Patricia Kissinger wanted her sons to take up tae kwon do so they could learn self-defense, but she has discovered that Brandon and Austin have reaped an additional reward.
"Confidence," Kissinger said. "They're more assured of themselves. They know they can defend themselves and that brings them confidence that you can't hand anybody - they have to earn it."
In two short years of practicing tae kwon do, Brandon and Austin have come a long way.
Brandon, 13, already is a probationary black belt, and the Greenbrier Middle School rising eighth-grader has earned medals at all six competitions in which he has entered.
The brothers practice three or four times a week, year-round, at Terry Newton's Tae Kwon Do Plus, and the effort is paying off.
"I keep getting better," Brandon said.
Tae Kwon Do brothers Austin, 8, left, and Brandon Kissinger pose in Terry Newton's Tae Kwon Do Plus school. They won awards last weekend.
Photo by Annette M. Drowlette
Austin, 8, is currently at the red-senior belt level, and also has won medals at all of his events. The rising third-grader at Lewiston Elementary School can put a succinct spin on his progress in tae kwon do.
"I'm still the same," he says. "I'm still getting first place."
In his most recent tournament, Terry Newton's Tae Kwon Do Academy Invitational at Patriots Park, Austin won gold medals in sparring and forms. Brandon, meanwhile, earned a gold in sparring and silver in forms.
"The tournaments have been fun," Brandon says.
For Austin, fun became a relative term during a tournament earlier this year in Florida. "I started to get a first place in sparring until that kid hit me in the head," he said.
That same story has played out for centuries. Martial arts have been around for 10,000 years, and tae kwon do arrived 4,000 years ago.
Austin and Brandon are new practioners of the ancient pursuit, and they are learning that tae kwon do isn't about beating people up.
"It shows you how to grab or get out of holds, pressure points and self-defense at the same time," Brandon says. "You learn to control your power, or else you'll hurt somebody really bad."
For Austin, the lessons of tae kwon do extend beyond the specific belt colors. This sport colors the entire persona, teaching tenets for winning the game of life.
"You learn honor, courtesy, perseverance, integrity, self control, courage, community," he says. "Just about everything."
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