Taekwondo teaches sport and life lessons
Master Instructor Charity Beyer spars with a student during a class. Fort Belvoir’s SKIES Unlimited program offers beginner and intermediate-level taekwondo classes twice a week at the Youth Services Center for children ages 6 to 17.

The Fort Belvoir Youth Service Center offers School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration & Skills Unlimited beginner and intermediate taekwondo lessons at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for ages 6 to 17.

The class is a great outlet for children looking for an opportunity to try something different, according to Master Instructor Charity Beyer.

“I tell my kids all the time, ‘This is the one place you can yell and kick as much as you want and not get in trouble for it,’” she said.

The beginner classes focus heavily on the customs and courtesies of the sport, along with basic blocks, punches and kicks.

Intermediate-level classes are made up mostly of students who have been training in taekwondo for some time.

“The intermediate class is where we rock and roll,” Beyer said. “I have less tolerance for mistakes in this class. (The students) know what’s expected of them.”

With many of the basics out of the way, students focus on cardiovascular training, sparring, kick combinations and spins.

“When they compete at the higher levels, it’s full contact, so we have to teach them to protect themselves,” Beyer said.

The training often pays off. Jaidon Cunningham, a 9-year-old black belt in the class, recently participated in a tournament at George Mason University. According to Beyer, he finished in second place, only two points behind the national champion in his category.

“You’ve got to realize, most schools teach five days a week,” she said. “We only offer class for two days a week. So to have our kids come in second place, first place, with less time to train, is a testament to our training and what we do.”

Cunningham also helps with class each week, leading his classmates in warm-ups. “That’s one of the best parts of taekwondo to me,” he said.

Ten-year-old Curtis Bennett got involved with taekwondo in September after plans to play football fell through, according to his dad, Tony, an Air Force associate residency coordinator at DeWitt Army Medical Center.

“Football sign-ups were already done, but we wanted him to be active and do something to get out there,” Tony said.

Taekwondo turned out to be a welcome substitute.

“Master Beyer and Master (Rich) Wilkins are amazing,” he said. “They really engage the students.
They teach them core qualities and integrity - a lot of those military values you see around here. For all they give, it goes far beyond what we pay for.”

Discipline, Tony said, is key. He said any children who come to class late can expect to run laps or do push-ups. Sportsmanship is equally important.
“The class learns that competiveness comes with good sportsmanship,” Tony said. “Even when you lose, you show respect. You’d want someone to do that for you when you win.

“What I love is the integrity,” he continued. “What they teach isn’t a temporary or seasonal thing. It’s something they implement as a lifestyle, and it stays with you.”

Youth Services Assistant Autumn Gonzales said she hears stories like Tony’s all the time. “I have a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening here,” she said. “Parents talk to me all the time and tell me how happy they are. It’s the parents, Charity and Rich who make the program what it is, and it’s an amazing commitment.”

More information on the SKIES taekwondo program is available at (703) 805-9146 or www.belvoirmwr.com/

Page last updated Thu June 30th, 2011 at 12:57