Glenwood tween Madison Morris, like many 12-year-olds, keeps very busy. She is a nearly straight-A student, plays clarinet in the Glenwood Middle School band, and plays volleyball and basketball for the school. Morris, however, has one special activity that many of her fellow seventh-grade classmates do not. She has become the Iowa triple-crown champion in ATA Tae kwon do for the second year in a row.
Tae kwon do, according to Encyclopedia Brittanica, means the art of kicking and punching, and has three areas of skill, known as forms, weapons and sparring. Tae kwon do is a Korean form of martial arts and differs from other forms of martial arts, for example karate, in that it uses many kicking techniques. (Karate is a Japanese form of martial arts).
At age four, Madison Morris attended a free tae kwon do class and became hooked. Madison takes tae kwon do from Sanders ATA (American Tae kwon do Association), run by Shane Sanders, a senior master in tae kwon do. Sanders runs classes in Council Bluffs, Omaha, Missouri Valley, Red Oak, Neola and at the Glenwood YMCA.
Morris attends classes twice a week right now because of her basketball schedule, but will take classes more frequently once basketball season is over.
She is now a third degree black belt. People practicing martial arts are awarded belts for mastering various levels of skill in the three areas of tae kwon do. Sanders ATA gives tests every two months to those students who have come to at least eight classes and filled out a practice chart, and those tests result in students achieving belts. To achieve a black belt, Madison had to demonstrate two forms, or maneuvers. One of the maneuvers Madison demonstrated is known as Choong Jung 2, which consists of 46 separate movements.
The black belt is the highest color available, and according to taekwon doinformation.org, represents maturity and rejection of darkness and fear.
As a third degree black belt, Morris must stay at the third level for three years, while still testing and improving her skills.
All this practicing and testing has paid off. In order to become the triple-crown state champion, she competed in 11 tournaments in one year - one national tournament in Little Rock, Ark., and 10 regional tournaments. The regional tournaments were held in locations from Fargo, N.D., to Chicago.
While tae kwon do may not use as much expensive equipment as, for example, skiing, it can still be an expensive sport. Each tournament requires an entry fee of between $65 and $85, and traveling fees mean that the Morris family spends thousands of dollars each year on hotels, gas, food and a few souvenirs.
“I do my best to keep expenses down,” said Sheryl Morris, Madison’s mother, who is herself a second-degree black belt. “We frequently travel with another family, we look for deals online, and I always try to get hotels with refrigerators and microwaves in the rooms so we can
prepare some of our own meals. We were able to go to Chicago for about $600.”
According to Sheryl, the triple-crown means Madison has the largest number of points in the three areas of tae kwon do for her division of girls 11 to 14 years old who have second or third degree black belts. Each tournament awards points for winning matches, and the larger the tournament, the more points are awarded. A third-place rank at a large tournament may carry more weight than a first-place rank at a smaller tournament. At the end of the tournament season, the person with the most points in each of the many categories becomes the champion. The five main categories are men, women, girls, boys and special abilities. In the girls division, there are subdivisions of under 8 years old, 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17.
Triple-crown champion Madison has set herself a high goal – to become the triple-crown champion three years in a row (and she will do so as a third-degree black belt). She also wants to earn a red collar, which means she is an instructor trainee. She can earn this collar at age 13.
Madison’s biggest goal? To be in the Olympics for tae kwon do.
“I want people to know who I am, like Shawn Johnson,” Madison said. “That takes a lot of training, like hours a day.”