In The News – VDT – Taekwondo Students Excel

 In School Updates

by Adam MacDonald
The Valdosta Daily Times – July 20th, 2009

Jennifer Powell is a three-time World Champion in Taekwondo.

Jennifer Powell is a three-time World Champion in Taekwondo.

VALDOSTA ? Some of Valdosta?s best athletes recently competed at the biggest championship their sport has to offer.

Those athletes are martial artists, and they traveled to Little Rock, Ark., for the Top 10 World Championships of taekwondo in late June where over 7,000 competitors from all around the world were on hand.

The Performance Martial Arts Academy in Valdosta sent seven students to the Top 10 World Championship, a number Performance Martial Arts Academy owner and chief instructor Mitchell Church said is astounding.

?For a school our size it?s rare,? Mitchell said. ?This school has any where from 175 to 200 students, so that?s a good percentage.?

Four students from Valdosta competed in the First Degree Black Belt division. Mizanni Matthews, ranked fifth in sparring, came in fifth. Ali Vialdores, ranked first in sparring, came in third. Brittany Johnson, ranked sixth in sparring and weapons, finished third in sparring. Gary Matthews, ranked eighth in forms and seventh in sparring, finished fourth in forms and eighth in sparring.

Two students ? Jennifer Hardy and Jennifer Powell ? competed in the Second and Third Degree Black Belt division. Hardy, ranked fifth in forms and sixth in sparring, came in fifth in forms. Powell, ranked second in forms, ninth in sparring and third in weapons, finished sixth in forms.

The final student from Valdosta who competed in the Top 10 of the World Championships was Mark Webb.

He competed in the Fourth and Fifth Degree Black Belt division and finished fifth in forms and weapons.

?These seven displayed a tremendous amount of loyalty and dedication to me and taekwondo,? Church said.

To qualify for the Top 10 World Championships, competitors take their best results from five different events throughout the year. The competition year begins at the World Championships and ends at the next years? World Championships.

Mark Webb competes with Fourth Degree Black Belt Form.

Mark Webb competes with Fourth Degree Black Belt Form.

Church said that several more Valdosta students just missed out on qualifying for the Top 10.

?This is the entire world, now,? Church said. ?They have tournaments in Korea and South America just to see who?s going to come and compete. So when people from other countries come over here, they?re the best. And they compete against our kids, and our kids are beating them and winning. That?s phenomenal to have that right here in Valdosta. That?s pretty cool.?

It was a satisfying trip for Church, a fifth degree black belt, whose life has revolved around martial arts for the last 25 years. Several days a week he trains students from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Like most good coaches, he gives all the credit to his students for the success of the Performance Martial Arts Academy, but his contributions aren?t overlooked.

?He?s a great coach,? Webb said. ?He knows how to train you and motivate you. He?s really good about knowing how to bring your best out of you. He has a great eye for this stuff. He bends you to where you become his vision of what he sees your capable of.?

With the success and excitement from the trip to the World Championships fresh on everyone?s mind, Church thinks next year the Performance Martial Arts Academy could send the most students it ever has to the World Championships.

For proof, 23 students traveled to Atlanta over the weekend for a super regional, the first big tournament of the competition year since the World Championships in June.

?Next year will probably be our biggest year,? Church said. ?They?ve been on fire. They?ve been training like mad men. Next year is going to be awesome.?

This story was originally published in the Valdosta Daily Times (July 20, 2009), on on their website at

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