope of helping others. Her fight to find the light inside herself and share it with the world is a tale of inspiration for anyone–martial artist or not. Let the breakthrough in these pages be a call to us all to transform from our own worst enemy to our own best friend.” – Ando Mierzwa, Happy Life Martial Arts