By Sean Bowes
Ask any parent with a son and a daughter and they will likely tell you that it’s difficult to get their kids to stop fighting. New Tampa residents Christopher and Viviana Cao are no exception. However, their kids — Christopher, 14, and Viviana, 11 — are not exactly fighting in the way you might think, like, say, over the remote control. Instead, they practice sparring, breaking boards and perfecting their moves in Tae Kwon Do (TKD), the Korean martial art form.
Recently, the young duo traveled to Namyangju, South Korea, to represent the U.S., and both won gold medals at the World Tae Kwon Do Hanmadang, an annual competition which is open to elite TKD athletes. At the Hanmadang, 3,700 TKD practitioners from 53 different countries competed against each other in a variety of poomsae (see below) and board- breaking events.
Poomsae is a choreographed sequence of techniques that is performed either with or without the use of a weapon. Christopher and Viviana competed together in the Junior II (ages 13-15) Pair Poomsae (forms) division. To compete in this division, Viviana had to move up an age group to perform with her brother. In TKD, a competitor can move up an age group, but not down.
“We practice a lot,” said Christopher. “We train six days a week and I do tumbling on the days I don’t do Tae Kwon Do.”
Their training is definitely paying off. One week before the Hanmadang competition, the siblings spent their time practicing with a group consisting of some of the best TKD students in the world, the Korean Tigers International Demonstration Team. In the TKD world, the Tigers are sort of like the Harlem Globetrotters and Dream Team combined. And, for seven days, the Tigers worked the brother and sister into even better shape for the competition.
“I have never been so sore,” said Christopher.
“My legs hurt so bad I could hardly walk,” agreed Viviana.
Ask them if they would do it again, however, and they will both tell you “yes” in a heartbeat. Christopher and Viviana are both already black belts and have been training rigorously for five years at US Tae Kwon Do, located off of Bruce B Downs Blvd. and County Line Rd. (near Walgreens). They have competed in numerous local, state and national competitions and both say that they learned a tremendous amount in a very short amount of time with the renowned Korean Tigers.
The Caos arrived at the Hanmadang competition with their coach from US TKD, Grand Master Jae Hak Lee, and while the brother and sister admitted they were nervous, they both had a new level of confidence from their training with the Tigers.
“At the competition, there are 53 different countries contending,” says Grand Master Lee. “Chris and Viviana (representing the U.S.), won gold medals in poomsae after beating competitors from Mexico, China and the host Korea in the finals.”
US Tae Kwon Do is located at 20754 Center Oak Dr. For more information, call 991-6565.