LIHUE — A local taekwondo school recently had its first opportunity to compete off-island and did pretty well for itself.
K.A.I.S. (Kims Academy Island School) TaeKwonDo took part in the 13th annual Maui Open Taekwondo Championship tournament on Nov. 18 at the Maui War Memorial Gym in Wailuku.
Thirteen students represented K.A.I.S. and brought back home about 20 medals.
“Couldn’t have been more proud of them. Everyone supported each other. I was really pleased,” said K.A.I.S. master instructor Jack Markman.
He added: “The best response after, parents told me all their children that entered said, ‘Now, I’m going to train really hard. Now, I see what it’s about.’ That’s what I’m looking for always — for self-growth. … It was such a positive experience. Those that lost a match, I explained, ‘First tournament, that’s going to happen.’ But everyone supported everyone.”
The Maui Open is an international competition. Previous tournaments have brought teams from Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Canada, and the Mainland United States as well as many others from Hawaii.
“People come from all over as a pre-qualifier to nationals to Junior Olympics,” Markman said.
Prior to the Maui Open, K.A.I.S. mainly participated in tournaments the school hosted and the students competed amongst each other.
Not only was this the first time the school competed. This year was the first a team from Kauai took part at the international tournament.
“Also coincidentally, it was also the first time Big Island was represented,” Markman said. “Really beautiful for Hawaii, and that’s what they’ve been wanting — to build it up among ourselves.”
Among the 13 from K.A.I.S, two of the older students entered in full-contact competition.
“I felt great because I got to fight two people,” said Jonah Cabello, 15. He placed second in the 150-pound 15-17 age group.
“One of them had a height advantage on me. So, it was hard to fight against him because he had more of the reach,” he continued. “The other one was actually nationally ranked. It was fun and exciting to spar a man that was nationally ranked.”
The other was Kai Markman, son of the elder Markman, who placed second in the 121-pound 15-17 age group.
“It was my first time on Maui also,” Kai said. “I feel like I could have done better. I was a little nervous being it was my first out-of-school tournament. It was an overall good experience though.”
Kai added: “(I want) to be more mentally prepared next time. Physically, I was there. But I never experienced sparring with someone I’m not used to. You have to feel them out in the first round, see what their style is whether they’re an attacker or counter sparrer. I’m used to sparring with people only in my school.”
Up next for the school is a tournament on Oahu in February.
“That’s a pre-qualifier for nationals,” Jack Markman said. “I love it because people come all over from Hawaii.”
He said one of his goals in teaching taekwondo is to help kids develop a sense of self-worth and confidence.
“Competition is healthy within the martial arts aspect of, ‘You do your best and try your hardest. There’s no losers. You can lose a match, but you’re a winner if you’ve given your best,’” Markman said.