Bedford ATA contenders win medals at taekwondo tournament
Friday, February 15, 2013
Fists were flying. The crowd was thrilled. Nobody called the police.
The punches, blocks and fast, high, spinning kicks won applause, points and trophies for the best of nearly 500 competitors in the New England 2013 American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Winter Championships held Feb. 2, at the Southern New Hampshire University Field House in Manchester. Bedford contenders were formidable.
The ATA tourney was hosted by ATA Martial Arts of Bedford, 292 Route 101. The martial arts school, under the umbrella of ATA Martial Arts of Southern N.H., also has a school in Derry.
Owners Emily Seymour, a Nashua resident, and her father, Mark Harbinson, of Goffstown, and their staff have decades of experience in training, teaching and competition. A variety of classes brings the chance for anyone to explore the world of martial arts. Personal growth and increased confidence are deemed benefits of taekwondo, a term sometimes translated as “the way of hand and foot.”
The field of contenders at the ATA tournament included a quartet of Bedford residents. Marianne Fuentes, 18, a senior at Bedford High School and a black-belted, junior instructor at ATA Martial Arts of Bedford, competed and took a second-place medal in Forms – combinations of movements and technique.
She also was honored with a National Achievement Award for outstanding performance and work in the association’s New England Region.
There, too, were three members of the Crowley family – David Crowley, his wife, Erin, and their daughter, Hermione, 5. Hermione is a member of the Tiny Tigers class in Bedford. The class is designed for ages 2-6.
David Crowley, a pediatric cardiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester, took first place in Weapons and Forms. His weapon of choice was a bo staff, 6 feet long. Erin Crowley, a longtime singer-songwriter, won first place in Weapons (bo staff) and second place in Forms in her division. Their daughter, a kindergartner in Bedford, medaled as a competitor.
Others in the tournament selected different weapons. Some commonly used in martial arts are swords, staffs and nunchaku, better known as nunchucks. David Crowley said the family has been involved in tae kwon do for about a year.
“We were looking for something we could do as a family to work on strength, flexibility and mental discipline,” he said. “We stopped into the studio and found a warm and inviting atmosphere. We really liked that it was a small, family-owned facility that still had the support of the larger, international association.”
The ATA’s website reports membership nearing 300,000 worldwide, along with about 53,000 black belts and 3,000 certified instructors.
The four from Bedford and their fellow athletes, participants from across the country, vied for recognition in numerous categories. There also was an exhibition by students with special abilities. The students attend classes in Bedford and Derry geared to anyone who has physical and cognitive challenges.
Fuentes, who has lived in Bedford most of her life, took up taekwondo more than three years ago. Her father, Pablo, a software professional, is an avid student at the school. Her sister, Laura, attends classes and also is a junior leader at ATA. Isabelle Fuentes, the mom of the family, is an enthusiastic supporter.
“This is my main sport,” Marianne Fuentes said. “I used to be kind of an artsy kid. Now, I can teach kids and give them the knowledge I’ve worked hard to get.”
Marianne Fuentes, who will attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst next year, teaches at ATA Martial Arts of Bedford, six days a week. Her classes relate to the center’s leadership training program, a part of the taekwondo experience that helps young people build character.
Some students progress to master increasingly difficult tae kwon do disciplines. Advancement earns different colored, fabric belts in white, orange, yellow, camouflage, green, purple, blue, brown, red, red-black and black.
“All of a sudden, you realize you’re doing things that are more advanced,” Marianne Fuentes said, noting she is officially a second-degree black belt. “You’re doing circular blocks, upset blocks and complicated stances.”
She credits her teachers for their teaching techniques. She also expressed admiration for Grand Master In Ho Lee, a ninth-degree black belt and leader of the world’s largest martial arts organization – the ATA. It was Ho Lee who granted the National Achievement Award to her at the Feb. 2 tournament. He was a special guest, along with Chief Master M. K. Lee, an eighth-degree black belt and member of the ATA’s Masters’ Council.
Marianne Fuentes said students focus on skills, strength and endurance. She said protective gear is worn and the activities at the school are “very safe.” In addition, she said through learning to teach other people she has honed her public-speaking skills.
“It’s taught me to be assertive,” she said. “I may be younger but I have more experience.”
For information on ATA Martial Arts of Southern NH, call ATA Martial Arts of Bedford at 472-4022, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bedfordata.com.