SHERIDAN — Combining balance, breathing, flexibility and power is needed to excel in taekwondo, a Korean martial art founded by General Choi Hong Hi, a Korean native.
Sheridan’s Kincade Naus has been working on perfecting the movements and patterns of taekwondo for the past six years, first taking up the activity when he was 10.
“I wanted something to do and I did not have interest in any other sport,” Naus said. “Taekwondo seamed really cool to me, something about it was just amazing.”
Naus was the overall champion at the Wyoming Invitational on Sept. 14, being awarded the person who performed the patterns of taekwondo the best. There were more than 100 participants from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Nebraska in attendance.
Naus participated in the adult color belt division, winning his division in patterns. Masters of taekwondo judge the patterns looking for the proper movements, speed and power.
There were 12 divisions for the invitational. The winner of the patterns contest in each division moved on to the grand champion where the overall champion was decided. Naus, who is currently a red belt, performed patterns against black belts in taekwondo, winning the event.
“A lot of practice and my amazing instructor,” Naus said on what allowed him to become the overall champion. “Repetition all the time and constant training helped me get there.”
Naus is under the tutelage of Senior Master Robin Johnson, an eighth-degree black belt and instructor of the Sheridan Taekwon-Do Club that practices at the Sheridan YMCA. The students learn ITF taekwondo, not the version performed by the U.S. Olympics team. Naus said ITF follows the instruction and practices set in place by Hi when he established the art.
“He just needed to work on all of the basics, the more you work at it the better you become,” Johnson said. “The professional is just better at the basics.”
Two other members of the Sheridan Taekwon-Do Club reached the grand champion stage after winning their division for patterns.
Terrance Lopez-Adkins, a 9-year-old white belt, and Eric Gutierrez, an 8-year-old yellow belt, each won their division, facing Naus and the rest of the division winners in the grand champion performance at the end of the invitational.
The club was represented by 16 total participants.
Johnson said the patterns are about technique, combing the movement of the body, synchronizing it with breathing and hitting the target the eyes pick out. taekwondo is about discipline and mastering the movement of the body, using the entire body to perform a move.
Besides patterns, there was also sparing and team breaking competitions. Sparing competitions were 1 vs.1 matches of participants in the same division. Naus finished second in sparing and Gutierrez finished in first place in his sparring division.
For the team breaking competition, participants entered as teams of three with each member of the team performing a different move. The moves were a side piercing kick, a 180 back kick and a punch. Participants had one opportunity to perform the move and break the board; a failure to break the board or have the proper technique usually means the team no longer has a chance to win, Johnson said.
Naus performed the side piercing kick, breaking the board along with other members of the team to give them first place. The boards used were rebreakable plastic boards. The power needed to break a board equaled that of a wooden board about an inch thick in a 10-inch by 10-inch square. The plastic boards are different colors, representing the different amount of force needed.
The boards are used to test the power and accuracy of the move; both are needed to break the board.
Naus said he enjoys all of the events and has been gaining interest in the sparing event. He enjoys testing his skills against another opponent, with the goal not to hurt them but to show control and mastery of the skills to gain points.
Before a participant attempts to break a board, they always bow to the judge, even during practice and demonstrations. Johnson said this is to ensure the participant is in the right mindset with taekwondo being about control, power and peace, not destruction and aggressiveness.
“We do it through kicking and punching, but our goal is to teach all of these kids to be useful to society,” Johnson said. “Good, decent people, ladies and gentlemen. That is really what our objective is, not kicking and punching.”
Naus has seen taekwondo help with his mental ability and physical ability.
“Just the general skill, it helps you in life,” Naus said. “Things like breathing, I can see improvement. My balance is incredible and it keeps me fit.”