PORT ANGELES — Taekwondo students Scarlett Fulton of Port Angeles and Ava Reymond of Sequim will soon be off on a grand adventure — and an esteemed honor — next week to test for their black belts in Korea in front of the sport’s highest masters.
White Crane Martial Arts Grandmaster Robert Nicholls of Port Angeles is taking Fulton and Reymond with teams from California, Chicago and Puerto Rico as part of a United States National Taekwondo Union tour of Korea, the birthplace of Taekwondo, on Sunday. From there, after seeing the sites of Seoul, including the royal palace of Kyung Bok Gung, they will get on buses for an hours-long ride to the mountains in the southern part of South Korea, where they will train and take their tests.
Fulton, 13, and Reymond, 14, have already put in a considerable amount of work to gain their red belts. They’ve gone as far as they can before their black belts.
The honor is particularly special for this pair as they will train at Kukkiwon, the world Taekwondo headquarters and the Taekwondowon, a huge sports venue of arenas and hotels that covers hundreds of acres (the entire site is shaped like a dragon) that hosts world Taekwondo events and competitions.
They will also travel to the mountains to train with monks in the classical arts and attend classes in both hapkido and gumdo swords, according to Nicholls.
How do the young teens feel about traveling to the birthplace of Taekwondo to take their black belt tests among the most senior masters of the discipline?
“Honestly, I’m nervous,” Fulton, the daughter of Sally and Craig Fulton of Port Angeles, said. ”I don’t want to mess up or look like a fool.”
“This is so exciting. It’s going to be such an opportunity,” Reymond said.
Both girls have traveled. In fact, Reymond has traveled to Europe and Mexico, but neither has ever gone to Asia before.
“Both of their families have hosted Korean kids here. They’ve both had a taste of Korea,” Nicholls said.
Reymond, the daughter of Sally and John Bays of Sequim, said she took karate when her family lived in North Carolina.
“Taekwondo is more of an art form. Karate is more strict,” she said.
Nicholls is confident that both Fulton and Reymond will do well in Korea despite the nerves.
“I make sure my people are ready” before they test, he said. “I make sure they spend a lot of time at each [belt] level.”
The girls have already done a lot of work just to get their red belts. It takes roughly 300 classes to get to the red belt level and 360 classes to get to the black belt. The girls come to class as often as five days a week to gain the required hours and progress up to the brink of their black belts at a very young age.
The trip has a couple of purposes. One is for Fulton and Reymond’s testing, the other is for an important meeting of the World Taekwondo Federation. The president of the federation, Kwon Duk Un, is retiring after this event and a succession plan will be discussed about the 45 members of the visiting group. Nicholls, a ninth-degree black belt, is seeking to become the technical director of the federation.