Mother and son find much to gain from timeless study
Entering a gym, feeling like all eyes are on you. Facing down a thick slab of wood, adjusting the height, then turning to the judges to announce your name and technique used to splinter a board. Then driving your hand in a blur of speed and power to cleanly break the target. It is a process that could intimidate anyone.
Justin Hanson of Alta was especially nervous, participating in his first Tae Kwon Do tournament in Oelwein on March 17. The young student has only been practicing since November.
"It was to be just a learning experience but it was exciting to be able to place," Hanson said. "I was kind of nervous but once I got started it all went away. I did have some trouble with speaking out loud because I'm kind of shy."
Hanson took home two first place medals for form and board breaking skill for his age group. He was invited to practice for grand championship competition, facing off against the winners of the other age groups.
"I didn't win but I was excited to participate and was awarded a bracelet," Hanson said as he held up a green bracelet with "SPIRIT" printed on it.
Hanson is enrolled at the Jung's Tae Kwon Do Academy in Alta, and meet Grand Master Woo Jin Jung at the tournament.
"I had trouble understanding him so I said 'Yes Sir' a lot and he signed my name in Korean and it was really cool," Hanson said. "He asked me if I wanted to become a black belt and I said 'yes sir' with a bow."
Instructor Jennifer Brechwald was pleased to see one of her pupils perform so well, so early in his career.
"It's great to see him do well but it's not like a competition like most people think, " Brechwald said. "It's more of a test for yourself than it is to beat someone else. I look forward to being able to take more students to different tournaments."
Hanson's mother, Deb, is also involved in Tae Kwon Do classes. She is pleased with her son's performance.
"I've always been proud of him and still am," Deb said. "He has gotten better not only in the martial arts but his attitude is improving and he has his confidence growing."
Hanson was also excited to present his grade report to his mom that showed that his grades have been on a rise even as he has committed time to the martial arts. Discipline is an underlying factor in both.
"It helps me with my focus and relieve stress," Hanson said of Tae Kwon Do. "I've always been interested in martial arts and when I saw it at school I knew it was something I wanted to try."
Hanson is looking forward to the next tournament to get to know more fellow students.
"I met another guy from Fort Dodge who was also a yellow belt and this was his first tournament as well," Hanson said. "I recommend meeting other students because you might run into them again, and you'll know someone there."
The sport at this level is something of a close-knit fraternity.
In one area, a yellow belt (beginning) student placed first above higher ranking belts in board breaking for adults. Everyone rushed to congratulate her, Hanson said.
"Even though a person doesn't place they are excited for those who do place," Deb said. "Everyone has a different form and everyone is willing to help each other."
Deb will also be looking at competing in the future as well.
Hanson recommends to people that if they are interested in martial arts to give it a try.
"It's not like you have to compete, but if you are really interested you should at least try it out to see if you like it," Hanson said.