Going for the black belt: Martial arts teaches discipline, respect, life skills

DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Payton Domanick and Trinity Stinson practice kicks during special black belt training.

DAILY LEADER / RHONDA DUNAWAY / Payton Domanick and Trinity Stinson practice kicks during special black belt training.

Brookhaven is home to several young black belts in Korean martial arts who say the discipline is teaching them much more than just self-defense techniques, they are learning how to get along in the world. And picture this: their self-defense skills are registered with the Korean government.

At the Academy of Korean Martial Arts in Brookhaven on Brookway Boulevard owner Steve Kincade, a sixth degree black belt, teaches TeukGong MooSool. It is the official martial art of the Korean Special Forces.

“I register students through an organization in the Korean government,” he explains. “We submit paperwork and martial artists are registered with the Korean government.”

On his website, www.hanmudojang.com. he states, “Our teaching methods, training facility and equipment are cutting-edge. It is the only school in the United States certified as an “Excellent School” by the International TeukGong MooSool Federation based in Seoul, Korea.”

Kincade assures that he doesn’t give away black belts, these kids have to put the work in and earn it.

“Everyone wants to know how to do kung fu,” he said. “Everybody thinks it would be really cool, right? But, then they sit down and look at it and learn that it takes perseverance and discipline and that it’s a process that takes years.”

Trinity Stinson is a seventh-grader at Enterprise Attendance Center. She earned her black belt in 2010 when she was nine-years-old. She said she loves martial arts, but getting to her black belt wasn’t easy.

“It was very hard,” Trinity said. “But, it’s taught me how to persevere and how to strategize, set goals and achieve them.”

Kincade said that though Trinity is young, she’s been at it for years.

“A lot of these [young black belts] have been in it for years,” Kincade said, “and, there has to be something said for them not giving up. Because it’s very common for students to hit a plateau, but these kids stuck it out when most people would have quit. I’m really proud of this group, and each of them for different reasons.”

Payton Domanick recently earned his black belt at the age of 11. He said old karate movies got him in but loving it kept him in.

“I started when I was five years old – it was always my dream to do karate when I saw movies like Karate Kid,” he said. He said he loves the work, “and my parents encouraged me all the way to stick with it.”

Payton’s little brother Cade, 9, is a student, too. Their father Mike Domanick said his boys are learning life skills through their martial arts program.

“It’s good for them,” he said. “That’s why they’ve been in it so long.” Payton and Cade have each been taking classes since they were five. “It teaches them life lessons, structure, goals, respect – it’s why I keep them in the school. Mr. Kincade has been great to my kids.”

Families many times end up training together, Kincade said.

“Over the years a lot of moms and dads come in and end up training with their kids,” he said. “They come to the classes and watch them train and think, hey, I could do this.”

Trinity’s mother Kathy Phillips started training soon after her daughter did and received her black belt in April of 2012. Little sister Kaley, 10, is taking classes, too, and is now a red belt.

“I just always thought, you know, everybody wants their little girl to take dance,” Phillips explains, “but you see the news and what can happen to kids and I wanted my little girls to learn how to defend themselves. And besides, this discipline teaches the same things – grace, strength and flexibility. She’s my little Karate fighting beauty queen,” she said of Trinity’s accomplishment as a black belt. “I’m very proud of her.”

Brother and sister Nick and Jordan Friese are both black belts. Jordan said seeing her brother in training inspired her.

Jordan is a seventh-grader at Alexander Junior High and received her black belt at the age of nine. Nick is an assistant teacher at the academy when he’s not taking classes at the University of Southern Mississippi. He received his black belt at nine, also. They and the other kids say that martial arts is not just about the techniques they learn. They also learn things that carry them outside of the studio. Nick explains.

“There was always a big interest in self defense in my family,” Nick said. “My parents liked the idea of me learning self defense and the discipline aspect. I tell people all the time that I wouldn’t be who I am today if I had not gone to the academy.” He said martial arts teaches kids a lot of skills that will be of value to them in everyday life.

“It has taught me so many life skills,” he said, “like how to interact with people. He puts a lot of emphasis on respect, not only with peers but also with those older, younger and all different types of people.” Little sister agrees.

“It has taught me a lot about respect, discipline and responsibility,” she said.

Kincade explains the connection.

“To me, in the real world, to be successful as well as protect yourself, you have to be able to reason and think and be able to automatically react when the situation requires it,” he said. “All of the teaching and training and practice is done so that students are trained to react in the most effective way.”

Kincade said his form of martial arts and the variety he specializes in, Hoshian Sool, teaches powerful techniques to defend yourself in mind and body.

“Our programs are designed for students not only to learn effective and efficient self-defense,” he said. “But just as importantly, develop self-discipline, focus, self-control, respect, and other life skills.