Tools

ATA Provides Wide Range of Skills for Participants

By Greg Hammond
By ghammond@wbbjtv.com

Tyler Wilson is a bit smaller than most kids his age.

“My little one is 9. He was born premature,” said Tyler’s mother Beth Wilson.

Beth turned to martial arts as a safe alternative when it was time to pick a sport for Tyler to compete in.

“He's never going to be on a football team. He's small for group sports. This was a place he could build confidence,” said Beth.

The Wilsons traveled to Jackson from their home in New Orleans to compete in the ATA (American Taekwondo Association) regional tournament.

“The kids begin the tournament season in June and compete through April 30th the following year in an attempt to qualify for to ten,” said Beth.

“Once in top ten you have a shot at getting a world championship.”

The competitors, especially those in the younger bracket, are well protected in padded chest, foot and head gear.

“ATA uses a lot of gear for child safety,” said Sandra Southall.

Southhall and her son have been involved in ATA for two years.

“If you hit someone, you have the capability to hurt them. So the first thing the kids learn is sportsmanship,” Southall said.

Respect for others is just one of the life skills taught in Taekwondo.

Both parents were asked what qualities and traits did they want their kids to develop from participating in martial arts.

“It teaches discipline and teaches good sportsmanship,” said Southall.

“They have gotten leadership qualities and self-respect,” said Wilson.

Don’t let all this talk about being nice fool you.

Taekwondo literally means – the way of the hand and foot. Students are taught to do more than punch and kick if they need to defend themselves.

“We also learn weapons, because if you really are going to use self defense, you may have to pick up whatever is available to you,” said Southall.

“What we do is introduce different weapons to children so you can learn that many different things can be a weapon,” Southall said.

Wilson also has a daughter, Madison, who competes in martial arts.

Madison said the kids in her school like hearing about her experiences in ATA.

“I don't get messed around with a lot,” Madison said.

“They respect that and sometimes they'll ask me a million questions
about how fun it is.”