Special to the Times
California is a popular vacation destination for many people looking for a moment of relaxation or excitement.
Jennifer Hardy recently returned from such a trip, but while most people visit Disneyland or take in the sights during their time in the Golden State, Hardy is not most people.
Hardy has recently returned home from the Taekwondo Spring National Championships held in Anaheim, Calif., where she tested for her fourth-degree black belt.
In front of a group of taekwondo masters, Hardy was judged on her martial-arts expertise in traditional forms, traditional weapons and sparring. They evaluated her technique, precision and physical fitness as a martial artist.
Waiting amongst some of the world’s best martial artists also in Anaheim to test, Hardy’s confidence was never shaken.
“I was confident with what I was there to do,” said Hardy. “I have been very well trained by Mr. (Mitchell) Church; he has been my instructor since 2001.”
The Spring National Championships are a sanctioned event of the American Taekwondo Association that draws martial artists from across the United States and Canada. Hardy was there representing the Performance Martial Arts Academy here in Valdosta where she is an instructor.
“In order to be considered eligible for testing, certain requirements must be met," said Church, the chief instructor at Performance Martial Arts Academy.
A fifth-degree black belt himself, Church said, “This is a big accomplishment that very few people will ever achieve. Ms. Hardy had to complete three midterm tests over a span of three years and be at least a Level I certified instructor. She is a Level II.
She then needed to receive permission from the Master’s Council at the national headquarters in Little Rock, Ark.”
The test began with a physical fitness endurance demonstration that involved push-ups, sit-ups, kicks, kick-punch combinations and punches.
Hardy reached 450 out of the 300 total requirement.
“She had the judge's attention before she even started her actual fourth-degree test,” Church said.
Church received phone calls from several of the masters who judged Hardy’s testing and complimented her on a strong performance.
“I was a combination of nervous and excited,” said Hardy about her feelings prior to leaving Valdosta. “I was ready to get there and enjoy the full experience. I was excited about meeting many of the high-rank masters and competitors from other parts of the country.”
Hardy is a multiple-time Georgia state champion and is currently ranked in the top ten in the world championship standings.
“I felt Mrs. Hardy would test without any problem,” said Church. “She is a strong asset to our facility where she is loved by our students and their parents.”
The day following her testing, Hardy competed in the spring national championships where she placed third in sparring and combat weapons.
She cites that her students and Church are her inspiration.
“They motivate me to push myself to be my best,” said Hardy.
With the decision in the hands of the Master’s Council and the Grandmaster In Ho Lee, Hardy now must wait until late April while they carefully consider her results.