ENCINITAS — Taekwondo may be the way of the foot and hand, but for a number of young students, it’s become a pathway leading to something greater.
For 9-year-old Rayna Vallingham, it’s been to overcome her shyness; for 11-year-old Kathryn Baron, it’s been a way to make friends. For 4-year-old Channah Zeitung it was a way to discover what she liked, trading in dance shoes for a chance at a black belt.
Earlier this year, students at Church’s Martial Arts, including Vallingham and Baron secured 16 world titles in ATA (American Taekwondo Association) tournaments.
Trish Church is the owner and instructor at the Carmel Valley Location (her husband Master Ken Church, a 6th degree black belt, instructs at the Encinitas location.) Both locations have been ranked no.1 schools by the ATA.
It comes as no surprise that inner-strength and confidence is at the core of Church’s teachings. She explained that growing up as the oldest of five girls in her family, she was the “responsible one” and was described as “subservient.”
But when she entered her eldest son into taekwondo classes, she noticed the confidence the kids would have.
When she began taking the classes too, she noticed that she was really good at it.
Church is now a 5th degree black belt and will be eligible to test for master level in 2014.
She holds 13 titles and is the current world champion in traditional forms and weapons. And many of her students are experiencing similar success.
Church attributes her successful teaching abilities to her own learning disabilities, being dyslexic and having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, she said. “That in itself has made me a tremendous martial arts instructor because I’ve had to learn so many different ways to teach,” she said.
Church explained that the competitions, for her young students helps to prepare them to compete in life. “You compete for the college you want to go to; you compete for your mate; you compete for your job,” she said. “I seem to feel like they understand what it is to really try hard at a really young age.”
Vallingham began taking taekwondo classes when she was 2. She’s now a 2nd degree black belt and with that come the bragging rights. “Once I got into it, I really, really loved it,” she said, adding that she also liked to beat up her brother, who’s also a 2nd degree black belt.
“This is my life now,” she said. “I really love it.”
But now she’s entered a whole new competition, “fighting” as it were for roles in Hollywood. Vallingham has started auditioning for films.
She credits the taekwondo for helping overcome her shyness and enabling her to go on auditions. Her next audition, she said, will be for a part in a comedy.
Baron, who’s earned the nickname “Beast” because of the way she kicks, has been involved with taekwondo for seven or eight years now. She said she was introduced to the martial art through her grandpa, and she’s stuck with it ever since.
When it comes to competing, Baron said she loves the adrenaline of it.
Zeitung, or “Mini-Beast,” as she’s referred to has already been involved in competitions and said her goal is to become state champion.
The little camouflage belt warrior, who began taekwondo when she was 2, is well-versed with a staff and extreme open hand form and will be attempting to earn her green belt in September.
“If you look at the Olympic athletes, gymnasts start at 2 or 3 years of age, and the same thing can be said for martial arts,” Church said.
“(Zeitung) memorizes every routine,” Church said. “In a lot of ways, their learning capacity is accelerated, very much so,” she added.
Church continues to teach respect for your juniors and seniors in her taekwondo classes, she said. “For me, I think that you learn something from everyone, whether they’re young or they’re old. …
“For me, it’s a way of life. It’s something that we all love to do. We have many families in our school that do it together. What other sport can you do where everybody can do it together?”