Valdosta Daily Times

July 18, 2013

Martial Art student kicks butt at World Championships

Derrick Davis
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Thousands of the top martial artists from all over the world gathered in Little Rock, Ark. to compete in the 2013 Top Ten World Championship, hosted by the American Taekwondo Association, from July 10-14, including four representatives from Valdosta.

Mark Webb, Duane Cunningham, Kim Howell, and Jennifer Powell, students of Valdosta’s Performance Martial Arts Academy, all competed and performed well. Competing for a World Championship is an accomplishment in its own, but unfortunately Cunningham, Howell, and Powell weren’t able to place.

Webb shined at the championships bringing home three championships during the weekend, bringing his career total to nine.

“Competing at this level has required training throughout the year,” Webb said. “I don’t train everyday. I have limited my training to only 360 days a year.”

Webb, a fifth degree black belt, was matched against martial artists representing countries including: South Africa, China, Portugal, Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Australia, and more to capture first place in three events out of the seven events he competed in.

Webb won the world championship in Traditional Weapons, Creative Forms, and Extreme Forms.

The martial artists who compete at the Top Ten have been pitted against each other all year long in various national events. This constant competition not only pushes the martial artists to do their best, but it also fosters a respect that transcends language barriers.

Martial artists compete in tournaments throughout the year and add together the points earned from five regional tournaments, one national tournament, and one world tournament. The top ten point getters receive the chance to compete for a world championship.

There are eight different events martial artists can compete in at the World Championships: Traditional Forms, Traditional Forms, Sparring, Creative Forms, Creative Weapons, Extreme Form, Extreme Weapons, and Combat Weapons.

Most martial artists compete in the traditional competitions which is a set, rank-specific form that everyone in the world who competes in taekwondo is held to. The judges look at precision and execution to score the athletes.

In the creative competitions, the competitors do traditional taekwondo moves in a created form.

Extreme competitions tend to be more performance based. The displays are more explosive and dynamic with more flips and cartwheels.

If Webb’s three world championships in this year’s competition wasn’t impressive enough, consider the fact he competed in all seven of his events and worked towards his sixth degree belt.

Webb got up the day of the competition at 5:00 a.m. to do his initial workout before showering and getting into uniform. Webb then competed in Traditional Forms, Traditional Weapons, and Sparring. After a quick powernap, Webb competed in Creative Forms, Creative Weapons, Extreme Forms, and Extreme Weapons all back-to-back. Following another shower, Webb began the journey to sixth degree black belt.

The process of advancing black belt rank is arduous on its own merit.

Each increasing degree of belt requires the student to accumulate a certain amount of points as well as taking multiple midterm tests along the way.

 Tests begin with a fitness test that features five sets of one minute rounds of: pushups, sit-ups, kicks, punches, and kick-punch combinations. After, the martial artist must demonstrate their form, weapons form, sparring, and board breaks.

It has taken Webb 22 years to become a fifth degree black belt.

Webb attributes the success he has experienced in martial arts to his wife Dorraine and  Performance Martial Arts Academy Instructor, Mitchell Church.

Dorraine, who accompanied he husband to the World Championships, is described by Webb as his “corner man.”

“She keeps me focused and on track,” Webb said. “She can tell if I’m getting distracted or need to regain my sense of poise.”

Church, who has twenty nine years of experience, has been developing champions for the past fourteen years. He has produced twenty world championship titles and two hundred fifteen state championship titles.

“He pushes, he pushes, he pushes,” Webb said. “What’s hard to a lot of people is easier for our students because we don’t know any different.”

Church said, “He’s every instructor’s dream student I guess you could say, not trying to be cheesy. He always does what I ask him to do without hesitation. He trains hard, he works hard.”

Webb won world championships in Traditional Forms and Traditional Weapons in 2008, along with winning world championships in 2012 in Creative Forms, Creative Weapons, Extreme Forms, and Extreme Weapons.