Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

July 4, 2014

Not Just for Kicks

Mitchell Church travels to Little Rock for black belt testing

VALDOSTA — Few have the patience, discipline and determination to earn a black belt from the American Taekwondo Association, but even when students reach this esteemed ranking the journey is far from finished. This is true for Mitchell Church, owner and chief instructor of Performance Martial Arts Academy.

From July 7-13, Church will travel to Little Rock, Ark., to test for his sixth-degree black belt at the World Championships, an international event in which martial artists from around the world come to test his or her skills for The Master's Council.

"Most of these people will be testing for their third-, fourth- or fifth-degree black belt," said Mark Webb, a student of Church. "Very few martial artists will ever have an opportunity to test for their sixth degree black belt."

The Master's Council that will be conducting Church's test is comprised of multiple eighth-degree black belts and headed by ninth-degree black belt, Grandmaster In Ho Lee.  

"(Testing) takes place in a huge arena in front of thousands of spectators and some of the best martial artists in the world. The situation can be quite overwhelming." said Webb.

Church will perform his fifth-degree black belt traditional form, demonstrate a weapons form, spar several rounds and then complete a series of board breaks as the Master's Council evaluate his technique, precision and level of physical fitness.

Prior to the testing, Church will complete an endurance test of push-ups, sit-ups, kicks, kick punch combinations and punch drills before immediately beginning his test.

"I first met Mr. Church over 20 years ago when he was still a teenager," said former head of the American Taekwondo Association, Grandmaster Soon Ho Lee. "Even then I could see his deep passion for the martial arts. Testing for his sixth-degree black belt represents a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

"Mr. Church is a great example of a leader in the martial arts and the Valdosta community."

Eighth-degree black belt and Church's instructor chief master Scott Stauffer, was also complimentary of Church's drive.

"Mr. Church is the definition of perseverance and loyalty. When he sets his mind to do something; he does it. He is a man who exemplifies enthusiasm and respectfulness. He puts others before himself. A trait that is very rare in this world."

A student of Church for 11 years, fourth-degree black belt Jennifer Powell praised Church's compassion.

"Not many people recognize their God-given talent and do something with it for the betterment of everybody else; like Mr. Church. It's all for everyone else."

Besides Church's testing, several of his students and their families will attend and compete at the World Championships as well.

Madison Swain, a first-degree black belt is set to compete in the Top 10 for sparring and combat weapons sparring in Little Rock.

"I just want to do my best so that my testing honors my students, my instructor and the lifestyle of Taekwondo." said Church.

The final results of Church's testing should be known in early August.

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