Under the direction of fourth-degree black belt instructor Jeannie Guardino, students from Patterson’s Tigers American Taekwondo Association Black Belt Academy fared well at the summer Regional Tournament.
The competition was hosted by William Jessup University and attracted more than 900 competitors from all over the region.
“I’m very proud of all our students,” said Guardino, who has trained 19 years in the martial arts and achieved her first black belt in 1999. “They are a very disciplined and a very dedicated group.”
The local school sent 13 students to the tournament, ranging in age from 4 to 45 years.
“It’s really rewarding to watch a young person become outgoing and confident through tae kwon do,” Guardino said. “Watching the students perform in tournaments makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
“For everyone to go to this tournament and do their best, and to see those big smiles — it’s invaluable.”
Like any martial art properly taught and properly practiced, tae kwon do is a non-aggressive and ethical system of self-defense, Guardino said.
While famous for its wide range of kicks, tae kwon do also emphasizes breaking power, such as splitting wood and bricks using only the bare hands and feet. Training involves a variety of techniques, to include punching, kicking, dodging, jumping, parrying and blocking. Taekwondo also focuses on sparring and learning formal patterns of movement called forms.
“The great thing about (tae kwon do) is that the students learn structure in a fun way,” Guardino said. “Tae kwon do teaches kids to set and attain their goals.
“It’s always a positive atmosphere (during instruction) — we don’t allow any negativity. Students build confidence and get stronger as they move up the ranks.”
First-place trophies at the regional event were awarded to Makayla Castulo (forms), Matthew Castulo (forms and sparring), Brayden Raney (forms, sparring and weapons) and Shawn Apostal (forms).
Earning second-place honors were Omar Ortiz (forms and sparring), A.J. Tadios (weapons), Julian Hernandez (sparring), Andre Tadios (sparring), David Perry (forms) and Apostal (sparring).
Third-place finishers included Natalia Cordova (forms) and Andre Tadios (forms and weapons).
Taking home fourth-place trophies were Maya Turner (forms and sparring), Ariana Turner (forms and sparring), Michelle Avilia (forms), A.J. Tadios (forms and sparring), Cordova (sparring), Hernandez (forms), Apostal (weapons) and Perry (sparring).
This year’s event also marked a first for the ATA regional tournament, as the organization welcomed its recently inaugurated grand master, In Ho Lee. Lee is the third Grand Master for the Songahm Taekwondo family.
“(Meeting Lee) was a real exciting treat for our students. He was very humble and down-to-earth, and he took time for each person he came across,” Guardino said. “Everyone was getting autographs and taking pictures.”