If you think you’re hearing a lot of clanking around the school lately, there’s a good reason. The third annual Northeast District championships were held in Lancaster, PA on June 6. A number of Oakmont Martial Arts students competed and a significant amount of new hardware was brought back.
Implemented three years ago, Districts is a level of competition between the regional and national level in the ATA. The United States is divided into districts. Pennsylvania is in the Northeast District, one of the larger groupings made up of thirteen states, including New York, Delaware, and New Jersey. For each age bracket and rank, the top ten points recipients for each category of competition (traditional forms, traditional sparring, combat sparring, creative forms or weapons, X-treme forms or weapons) in each state are eligible to attend Districts and the winner receives the District Champion title, which is designated by blue letters on the back of the dobok. At the Black Belt level, the winner of a district championship is eligible to participate in the World Championship in Little Rock, AK.
For school owner and chief instructor Karyn Graff, herself a District participant, the best part of the tournament is watching her students. “I love seeing our students compete,” she said.
For brown-belt Robert Shepherd and blue-belt Enrico Corsaro, the experience is more encompassing. “I can’t really pinpoint my favorite thing at Districts,” said Mr. Shepherd. “I would say the entire experience. From Tuesday trainings, to riding out with the Corsaro family, ride back shenaningans with Ms. Graff, Mr. Weston, and Ms. Hale, watching the Oakmont ATA students compete to hanging out in Lancaster. The entire journey is one I’ll never forget.”
Mr. Corsaro concurred. “The whole experience was amazing. Working with friends and fellow instructors was great. It was great to see how far the students progressed throughout the year. I was excited to watch Grace (Coleman). I’m very proud of her. I was a little nervous at first, but I had a talented, friendly ring. That is a great thing about ATA tournaments. Everyone is competitive, but respectful and friendly at the same time.”
Of course, both men brought home a few medals, something not to be discounted when highlighting the event. “Of course winning was pretty cool, too,” Mr. Shepherd said.
Red-belt Tracy Safran competed at Districts and was another one impressed by the level of talent. “My favorite part of Districts was seeing the incredible levels of talent and skill in every ring I watched throughout that giant convention center,” she said. “That tremendous experience was even better when I saw all the familiar, smiling faces from our Oakmont Martial Arts family and knew we were sharing something amazing together.”
Several youth students competed at districts as well. Their favorite parts were as varied as their personalities.
“My favorite part of Districts was competed in my ring in combat sparring. I felt privileged to get to do that.” – 1st degree Black Belt (recommended) Jeremy Safran
“Becoming friends with the current Pennsylvania State Champ was cool. Of course, coming home second in sparring in the Northeast District was also pretty exciting.” – 1st degree Black Belt (recommended) David van Ryn
“My favorite part of districts was probably all of it.” – 1st degree Black Belt (recommended) Emily Davidheiser
One thing that all the participants agreed on: Getting to Districts takes practice and dedication.
“Just keep working hard and you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” said Jeremy.
“It takes a lot of sweat, hard work, and perseverance,” said Mr. Corsaro. “You have to practice a lot. And use the resources that are given to you at the school. Oakmont has the most knowledgeable instructors.”
“Like almost anything in life, you get out what you put in,” said Mr. Shepherd. “Use the wealth of knowledge our instructors have. If you are having an issue with a certain part of the form, ask for help.”
Several participants also agreed that participating in as many tournaments as you can is key – not just for accumulating points, but gaining experience. “If you don’t compete, you can’t make it to Districts,” said Mr. Shepherd. “My guess is kids, along with parents, are afraid of not knowing what to expect or losing. There’s no shame in losing. You learn a great deal when you lose: what you need to work on, what works (in sparring) or not. Don’t be afraid to fail; just make sure you get back up.”
“You have to compete at the regional and local tournaments,” said Mr. Corsaro. “These tournaments can be seen as short-term goals. Districts is a long-term goal. In taekwondo, goals are accomplished one step at a time and one technique at a time.”
“Participate in as many tournaments as you can,” said Ms. Safran. “Each one is a learning experience that will help you grow as a person. Plus they’re fun!”
The kids agree: participation and practice are key. And their advice reflects the maturity they’ve gained from the tournament circuit. “Set goals to get to as many tournaments as you can. Never allow losing to stop you, but let it help improve you in areas you need to work on. Practice every day,” said David.
Emily’s advice included a little game-day tactics. “When warming up before the ring, don’t stop moving around because it is cold there,” she said. “Also, if you want to get there: practice, practice, practice.”
In addition to practice, Jeremy advocated keeping a positive attitude. “Just keep working hard and you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” he said.
2014/2015 was a great tournament year for the Oakmont Martial Arts crew. With attitudes like these, 2015/2016 is sure to be just as good.
Here is a complete listing of tournament participants and finishes from the 2015 District Championship tournament (courtesy of Ally Corsaro).
Karyn Graff – 2nd in traditional forms and traditional weapons
Cyndl Hale – 3rd in traditional weapons and traditional sparring
Scott Weston – 2nd in traditional weapons
Lia Ruggiero – 3rd in traditional forms and traditional sparring
Enrico Corsaro – 2nd in traditional forms, 1st in traditional weapons, 2nd in combat sparring
Robert Shepherd – 1st in traditional forms, sparring and combat sparring; 2nd in traditional weapons
Tracy Safran – 2nd in combat sparring, 3rd in traditional forms
Jeremy Safran – Songahm spirit award
David van Ryn – 2nd in traditional sparring
Grace Coleman – 3rd in combat sparring
Emily Davidheiser – Songham spirit award
A software technical writer by day, Mary Sutton is the mother of two teens and has been making her living with words for over ten years. She is the author of the Hero’s Sword middle-grade fantasy series, writing as M.E. Sutton, and The Laurel Highlands Mysteries police-procedural series, writing as Liz Milliron. Visit her online at www.marysuttonauthor.com.