Group offers free martial arts training

Students in the Starkville club of the Naval Postgraduate School Taekwondo Association go through a forms drill during belt testing in April. The club has offered free Taekwondo training in Starkville for more than two decades. (submitted photo)
Staff Writer

For those in Starkville wanting to learn self defense and find a fun way to keep fit, a free opportunity exists.

For more than 20 years, the Naval Postgraduate School Taekwondo Association has been offering free lessons in the martial art regardless of students’ body types and ability. The association= was founded at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California by Master Kebom Kang, Master David Dampier and Master Caryn Dampier. David Dampier started the classes in Starkville when he came as a professor to Mississippi State University. The association is a World Taekwondo Federation club and teaches Kukkiwon- style taekwondo, a traditional Korean style.

“They moved here, David and Caryn Dampier, moved here over 20 years ago and made arrangements with the First Methodist Church that they wouldn’t charge us rent, and we wouldn’t charge tuition,” said Master Allen McBroom, one of the instructors for the Starkville club. “My wife started training with them with my two children, and I came in later to the picture, but I’ve been with the club around 20 years now. “

McBroom said because the school was not commercial, they can hold students to higher standards with no impact on bottom line, since there is no bottom line. The sole fees charged are $10 per belt earned.

“We have trained dozens of black belts, in our club,” McBroom said. “We have clubs in Atlanta, Arkansas, Washington D.C. North Carolina, Monterrey and other places.”

McBroom said all clubs in the association were set up like the Starkville club.

“It’s the philosophy that the chance to learn taekwondo should not be given just to those who can afford it,” McBroom said. “Instead of shelling out $80 to $100 a month, they come to us and get strict taekwondo training. We’ll train anybody age 10 and up. We have no upper age. We train people with disabilities. We have a black belt former Marine master sergeant over in Atlanta. He’s in a wheelchair, and he earned his black belt legitimately. We had to do some modifications to the test, but if he could demonstrate black belt level skills from a wheelchair and learn to use his chair as a weapon or as a defensive tool, then absolutely.”

McBroom also emphasized the health benefits of the martial art, telling a story of a woman who showed up at the association’s classes in Atlanta, saying her doctor had told her to start doing taekwondo for her health.

“They started training her, and six months later she goes back to her doctor,” McBroom said. “The doctor says ‘wow, remarkable improvement.’ What have you done?’ She says ‘what you told me to do, study taekwondo.’ He says ‘oh no no, I told you tai chi, but don’t change. This is good.’ Now she has a black belt.”

McBroom emphasized taekwondo as a way of life.

“It’s not about being Jackie Chan,” McBroom said.

A new class is beginning, and anyone is welcome to show up over the next week or so. The club meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting at 5:30 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church gym.

“We’ll get everybody started at about the same level, “McBroom said. “After we’re two weeks in, it’s hard to add somebody to the class and have them keep up.”

He said Thursday would be the latest a new person couldcome to join this class. The initial class will last close to 12 weeks. The next class will start in the fall.

McBroom said usually, it would take a student close to three years to receive a first degree black belt. However, he emphasized every student’s timeline being different.