EASLEY—Two Palmetto Martial Arts (PMA) students came away with top honors at the national competition in Dallas, Texas last week.
Twelve-year old Associate Black Belt Seth Keith and 15-year old Black Belt Brittany Bryant took home gold medals in the sparring competition, while 31-year old Black Belt Jennifer Davis earned a silver medal in Poomse/Forms. Grant Dean also represented PMA in the nationals, but did not place.
“They were ecstatic,” said Palmetto Martial Arts Master John Roberson of his two champions. “They could not believe that they came out on top.”
Roberson says his students trained hard for the event, but were up against some stiff competition.
“I worked with (Seth and Brittany) for two weeks before nationals for about two hours a day,” said Roberson. “I’m thinking there were around 5,000 competitors. I took them this time, because they had never been before, just to say this is what the nationals look like. There were 18 rings, and most tournaments only have about four rings. There were just a lot of people.”
“They ended up coming away with gold medals,” he said. “I was just thrilled.”
Roberson says this was a particularly special year for his students to attend nationals because of the Olympics in London this summer.
“In the middle of the tournament they stopped and paraded the Olympic team around. It was great,” said Roberson. “There is a lot more excitement this year because of the Olympics.”
While his two young competitors may have made it look simple, Roberson says it takes years of preparation to compete at the highest level. He says he hopes to one day have a student that will go even further.
“(Martial Arts) is a process,” said Roberson. “It takes 10 years for somebody to be good enough to even get to the world class division. Winning gold there sends you to the team trials, and winning gold there sends you to the Olympic trials. They say it takes 10 years and 10,000 hours. My goal is to have a gold medalist in the Olympics.”
Martial Arts interest in Easley is growing, according to Roberson, and he says his two new national champions should draw more people from the area into the sport.
“For the longest time, people didn’t have an option for Taekwondo in Easley,” said Roberson. “If you like competition, you don’t have to drive to Greenville to compete in martial arts. You can do it right here. Not only can you do it here in Easley, but you can do it on a national level.”
Roberson says the biggest problem, however, is finances.
“The problem that you have is most of the kids that are really good don’t have the finances,” said Roberson. “Very few guys have the financial backing, parental backing, and the heart to follow through.”
The Martial Arts Master says his team could have seen even more success if he had been able to afford to take more students.
“I could have had at least three more national champions if my guys could have afforded it,” said Roberson. “It wasn’t cheap, but it’s worth it.”
As for now, Roberson says he is hoping this national success will result in stiffer competition at his local gym in Easley.
“When these other guys are watching these guys that are national champions, they want to be doing that,” said Roberson. “They watch them and what they do, and success builds on itself. The better my guys are, the more competition there will be.”