Truman students show off their martial arts

"With fists flying, feet swinging and boards breaking, 17 Truman High School students demonstrated their tae kwon do skills to two dozen of their peers and school faculty Thursday afternoon.More than the broken planks or the sparring punches, instructor A.J. Vaughn emphasized his students' approach to tae kwon do.What I most want you to remember is the attitude these people brought, Vaughn said to the audience. That's what matters the most.Truman Principal Pam Morris Stendal has also seen the difference the class has made throughout the year.I have seen some changes in the kids, Stendal said. First of all, I've heard 'Yes ma'am,' and 'No ma'am,' which I have never had before. It's certainly building respect and responsibility.Amanda Stewart, 17, was one of several students to their skills in breaking nearly 1-inch thick boards.I messed up the first time, said Stewart, who has earned the rank of yellow belt. The second time I broke it all the way through. It was clean.The sense of accomplishment the students obtain by breaking boards, learning forms, sparring and moving up in rank is another benefit of the program. One of the initial accomplishments comes by earning their martial arts uniforms, which were paid for by the Federal Way Rotary Club. The students receive the outfits after successfully learning some of the basic forms.On Thursday, Shawn McCulley busted three boards consecutively with a kick, punch and elbow strike during the presentation.I could have broken my foot on the first one so I was a little bit nervous, said McCulley, 17, also a yellow belt.The year-end demonstration is a culmination of the twice-a-week classes Vaughn has taught since the fall. About 40 students took part in the classes, but a regular core of 17 stuck with the program.I felt like giving up before I got my second (degree) yellow (belt), said Kathy Wilkes, 17. It takes a lot of personal perseverance.Vaughn gave credit to the students for sticking with the program and going through the repetitive drills while maintaining their focus.They're willing to come and put on pajamas and yell and scream and hit and kick things, he said. There's a lot of energy in this class. We haven't had anyone lose their temper during this class. We haven't had anyone be disrespectful to anyone else.Stendal is waiting to see next year's budget to see if the class be offered again.I think it makes a difference with some of our kids., said Stendal, a former P.E. teacher. I would like to make it a part of our culture."

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