Kicking away competition: Senior excels at taekwondo

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Eagleville Taekwondo Academy has a very simple construction on the outside. With its neon sign spelling “TAEKWONDO” and its box-like structure on the corner of the street, the facility is not necessarily appealing to the eye. However, walking through the rusting doors reveals a much livelier scene, as commands are being shouted and children are rushing to put on their gear. Senior Emma Davis spends two hours every day in this energetic building.

Becoming a black belt takes two years of experience, and each additional degree takes additional skill, experience and perseverance. Davis has achieved four degrees at a young age and has won multiple sparring tournaments in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. She has also participated in national championships in Utah and Minnesota. 

Before travelling all over the country and winning multiple tournaments, Davis was just another juvenile taekwondo student. When Davis was five years old, her father persuaded her to start the activity.

“My dad basically manipulated me as a child,” Davis said. “When I was five years old, he let me watch a (taekwondo) class, and after the class, he turns to me and says, ‘Only boys can do that.’ My 5-year-old self was extremely angry, and I joined in spite.”

Davis admits to not excelling at taekwondo from the start. According to Davis, though, what sets her apart from her peers was the fact that she did not give up and was not afraid of her superiors.

“I remember, during one of my tests, we were supposed to break a board. Some of the other kids gave up, but I kept on trying to break the board, even if I didn’t get it on my first try,” Davis said. “The other thing was that my master was really intimidating, and even some of the adults were scared of him. But I liked him, and I didn’t really care about what he was thinking. I think he liked me for that.”

Davis was able to progress past her peers after the first few months and earned her first-degree black belt at age 8, her second-degree black belt at age 10 and her third-degree black belt at age 12. When she practices, Davis primarily focuses on her technique and spars with other students. When sparring, she clears her mind and tends to be extremely calm. She accomplishes this by having light conversations with her opponents before her performance.  

One of Davis’ favorite memories is when she was injured and had to fight a top-tier competitor.

“At one tournament I went to, there was this girl whose father was a gold medalist,” Davis said. “The twist was, I severely (hurt) my back. I didn’t tell anyone because I really wanted to go to this tournament. I held my own, but in all honesty, she won the moment we stepped on the mat. After the match, we shook hands and she congratulated me.”

Davis also enjoyed travelling to Utah with her family for another tournament. She recalls how peculiar her initial encounter with her competitors was.  

“I remember that it was a very long flight. My dad and brother came with me and we toured the area together,” Davis said. “I just remember during the competition when I walked into a room full of competitors in their uniforms drinking coffee. I realized how terrifying it would be to run into these people without coffee.”

Maintaining physical shape throughout the year requires a rigorous schedule that Davis follows daily. Aside from practicing for almost two hours a day, Davis also runs on the treadmill and performs stretching exercises. The most important exercises for Davis are the ones that strengthen the weakest part of her body — her core muscles.

Outside of taekwondo, Davis enjoys listening to rock music and participating in the Young Republicans Club. She also collects fountain pens and plays the piano and the violin.

Taekwondo has become an important part of Davis’ life in ways other than sparring. Through taekwondo, she has learned to become disciplined, respectful and diligent. She says these qualities will help her reach the highest honor possible in Taekwondo — a ninth degree Grandmaster black-belt. For now, though, she will strive to be an amazing fighter and person.

“I feel like taekwondo has become a part of me,” Davis said. “I learned that anyone can be a black belt as long as you work hard.”