Alexandria Martial Arts and Movement headmaster Josh Waltzing has traveled around the country over the last decade for the USA Taekwondo Championships. This year, he got to stay closer to home with a lot of his students coming with him.
After competing in the state tournament in Anoka in March, Waltzing saw 11 of his students qualify for the national tournament in Minneapolis that ran June 27 through July 4.
"I've been all over the place. I went to Austin, Texas four years ago and Richmond, Va. three years ago," Waltzing said. "It's a commitment to go to nationals. We talked with the families and we decided that because it was in Minnesota that we could go for it this year."
Levi Gibson and Buche McCleary won gold medals in sparring in their divisions, while Burka McCleary took home a bronze. Buche also won a bronze medal in board breaking. Mitchel Floding, Abby Kangas, Jackson Waltzing, Tallon Sinning, Derek Waltzing, Alisah Floding, Dylan Norby and Liam Sinning also competed in Minneapolis. The ages of the competitors ranged from 8-to-18.
"I thought they all did great," Waltzing said. "There's so little room for error at these events. We had so many kids that were close to getting a medal. We had a blast down there and it's a really good experience for them."
The road to Minneapolis is no walk in the park. Waltzing's trainees go to his gym at least two times a week over the span of nine months preparing for weekend tournament events.
"They've all worked so hard this year," Waltzing said. "It's rewarding for me to see them make it so far after all of the time they've put in."
There are three kinds of events at the taekwondo national tournament-sparring, board breaking and poomsae, a pattern of defense and attack motions. Alexandria students were tested in all three. The tournament ran eight days, crowning dozens of champions from around the country.
Waltzing is happy to have some of his students return home with medals from nationals, but he believes that what he's teaching is much bigger than whether they win or lose.
"We have these things called intention cards," Waltzing said. "Each student has one before every time they compete. Regardless of what the results are, if they can come back and say, 'yes' to completing all of their intentions, then that's a victory. That's a lesson that expands life-long. Setting goals and putting in the effort to reach them."
Rebounding from mistakes in a competition is part of the growing process in martial arts.
"For the most part, I thought our kids competed well and followed the plan," Waltzing said. "They had some kicks that weren't great and they made some errors. That doesn't take away from their effort."
On the ride home from Minneapolis, Waltzing had time to reflect on the way his students competed.
"It's hard to come up with words for how proud I am," he said. "I am so unbelievably, incredibly proud of this group."