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Home News-Telegram Sports Kicking Up Their Heels -- Local ATA students look to chop down competition

Kicking Up Their Heels -- Local ATA students look to chop down competition

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Sulphur Springs ATA Martial Arts Academy has made great strides with their students, Calvin Perry, Cristina Perry, Joshua Schwen, and chief ATA certified instructor Daron Bilyeu, also a second-degree Black Belt.

These ATA (American Taekwondo Association) athletes join the Top Ten Qualifiers, along side their accomplishments were 2009 Texas State Champions Calvin Perry, Christina Shadix, and Bilyeu.

The Top Ten qualifiers will compete in the 2009 World Championship event the weekend of June 25-26 in Little Rock, Ark. Those involved will be Daron Bilyeu - qualifier men's second—third degree in the 30-39 age group for weapons, Calvin Perry - qualifier boys first-degree in the 14-16 year old division of weapons, Cristina Perry - qualifier women's first-degree in the 17-29 in old division for sparring and weapons, and Josh Schwen - qualifier men's first-degree in the 17-29 group of weapons.

After her experience as the Tiny Tiger instructor, Cristina Perry, first-degree Black Belt and certified instructor, recently took a position teaching at Sustaire's ATA Karate for Kids in Murphy, Texas. “I love working with kids,” said Perry, now two months into her new position. In 2008, she was awarded the Texas State Champion X-treme Forms and X-treme Weapons. For this year's competition, she will be sparring (fighting with hands and feet) and for her weapon of choice-the broad sword. These events keep her in workouts twice a week and she is involved in four classes a week.

“I have always wanted to do this since I was a kid,” Perry said. Her favorite event is sparring, she explained that the X-treme Forms allows room for a more personal creativeness. Perry has been so creative in her training, she worked herself into a disjointed pinky finger on her right hand. “My parents were a little worried at first, but they knew I could hold my own ground.” Perry isn't going to let her injury stop her from the upcoming competition as she has opted to await treatment until after so the healing does not interfere.

In competition, Taekwondo athletes are judged by a panel of three peers. “It is a honor to judge,” she explained. “Everything we do goes towards our overall point total. In an event, in the two minute time frame, the first opponent to reach five or the athlete ahead in points is declared the winner.”

Perry is the oldest of eight children. For them, martial arts is a family affair, with the entire Coe and Jeannie Perry family participatants at the Sulphur Springs ATA Academy. In fact, Cristina's younger brother, Calvin will be accompanying her for his first time. “The (learned) discipline  applies to everything,” said her brother. “It takes lots of practice working with the broad sword (composed of a heavy plastic curved blade). You have to work at it until it is an extension of your body,” Calvin said. Both siblings are three year veterans of the Sulphur Springs ATA school.

“I have always loved martial arts,” Perry said. “It will always be something I do even after school.” Perry is in the tenth grade and he along with his siblings are all being homeschooled.

In 2008, Josh Schwen, son of Jack and Lois Schwen, had the honor of being at the top of the winners stand with his world title in the first-degree black belt. He intends to repeat that honor this year with four years of training under his belt. “I chose the nunchucks, one of the harder weapons. It has been really fun,” Schwen said.

Schwen hasn't been idol much since last year as he has started his new job at Lowe's in February, following in the footsteps of his big brother. He recently was named to the Dean's List at Paris Junior College. Schwen plans to finish school at the Tech Center and continue his education at Texas A&M. “I am hoping to repeat,” he said, “but with this sometimes you learn more by losing than winning. Of course, it is nice to win.”

Moving to a faster musical beat is Christina Shadix in her use of the double chucks (two sets of nunchucks). Shadix tied for first the 2009 Texas State Championship for weapons for her age and gender division with Thuy Vy Hynh of Houston. Shadix took the outright first place in the X-treme weapon for the Texas State Championship for her color belt division with her use of the long sword.

For the past two and half years, Shadix has used her experience to counsel younger ATA athletes. She also has worked as a special education teacher focusing on children with autism. “I use my skills to help me release some of my energy,” said Shadix, traveling from Saltillo.

Desiring a change in her environment, Shadix is using her skills in her next course of action. “I am planning on going into the Mount Pleasant 16-week police academy,” she said hoping she will still be able to remain in the area.

Fourth-degree Black Belt and owner of the school Melissa Bilyeu described the levels of black belt and how a student must spend a year equal to each degree. "So a student must spend a minimum of one year for a first-degree, two years on a second-degree, and so on," she said. She currently outranks her husband by five years with 10 years as the owner of the Sulphur Springs ATA Academy. "To pass to the next level of belt, there is a physical test, an 84-move skill test, must be a certified ATA teacher, compile hours of training all year, judge, and visit other schools as a guest to assist in training — all goes into what an athlete must do to move onto the next color or degree of belt," explained Bilyeu.

The school currently has about 90 students enrolled in classes ranging from three year olds to grandparents.

Daron Bilyeu, co-owner of the school, will also be in the competition with his students. “It is quite an exciting event,” commented Bilyeu on the over 3,000 athletes in the World Competition in Arkansas (the headquarters for ATA). “The students are so amazing.”

Bilyeu came into the business by the influence of his wife of three years and co-owner, Melissa. And his desire to lose weight, in fact, this past year he has managed to drop 50 pounds with the use of his teaching skills and diet. "In June of 2006 we got married, in July I passed my Black Belt test, and in August I bought this school," Daron Bilyeu said with a smile. Also making the couple smile is their newest addition, 20-month old Nathan. Even at his young age, he knows their favor letters of the alphabet — ATA.

According the the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) website, this organization is the premier North American organization dedicated to the martial arts discipline of taekwondo, and is the founding organization of other international affiliates that include the World Traditional Taekwondo Union (WTTU) and the Songahm Taekwondo Federation (STF). Counting both the U.S. and worldwide, these organizations have over 1,500 independently owned and operated licensed schools and clubs, and have registered over one million students since the ATA's inception in 1969. Since the first class was taught many years ago, the focus of the program has remained the same: to provide students the highest quality martial arts instruction available in a safe and positive learning environment that people of all ages can enjoy.

The Sulphur Springs ATA Martial Arts can be found online at www.sulphurspringsata.com. The school offers classes for the very young three-years in the Tiny Tiger Cubbies to programs for the 4-6 year olds with Karate for Kids, classes for 6-12 young adults to family training. The school has a Black Belt Club to train using advanced skills in weapons and sparring. There is also a leadership program for ATA X-treme to enhance creativity and an ATA FIT program that helps train the body using fun and innovative techniques.

The academy also provides seasonal seminars including ground fighting, cardio kickboxing, and women's self defense. To find out more information contact Daron or Melissa Bilyeu at 903-243-8767.




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