Among many definitions of the Chinese term kung fu is the rough translation "skill achieved through hard work." Clark University first-year student Cheyenne R. Lachapelle, of Worcester, is just beginning to prove how far her hard work and passion for this challenging martial art will take her.
In October, Lachapelle '19 defended her title at the 5th Annual New England Chinese Martial Arts Championship, where she won the 2015 Traditional Northern Women's Grand Championship.
Lachapelle has been involved with kung fu since age 3 and earned her black sash at age 12. She also participates in tai chi and Chinese Lion dance. She practices at Shaolin Kung Fu Centers in Worcester, where she is known as Sije ("older sister") Cheyenne and grew up learning from peers and her father, Sifu ("teacher") Gary Lachapelle.
Like the art of kung fu, Clark University has played a large role in Lachapelle's life, she says. "I
grew up behind Clark for about eight years of my life. Even after I moved out of the neighborhood, I was often at Clark for demonstrations for my kung fu school, to listen in on a family friend's thesis and was present to take my AP tests in the Jonas Clark building. I've always personally loved the vibe of the campus and the convenience of being so close to home."
The physical demands of kung fu have not only helped Lachapelle stay fit and capable of self-defense, she says, "but it was also a mentally straining art. The multiple lessons on discipline, respect and courtesy as I was growing up in and out of the kung fu classes has built my outgoing social skills. The consistent physical activity has built my memory skills and also kept my time management up to par."
Lachapelle stresses that "anyone can do martial arts. It's nothing like, oh, 'this specific body type' or 'only men can do martial arts because they're more physically capable.' Not at all the case. … At Clark, there's so much acceptance for that divergence, and it's great to see. .. Whatever you want to do — it doesn't matter who you are — they inspire you to do it, and that's what I love."
Lachapelle adds, "Martial arts taught me the proper solutions to solve conflicts through self defense as well as the proper social speech skills to prevent any further conflicts. But, in a more basic sense, it has kept me busy. It kept me focused, diligent and essentially out of any trouble …"
At Clark University, Lachapelle majors in biology and is a recipient of the Traina Scholarship. Her excellence in martial arts and academics also garnered scholarship support from the Helen Gee Chin Scholarship Foundation. Lachapelle's extra-curricular interests include the student-led Salsa Club, Science-Fiction People of Clark, and the Association of Martial Arts Club.
Lachapelle is a 2015 graduate of South High Community School in Worcester.
Read "Worcester teen set to defend world kung fu title" (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)
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