Local martial arts students are showing off some serious gear after they were named champions at the ATA International World Expo in Little Rock, Ark., last month.
More than a dozen young competitors from the Encinitas and Carmel Valley-based Church's ATA Martial Arts placed in various competitions and won medals at the event held June 20-25.
The children, ranging between 2 and 18 years old, train between two and seven hours a day for seven days a week, said Trish Church, chief instructor and owner.
"They live at the studio," Church joked. "There's no better place to be than at the studio for your daughters. Lock them in and throw away the key."
On July 7, some of the competitors — young girls between the ages of 8 and 11 — showed off their moves during an interview at the center's Carmel Valley location.
The girls said martial arts teaches them to work hard for their goals.
"It gives you a lot of confidence and builds relationships with friends," said 11-year-old Grace Dabir, who began training when she was 4. "They're like all my little sisters."
Grace won in the 9 through 10 age division in traditional forms.
Channah Zeitung, 9, said she feels like her hard work has paid off. The girl — who began practicing martial arts at age 2 after switching over from ballet — won four world titles in the 8 and under division (she turned 9 after the competition), including traditional weapons, creative forms, creative weapons and extreme weapons.
After Channah won, it was like a "chain reaction" for the other girls to also win in their categories, Church said.
Students won in categories such as creative forms, traditional forms, creative weapons and extreme weapons.
Church, who estimates she has nearly 700 students between her two studios, said she sees the "end goal," and in the studio, the girls are growing up in a safe environment.
"The ultimate goal is for them to understand what it is to work hard to set goals to know that, at this age, they can achieve anything," she said. "Everybody works hard in the class. It's not an option not to work hard. They all drive each other."
Many of her students have gone on to receive full-ride scholarships from prestigious universities throughout the country. She also said that her students typically earn straight “As” in school.
Church, who began practicing martial arts when she was 30, said knowing self-defense is invaluable for young girls.
"I can say all my girls are aware of how to keep themselves out of danger," she said. "We're not just one-sided. You'll see a lot of schools that are just sparring schools or that don't compete at all. We're very well-rounded, and we do multiple types of martial arts."
For more information about Church's ATA Martial Arts and its locations, visit www.churchsmartialarts.com.
The Church's ATA Martial Arts students below won first place in the divisions listed at the recent ATA International World Expo in Little Rock, Ark.:
- Olivia Pascua: Traditional Forms
- Channah Zeitung: Traditional Weapons, Creative Forms Weapons & Extreme weapons
- Xavier Soriano: Sparring
- Alycia Chee: Creative forms
- Grace Dabir: Traditional Forms
- Luke Knee: Traditional Forms
- Kloe Godard: Traditional Sparring
- Matthew Noto: Traditional Forms
- Advay Chandra: Creative forms, Extreme Forms, Traditional Sparring
- Aarav Chandra: Traditional Weapons, Creative & Weapons
- Olivia Palombo: Creative Forms & Creative Weapons
- Kendall Yount: Traditional Sparring Team Sparring
- Ciel Solwazi: Extreme Forms and Team Sparring
- Jordan Peters: Traditional Forms & Weapons
- Dario Dracian: Traditional Sparring
- Team Sparring: Sr Master Ken Church, Master Erdman, Trish Church, Ciel Solwazi, Jimmy Golden, Romeo Gregory, Scott Base, Scott Benton, Fey Brinkley, Kendall Yount