Michael Wojtaszek works in maintenance for the Richmond County Board of Education, but now that he knows tae Kwon do, he's really cleaning up.
The 60-year-old is a student at Grand Master Yun's World Tae Kwon Do Center, and was one of the school's many winners at the 2004 American Open Tae Kwon Do Championships.
"I will cherish these for the rest of my life," Wojtaszek said of the awards he brought back from the tournament, which was held Jan. 31 at Life University in Atlanta.
Competing in the Executive Senior Division, Wojtaszek placed second in forms, which earned him a silver medal, and took first place in sparring to secure a four-foot high trophy.
Grand Master Pok S. Yun opened his school in Martinez in January, 2003, and the American Open was the first competition for his students.
"We waited a year (to enter a tournament), because we wanted to teach the students technique, and give them strong minds so they would be ready for competition," Yun said. "I'm satisfied. Everybody did a good job, especially with this being their first experience at a big competition."
The Atlanta Open featured about 600 competitors from throughout the Southeast, and the Columbia County school rose above all the rest, winning the Outstanding School Award at the tournament.
"The key to learning martial arts and tae kwon do is strong discipline, hard work and concentration," Yun said. "Secondly, you need experienced instructors sharing knowledge with the students. With a good master and good students, you can progress very quickly."
Yun certainly has the knowledge - the former tae kwon do instructor for the Korean Navy is a ninth-degree black belt.
Now, the art that was passed down to him through generations in Korea is benefiting students here in the states.
"I can feel the difference in control, attitude, and physically," said Wojtaszek, who had trained in tae kwon do for only a year before competing in the American Open.
"I had never tried a tournament, and there was so much adrenalin," he said. "Grand Master Yun has taught us how to use that in areas where we need it. I was focused."
Winners from Grand Master Yun's World Tae Kwon Do Center: Serah Wollen (girls 6-7 age division), second creative forms, second traditional forms, third sparring; Matthew Chambers (boys 8-9), third traditional forms, first sparring; Tylene' Heblinger (girls 10-11), second traditional forms, third sparring; Melissa Chambers (girls 14-17), first traditional forms, second sparring; Grace Haney (girls 10-11), second traditional forms, second sparring; Alicia An (girls 8-9), third traditional forms, second sparring; Jacob Weeks (boys 10-11), second traditional forms, third sparring; Ashton Pawl (girls 6-7), first traditional forms, second sparring; Taylor Pawl (girls 8-9), second traditional forms, second sparring; Richard Cherry (boys 10-11), first traditional forms, third sparring; John Kaltenbach (Adult), third traditional forms, third sparring; Michael Wojtaszek (Executive Senior), second traditional forms, first sparring; Wyatt Cunningham (boys 11-12), second traditional forms; Morgan Pawl (girls 14-17), first traditional forms, second sparring; Alex An (boys 12-13), second traditional forms, third sparring; Paula Gray (women's green belt), second traditional forms; Robert Koh (boys 14-17), first traditional forms, third sparring.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.