Tae kwon do team brings home Junior Olympics medals
by Doug Gorman
When Master Joaquin Bonilla, instructor and owner of the Oh Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do studio in Coweta County, talks to prospective parents and students about the benefits of taking up the sport, the first words out of his month are 'discipline' and 'dedication.'
Those are the two biggest traits the black belt looks for when beginning a student in the self-defense form of fighting.
Many of his students catch on fast - joining the competition team - and bring home medals.
Earlier this year, several members of the team excelled at the AAU state tournament and then earned a right to compete last week at the nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Red belts Bryce Bonilla and Donzell Jones each earned a gold medal by capturing their age and belt divisions.
Yellow belt Darius Soto also took a gold medal.
There were several bronze medal winners from the local Oh Do Kwan team at this year's event.
Yellow belt Jacob Harris and Ian Robbins each had solid showings. Harris hadn't lost all year until arriving in Florida. Robbins made a name for himself in just his first trip to the nationals.
Blue belt Kalope Wingo also earned bronze medals.
Getting there wasn't easy for the members, who had already qualified for the AAU nationals.
'The whole month of June all we did was run the bleachers at East Coweta High School for a whole hour where we would do nothing but run,' Bonilla said. 'The days it rained we would come in here and do drills, and on top of that we would go to the regular classes, so we were coming in five days a week.'
Bonilla owns and operates two schools and only 10 tae kwon do competitors made it to the national event from the two schools.
'It's like that everywhere,' he said. 'It's really an elite group that makes it this far.'
Bonilla's instructor at his Fayette School is former Pittsburgh Steeler Greg Lloyd. Together the pair has coached the students into a championship squad.
'These kids are just totally focused on this, he said. 'The parents are really great. They are all on board. The training is really harsh, but they know it is to prepare them for everything.'
Bonila says he does not have an age limit for when he starts working with a student.
He uses student Jacob Harris as a good example of starting a youngster out young.
The 7-year-old entered his first tournament earlier this year and made it to the semifinals at the AAU nationals.
'I talked to his parents about getting him involved in our competition team, and he has had a whole lot of fun, and he has done very well, Bonilla said. 'He has really put his heart into it.'
Win or lose at the nationals, Bonilla says just getting there and competing does so much for his students' self-esteem.
'They feel good about themselves,' he said. 'They know that they tried their best. They did everything they could do to succeed.'
He says they also learn to accept defeat.
'They might come up against somebody who is better that day, and they might lose by just one point, but it happens,' he said. 'They know that as long as they give 100 percent, that's all they can do.
'They also had fun, and that is what is important.'
There are judges and a referee at all the competitions. To score a point in tae kwon do, a student must land a hard body shot. It's also constant fighting through two, 90-second rounds, with black belts fighting three, one minute rounds.
They score by connecting head and upper body shots, with body shots scoring one point and head shots scoring two points.
'They are good sports, and are really good with their emotions,' he said.