Sevier student places second in martial arts competition

Jahson Dennis, Staff Writer

John Ryan, an eighth grade student at John Sevier Middle School, has an unusual hobby. He studies martial arts and participates in sparring competitions. This past summer, he placed 2nd in a sparring competition in Florida.


Ryan was born in South Korea in 2002. This has had a big impact on his life.


“It is quite unique to be a citizen of the United States and another country,” he said.


He started participating in Taekwondo two and a half years ago.


“Taekwondo is a Korean defensive art,” Ryan said. “Since it is Korean, I just felt attracted to it.”


Ryan believes that his greatest moment in martial arts was winning second place in the Amateur Athletic Union, or AAU, national championship. AAU is an organization that promotes and helps develop amateur sports such as basketball, baseball, gymnastics and taekwondo.


“I participated in 7 events,” Ryan said. “The first 6 were regional competitions where I demonstrated my ability to remember and perform certain movements, which represent a historical Korean battle.”


While all careers have their ups and downs, Ryan feels the worst moment in his career as a martial artist was trying to memorize all his forms. As a martial artist progresses in taekwondo, forms become longer and more difficult.


“The most difficult thing for me is working on my forms,” he said. “The further you progress the more forms you have to learn and it becomes more challenging. In some forms, you would have to learn up to a thousand moves.”


Ryan’s athletic role models are his parents.


“My parents inspired me to do martial arts,” he said. “They are proud of me for trying a new sport and the accomplishments that I have made.”


Ryan trains about ten to twenty minutes every day. His training usually consists of forms, breaking techniques and sparring.


“Probably the most difficult thing is sparring,” he said. “It involves actually trying to strike another player and defend myself against his or her strikes.”


Ryan practices at KHK Martial Arts where he met his coach, Linus Griffin.


“My coach there is South Korean and love’s Taekwondo,” he said. “He treats me with care; the best coach I could ever ask for. He is nice to everyone, and challenges us to become a better student in martial arts.”


After spending over two years studying martial arts, Ryan knows a thing or two about what it takes to be successful.


“The most important thing about being a martial artist is having the desire to put in all the practice and compete with other students,” Ryan said. “In the beginning, this was very scary, but as I get more and more sparring ballots under my belt, I have felt more and more at ease.”


Ryan’s first real competition was in Kingsport, Tennessee.


“It was very scary,” he said. “I was up there by myself looking at the other player when the instructor gave the order to start. It didn’t seem real until the first time I was hit.”


Since that first competition in Kingsport, he has competed in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.


Still, Ryan has proven himself a successful martial artist.


“I have one first place in sparring and 2nd place or 3rd place in forms and different events,” he said.”


Ryan plans to continue his study of Taekwondo in the future.


“As I go to high school, college and maybe other colleges, Taekwondo will always be there as a wonderful hobby or sport for me to maintain my health and conditioning,” he said.


His advice to those who would like to participate in taekwondo is to find a good instructor.


“The coaches that instruct me have taught me to do my techniques and my sparring in a particular way,” he said. “If I do each move in a form or if I approach an opponent in sparring like the instructors at my school tell me to, I seem to do pretty well.”



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