Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

July 7, 2013

Top Ten Taekwondo Championship

VALDOSTA — Chief Instructor of Performance Martial Arts Academy, Mitchell Church, is proud to announce that four of his students will be competing in the Top Ten at the World Championships held in Little Rock, Ark. during the week of July 8-14.

Fifth Degree Black Belt, Mark Webb, Fourth Degree Black Belt, Jennifer Powell, and First Degree Black Belts, Kim Howell and Duane Cunningham are the students travelling.

“Most martial arts competitors would love to have this opportunity and will never reach this point where they get to compete in the Top Ten,” Church said.“This represents hundreds of hours of training and competing in regional and national tournaments throughout the year. There is no off season. They have made sacrifices of time, friends and other interests in pursuit of this goal.”

Competitors come from around the world and the Top Ten are the absolute best. 

Mitchell Church has devoted his life to the martial arts. He has 29 years of experience and has been developing champions for the past 14 years.  He has produced 20 World Championship titles and over 200 State Championship titles.

“This level of competition has demanded they reach an uncommon level of discipline,” Church said. “They are wise competitors and more physically fit as a result of their dedication.  It takes a lot of staying power to maintain this level of training year after year.”

Church paints the picture of a total team effort in the way they work together along with the support of family and the other students.

Mark Webb won two World Championship titles as a Third Degree Black Belt and four more as a Fourth Degree Black Belt.

  He will be competing in seven Top Ten events at the World Championships including: Traditional Forms, Traditional Weapons, Sparring, Creative Forms, Creative Weapons, Extreme Forms and Extreme Weapons. Webb has been studying martial arts since 1991 but did not truly get serious with his efforts until 2007 when Mitchell Church assumed ownership of the school. 

“I have always been fascinated by the martial arts,” Webb said. “I was hooked at a young age when I saw the film, Billy Jack and Billy Jack crescent kicked the bad guy in the side of the head.”

 It was Mitchell Church and his wife, Dorraine Church, who encouraged him to compete. Webb had no idea that he would one day be a six-time World Champion.

 “It is quite an honor to be in the same ring with the top competitors from around the world,” Webb said. “Some of us don’t speak the same language but we all demonstrate a tremendous level of respect to one another.”

Jennifer Powell is no stranger to the Top Ten herself.

She has earned the right to compete in this arena each year since 2005. She won two World Champion titles as a First Degree Black Belt and two more as a Second Degree Black Belt.

This year she will compete in three Top Ten events as a Fourth Degree Black Belt: Traditional Forms, Traditional Weapons and Sparring.

“My goal each year is to make the Top Ten,” Powell said. “If you make Top Ten, it is anybody’s game. These are the best of the best. Everybody has a chance to win, it just comes down to who is the best that given day. My goal is be the best I can be. If I win, it’s my day. If I don’t then my day will come later.”

Kim Howell will be competing in the Top Ten for the first time.

She has earned this right despite working full time with two small children.

 “She trains very hard,” Church said. She is a very determined lady who won’t give up when she wants to master something.” 

Howell acknowledges she is both excited and nervous.

Howell said she has enjoyed the experience of training hard and learning she could accomplish such a large goal. She will compete in Traditional Weapons and Combat Sparring.

Duane Cunningham is in four events of the Top Ten. He will compete in Traditional Forms, Traditional Weapons, Sparring and Combat Sparring. He has competed at the World Championships as a color belt but this is his first time in the Top Ten.

“Duane has really matured as a young man and has become a true leader at our school,” Church said.

 Fifteen-year old Cunningham’s mother, Teresa said, “We are proud of Duane and his accomplishments since joining Taekwondo. It has taught him discipline and to set goals for himself. We really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into but it has been worth the sacrifices we’ve had to make. It has brought us closer as a family and we are very appreciative of Mr. Church and his staff.”

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