CRESTVIEW — When City Manager Tim Bolduc challenged the students at Gordon Martial Arts to always persevere, for many he was preaching to the choir.

Emma Gregory, for example, was spotted practicing some of her forms in the middle of the Crestview Community Center later Friday night, oblivious as the tables and chairs from the evening’s promotion ceremony were being put away around her.

“I’m always practicing moves,” the 10-year-old Riverside Elementary School student said.

Emma has been a Gordon Martial Arts student since March, “and I already have my green belt!” she proudly added.

Her dad, Jason Gregory, said it’s not unusual for Emma to ask to go to after-school practice early so she can watch students in the higher levels practice and observe their techniques.

“She’s really phenomenal in Taekwondo,” he said. “She jumps right into it. She’s doing a great job and keeps picking it up. She’s come a long way and she wants more.”

As the evening’s guest speaker, Bolduc reminded students and family members that such perseverance requires the proper focus.

“I challenge you to push through like there’s nothing in front of you to block your way,” he said. “When things get bad or get hard, you just imagine there’s nothing in front of you and keep on going.”

That’s what Trent Tucker, 11, tries to do.

Trent, well known around Gordon Martial Arts and not just for his distinctive flip haircut, proudly wears the black “dobok” (uniform) of GMA’s Leadership Club. The Davidson Middle School student has been practicing the art of Taekwondo for nearly half his life.

“We’re always still learning,” he said modestly, though he usually places in the top three positions in his division during tournaments. During practices, “I like sparring best, because it gives me a chance to practice my technique and improve. Being (at GMA) has made me more disciplined.”

About 115 students ranging from 4 years old to adult advanced to their next respective levels in Taekwondo at the October promotion ceremony.

During the ceremony, Master Tom Gordon, owner of the downtown Oakdale Avenue academy, announced the International Taekwon-Do Federation Headquarters in South Korea chose his school to host the first international instructor course in North America.

“We’re very proud of that recognition,” he said, mentioning that he and Master Greg Bledsoe, a GMA instructor, recently returned from teaching in Argentina.

“Master Bledsoe was truly a rock star there,” Gordon said. “He got to autograph uniforms and everything!”

In addition to Masters Gordon and Bledsoe, Amanda Howard, Master Jeremy Morgan and Luke West were named to the list of the continent’s first to complete the ITF-HQ international instructors course in North America.

“We are honored by the recognition,” Gordon said. “It means we are known as a truly world-class academy, but we’re always going to be Crestview’s family martial arts center.”