Five Lawrence residents can now call themselves martial arts world champions.
Jimmy Golden, Fe Brinkley, Dru Forrester and Bill and Ginger Vermooten recently won gold medals at the American Taekwondo Association World Championships in Little Rock, Ark. The five winners are black belts, the highest level of skill, at the ATA Black Belt and Leadership Academy, 5150 Clinton Parkway.
The championships were split into three areas of traditional tae kwon do: forms, sparring and weapons. Chip McLellan, chief instructor at the school, said forms are a patterned routine of self-defense and traditional tae kwon do moves. Sparring is when two competitors engage in fighting, while the weapons competition involves the wielding of traditional tae kwon do weapons such as nunchucks.
Four of the winners won world championships in forms, while Golden won in sparring. Brinkley and Forrester competed in all three competitions.
In order to qualify for the world championship, competitors must compile points at regional competitions; those in the top 10 in points could compete in Little Rock.
Brinkley, 17, has won the world championship in forms two years in a row.
"It's kind of unbelievable," said Brinkley, who will be a senior at Free State High School. "You work so hard for it and it shows."
McLellan said all the champions take at least four classes a week and work out at home. Forrester, for example, said she takes 10 classes a week, lifts weights with a personal trainer and practices at home when she has free time.
Forrester, 47, a veterinarian in Topeka, said tae kwon do can be very calming.
"It definitely helps for everyday life," Forrester said. "It's great for life skills, especially for the children."
Another facet of tae kwon do is the release of stress and tension, especially in the form of a yell.
"The yelling releases a lot of stored energy and helps relieve stress from a normal day of high school," Brinkley said.
Tae kwon do also keeps the competitors in top shape. Bill and Ginger Vermooten, 69 and 61, respectively, said the only workout they might get without martial arts is the clicking of the television remote.
"It's a lot more fun than bingo," Ginger Vermooten said.
The couple said they started participating in martial arts more than 20 years ago when their children took several martial arts classes.
"We started our kids into it and it looked real interesting, so I picked it up and then she did," Bill said.
"We kept more in it than the kids did," Ginger added, "because we enjoy it."
McLellan said tae kwon do teaches valuable skills like discipline, respect and hard work. This includes setting goals.
Forrester said her goal was to be world champion in all three areas of competition next year. She said she will train hard over the next year, but draws the line when it comes to reaching the highest levels of a black belt.
"I do have a day job," she said. "This is just my hobby."