Located next to the Goodwill at the corner of Hwy. 53 and Ga. 400, Moohan Martial Arts Academy opened its doors to the public in the summer of 2015. Starting with a class of only 21 students, Master Seung Ho Kim and his wife Eunice Kim reached the culmination of their efforts by awarding the academy’s first black belts to four students on Saturday, Aug. 25.
Taking a minimum of two and a half years to complete, but usually taking three or more years of study, the black belt indicates a student, although still learning, knows enough to be considered an instructor, according to the World Taekwondo Headquarters located in Kukkiwon, South Korea.
“There can be many different colored belts and tests depending on the school,” Eunice Kim said as she explained the testing system. “With the black belt it has to involve Kukkiwon.”
Kim further explained that there were nine degrees of black belt, and starting with the fifth rank students would be awarded the title of Master.
The youngest recipient of a black belt on Saturday was 10-year-old Anthony Dill. Dill is called ‘poom,’ which in Korean signifies he is a beginner black belt.
“I’m not too sure how many belts there are,” Dill said. “But my goal is to get the highest.”
Starting his studies in at the age of 7, Dill found himself in Dawsonville as the result of his father’s military service. He has attended Robinson Elementary since his arrival and became involved with Moohan Academy through the school’s open house.
“I was looking for something to do.” Dill said. “I like learning new things and doing fun activities.”
Starting as a student in the summer of 2015, Dill initially enjoyed meeting new people and the friends that he made at the academy and as he tested into higher belts, he began to feel a need to be more involved. So he sought out a role on the Junior Leadership Team.
“I come in on Fridays and Saturdays to help with the make-up class,” Dill said. “The make-up class is for people that don’t have time to do all the classes in the week. I was in it one time because I broke my toe.”
Anthony’s mother, Josephine Dill, was quick to emphasize that in addition to the martial arts, the academy focused heavily on life skills.
“As a mom that was important to me. That the tests involved personal questions about his family, and that his grades are considered,” Josephine Dill said. “It turns the light on to the idea that there are other people out there.”
Kendall Helmer, 14, who also received her black belt on Saturday, couldn’t emphasize more the importance of integrating life skills as part of the training. Having joined the academy as one of the original students in the summer of 2015, Helmer acknowledged that this was a tough achievement.
“I wanted to quit in the beginning,” Helmer said. “It’s like a second family how everyone is supporting you and I stuck it out.”
Now a member of the Moohan Academy Leadership Team, Helmer is no longer just a student with the academy, but she also is employed as a part time instructor on Monday and Wednesday evenings.
“I really enjoy working with the younger kids,” Helmer said. “It keeps me busy.”
The presentation of the belts was an elaborate affair as Master Seung Ho Kim and Eunice Kim, wearing formal Korean attire known as a Hanbok, called forward each student to receive their belts. The students wore their new uniforms that designated their achievement by replacing the traditional white collar with a black collar, and Master Kim stepped forward and tied the belt around each participant’s waist. He also presented each with their official documentation as a first-degree black belt from Kukkiwon.The ceremony concluded with Master Kim and the students performing a traditional Korean Tea ceremony in which each instrument and each intricate movement had meaning to those involved and solidified the tradition, history and effort represented by the day’s achievement.
Also receiving the black belts were Vanessa Marcano and Denem Sweazey.