By ASHLEY INGE
STEPHENVILLE (September 12, 2018) – TNT Self Defense Taekwondo school in Stephenville currently has seven students who have qualified for state.
The school opened in January 2017 and classes are being taught by Sensei Troy Smith.
“The art that we teach is taekwondo. It’s a Korean martial art [which has] lots of kicking, mostly kicks, lower body and some hand, but they’re also learning respect and discipline and lots of good life values,” Smith said.
Several students at TNT have qualified for state and almost every student who qualified for state actually qualified in multiple divisions.
Elroy Mann is the number one seed in two divisions and he’s also in the lead right now for AOK’s (Amateur Organization of Karate) ‘Rookie of the Year.’ Robert Loar is the number one seed in three divisions; Joe Saldana is the number one seed in two divisions; Jace Rogers is qualified for state in two divisions; Jayden Stone is qualified in two divisions; Klancy Hammons is qualified for state; and Smith also qualified for state and is the number two seed in the state.
“Not only do they (the students) go to the tournaments and earn enough points to qualify for state, they usually go to the tournaments and win, which will make them a number one seed when it comes to state in December, so getting enough points to qualify for state, yeah, it’s an accomplishment for sure, but getting enough points and winning first place trophies to be the number one seed, that’s a huge accomplishment,” Smith said.
Smith said he is very proud of all of the Stephenville competitors and explains how they all stick together at the tournaments.
“We’re a pretty tight knit little group. We got state last year. I actually fought on stage for the state title, so I fought for first and second but I lost, so I actually finished second last year but whenever they called my name out, before we fought, half of the room erupted. It was a pretty cool feeling. [But] it was in Houston. I mean we’re four hours away from home and when they said, ‘Troy Smith from Stephenville, Texas,’ it was pretty neat to hear all of those people cheering. I don’t know how many of them were from Stephenville, but it sure sounded like there was a bunch. It sounded like half of the room was from Stephenville. We all stick together at the tournaments,” Smith said. “Even though we’re from different schools, we want to see their students succeed as well. We want everybody to know where Stephenville, Texas is when we leave a tournament, whether it’s in Beaumont or Abilene or Houston.”
There are 131 divisions in the AOK for certain ages, belt levels, male/female and many other components of the divisions.
“Out of our little seven or eight people that are qualified, nine of the number one seeds out of those 131 are right here from our little school,” Smith said. “I think we’re the number 10 ranked school in the AOK as far as accumulating points, and again, we’re a small school. When we do go to tournaments to be in the top ten of points, you need first place trophies. You need to win whatever division it is you’re competing in.”
TNT Taekwondo is also the only school around Stephenville to have a grand master. Rick Davis is an 8th degree black belt and is a member of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
“[Rick is} 75 and he still actively teaches and works out with all of the guys. I’ll be the first to admit, he’s probably the baddest dude in our school. I don’t care how old he is,” Smith added.
Last year, a student from TNT also won the state title. Taylor Jones, a 17-year-old girl from Stephenville, was the only person from Stephenville to actually win the state title. Jones was a rookie that year and started with Smith in January and by December, she was a state champion.
Smith said watching several of his students succeed in the tournaments is a very rewarding feeling.
“As an instructor, I’m their coach, I’m their instructor, but it’s an incredible feeling. I’ve actually won state five times and I’ve won national two times, and those are incredible accomplishments. It’s hard to explain how rewarding it feels, but nothing comes close to seeing the look on those kids’ faces when they win,” Smith said. “Last year when she (Taylor) won state, that was just a new feeling for me. I’ve felt that feeling as a competitor, but never as a coach or instructor. It’s pretty rewarding and I think it’s why we do this, [because it’s] very rewarding to us. We sacrifice a lot of our time and energy and away from our family and home and that makes it all worth it for sure.”