Taekwondo students learning valuable lessons

Dave Mathieson
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AMHERST - It's often the case that the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete is that the great athlete loves their sport, while the good athlete merely likes it.
For taekwondo enthusiasts Mike White and Kaitlyn Dawson their chosen sport is one they couldn't live without.
Both athletes train at JC's TaeKwon-Do in Amherst.
"I just love to come here and practice," Dawson said. "I'm here pretty well every day."
White said his job keeps doesn't allow him to make it to the club as often as he'd like but he attends every chance he gets.
Before beginning at JC's, White attended a personal productivity and time management seminar where he was told he should set lifetime goals for the ages of 40, 45 and onward.
"The one I set for myself when I was 40 was to have my black-belt in taekwondo," White said.
White is now 37 years old and has his red belt.
"Now my goal has changed," White said. "I want to have my second degree black belt by the time I'm 40."
Dawson, who is 17 years old and attends Grade 11 at ARHS, has a red stripe belt and her goals aren't quite as defined.
"I just want to keep training and see where it takes me," she said.
Each athlete is approximately two and a half years into their training both have come a long way in a short time.
At a world cup meet last July in Toronto Dawson won silver in sparring and White won a bronze in sparring.
Their instructor Jim Ripley said they are gold-medal-calibre athletes.
"There is very little that separates the athlete who wins a gold and the athlete who wins a bronze," Ripley said. "Both Mike and Kaitlyn are phenomenal and are more than capable of winning gold at a world cup tournament."
White said one secret to success is, upon stepping in the ring, you have to be confident that you're going to win gold.
"If you don't, then you're really in trouble," he said.
Another secret to their success is the various tools they like to use while in the ring.
For Dawson, it's the roundhouse kick and back-kick that she likes best.
For White, it's throwing consecutive combinations of punches and kicks.
"One should compliment the other," he said. "So if you throw a kick it's always good to follow it up with a punch."
Besides the competition aspect of tae-kwondo, both athletes say the sport is a major stress reliever and a great way to stay in shape.
"I lost 30 pounds since I joined," White said.
Another benefit is they get to make new friends both inside and outside the club.
"Everyone is really welcoming. It's like you're welcomed into the family when you come here," Dawson said. "I used to be really shy but now I'm able to talk to people."
White said you also make friends with the people you fight against.
"You compete against people over and over and you become really close friends with them," White said.
"As we go through the ranks, they're going through the ranks as well. So almost every event we enter we bump into them and see how they've progressed."
The categories the athletes compete in are based upon their age, weight and belt and, also, it is not full a contact competition.
"It's semi-contact, everything must be controlled," Ripley said. "If contact is excessive they'll take a point off and if contact is heavy they'll give you a warning. A second warning for heavy contact means and automatic point loss."
Another fringe benefit of taekwondo is that both athletes are very proficient at breaking boards.
"Breaking boards is a lot of fun," Dawson said.
Another option they like is that JC's also offers weapons training.
Last weekend, both athletes traveled to Halifax to compete in the 2009 Eastern Canadian ITF Championships.
True to form, they both won nothing but gold medals.
White won gold in sparring and patterns and Dawson also won gold in sparring and patterns.


Geographic location: AMHERST, Halifax

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