Independence Day for most children means a time for family barbecues, fireworks and enjoying the dog days of summer before a new school year begins.
For four young local martial arts competitors, however, July 4 will mean a trip to the “Windy City” for a chance to be the best in the country and take a step closer to the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Lane Bentley, Kamlen Singsit and brothers Jackson and Lucas Braunschweig will spend their Fourth of July competing in the USA Taekwondo National Championships at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, July 3-9.
Scott Browning, owner and chief instructor of Vancouver Taekwondo Academy, has been involved in the martial arts community for 29 years and he is excited about what the prospects hold for his students.
“We actually went to last year’s nationals, as Lane qualified,” Browning said. “Unfortunately, he was eliminated in the first round, but even so, the ability to be there and get first-hand experience was a great learning opportunity for him. To have four students go this year makes me even prouder.”
Spread out over seven days, the US Taekwondo Nationals bring practitioners of all ages together to compete in a variety of events from board-breaking & weapons to sparring and “poomsae,” using established patterns focused on skills that standardized the proper motions every Taekwondo student learns.
As of 1989, Taekwondo was the most popular martial art in the world and it has been an Olympic sport since 2000. Originating in Korea, the art has split between being used as a combat art that emphasizes both hand and foot strikes, and as a sport which emphasizes kicks, speed and competition.
“As a sport, the goal was to differentiate it from boxing, which is all about the hands, or wrestling and judo, which involves grappling and submission moves,” said Browning. “Because Taekwondo primarily focuses on the ability to kick and drive the legs, it definitely stood apart.”
While the goal of each student is to win his respective division, the Nationals are not all about winning. The top four finishers in each weight class or division will have the opportunity to go to Colorado Springs and compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. Even so, the level of competition is incredibly high and Browning said his students are aware of what they’re in for.
“It’s such a diverse sport, not just in the United States, but around the globe.” said Browning. “When you see nations like Azerbijian, which I don’t think many people could find on a map, creating world-class artists, or Nepal, who finally had an athlete medal at an Olympics in 1988 with a bronze in taekwondo, it lets you know how far reaching it is and makes you train all that much harder for competitions.”
As a coach, Browning also recognizes the road to the Olympics involves more than just pure talent and skill.
“It’s been one of my personal life goals to get to the Olympics, but you have to be really special to get there,” said Browning. “You need the dominoes to all fall in the right place at the right time, have the right people around you who can get you there, as well as have the ability.”
Stephanie Braunschweig, Jackson’s and Lucas’s mother, has established a fundraising drive to get the $5,000 needed to cover the team’s travel expenses to Chicago in July. To donate, go to www.indiegogo.com and enter “junior olympic-nationals bound” in the search box. The fundraising campaign ends Sat. April 20.
More information about Vancouver Taekwondo can be found at its website, www.vancouvertkd.com or by calling (360) 624-3452. For more information about the 2013 USAT National Championships, go to www.teamusa.org/USA-Taekwondo.
Photo Caption: VANCOUVER TAEKWONDO, The Vancouver Taekwondo Academy is sending four students to the U.S. National Championships in Chicago in July. Clockwise, Coach Scott Browning, Kimlen Singit, Lucas Braunschweig, Jackson Braunschweig, and Lane Bentley.