Students from Poarch studio earn top rankings
By By James Crawford
"Kieee-ya!" yelled Rachel Stewart as she snapped a kick while practicing her forms on Thursday night at the housing auditorium on the Poarch Creek Reservation. Stewart is a member of the junior class of the Michael Clement's Taekwondo Academy, which meets at the site.
The academy is taught by Michael Clements who serves as Production Manager for Muskogee Metalworks during the day. Clements is a third degree black belt and has taught martial arts at the instructor level for seven years. His son Brett, a second-degree black belt, has joined him in the teaching ranks as a junior instructor.
Clements began his journey in the martial arts while searching for an extracurricular activity he could share with his son. At the time, Clements was living in Gulf Breeze and after searching the area for things they both could participate in, he zeroed in on the martial arts. Clements searched out the many area schools but decided the Korean style of Taekwondo was more to his liking.
"Many of the area traditions focused too much on the negatives. You can't do this right or that's not the way you do it. The Taekwondo style is a lot more positive and I liked that a lot," said Clements.
When he moved to the Atmore area Clements decided to continue teaching and opened his academy in January of this year. To date he has 24 junior class member s and six adults in his newly formed adult class.
"We're tyring to do the positive here and create a family type of activity. We focus on the positive aspects of training such as discipline, motivation and those types of things. I teach self defense in the traditional Korean forms and sparring for sport," said Clements.
According to Clements, the are twelve basic styles in Taekwondo: seven hard styles and five soft. He teaches a hard style called Chang Hun under the Taekwondo Plus system, meaning his teaching the basic forms and additional techniques such as self-defense, sparring, and prevention classes. The plus system is made up of 300 schools nation wide.
Students from the academy recently competed in the National Taekwondo Tournament held at the Pensacola Civic Center on March 20 and 21. The competition was sanctioned by the International Taekwondo Alliance , an organization that boasts a 35,000 plus membership.
The students earned gold, silver and bronze metals as prizes in their divisions. "Taekwondo has aligned itself with the Olympics, so we use metals now instead of trophies," said Clements.
His junior class is geared for children ages five-12 and his adult class consists of those aged 13 and up. The cost is $47 per month and classes are held Monday-Thursday at 5:30 for juniors and 6:30 for adults. Clements will also be teaching a rape prevention class in the Poarch community on April 21.