CRESTVIEW — Punches flew and kicks were delivered at the Crestview Community Center Jan. 6, but nobody was injured. In fact, those who kicked and punched well were rewarded.
As each advanced to the next level of their studies in taekwondo, students at Gordon Martial Arts academy received colored belts attesting to their prowess and signifying where they were on their respective journeys.
While developing physical skills and character, the kids — some as young as 4 years old — also have a great time as they learn the Korean art's techniques, philosophy and discipline demanded of its practitioners.
"He loves it!" Lynn Mayo said of her son, Phenix, 7, who received his blue senior belt at the ceremony.
Gloria Garcia, whose 7-year-old grandson, Chandler Dill, was promoted to orange belt from yellow Friday night, echoed Mayo's sentiment. "He really enjoys it," Garcia said.
The 120 promoted students, including 25 teens and adult martial artists, four of whom also advanced in Korean hapkido, follow a strict observance of the academy's five tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.
The ceremony's guest speaker, Crestview Police Chief Tony Taylor, commented on each attribute:
•Courtesy: "Treat people with respect, even if they don't respect you."
•Integrity: "It's one of the most important things you can have in life. It's important in what we do in law enforcement. Always protect your integrity with everything you do."
•Perseverance: "Never give up if you have a goal in life. You can achieve it. With perseverance, you can overcome anything you need to overcome."
•Self-control: "When you have great self-control, it's easy to be courteous to people who aren't courteous to you."
•Indomitable spirit: "Always try your best to be positive, even if you're having a bad day."
Taylor's words stuck with Derek Vegas, 8, who advanced to blue senior belt level during the event.
"I want to be a policeman," Derek told Taylor as he asked his dad to take a photo of him and his little brother, Ethan, 5, with the police chief. That was good news "because we're hiring officers," Taylor told the boy. "Keep up the good work because you're going places."
Academy owner Thomas Gordon said producing such well-rounded, disciplined and confident future leaders is one of Gordon Martial Arts' goals. And it's not just for kids.
"This is something for the whole family," he said. "Anybody can do it."