A new milestone: three Third Degree Black Belts in one year Would you like to see students of all ages excited about learning new skills? Then drop by the Vermillion Taekwondo Black Belt Academy, where students demonstrate discipline and determination, while having fun learning martial arts. Jon Trefz, certified instructor with the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) and fifth degree black belt, recalls many great students and thrilling milestones throughout his 25+ year career. However, says Trefz, "This year marks a very special accomplishment." The new milestone to which he refers, is awarding three of his students – Dylan Daniels (13), Elly Miiller (14), and Janelle Solberg (14) — the distinction of "Third Degree Black Belt," all in the same year. Both Solberg and Miiller, who tested for their new rank in September, wowed the audience as they executed their 82-move form with strong technique, demonstrating balance and power. Guest judge and fifth degree black belt, Harlan Hubers of Orange City, IA, commented on the amount of control and focus shown by the girls during their exciting sparring demonstration. As a finale, Miiller performed two board breaks featuring a step spin hook-kick leading into a running jump side-kick, as she flew through the air over multiple obstacles. Solberg executed a hammer fist and beautiful jump ax kick. The audience cheered at the sound of snapping boards. As their new rank was presented Trefz noted, "These students have been real leaders in my school. I am really proud of what they have accomplished and I have enjoyed teaching them and watching them grow in their abilities." Dylan Daniels, who has previously held the honor of being the ATA South Dakota State Champion in Forms, Weapons, and Sparring for her age group, is the youngest student that Trefz has ever had achieve this accomplishment, as she earned this honor in March 2008. Daniels started taking classes in the introductory Park and Rec program when she was just 4 years old. Trefz said, "I knew right away that she would become a black belt – she was so into it. Dylan is one of the most committed students I have ever had in my school." In the ATA, students first progress through a series of nine colored belts to achieve the status of First Degree Black Belt. During this progression they study forms (a combination of offensive and defensive techniques), sparring, one steps (scripted sparring segments), self-defense, and board breaks, while learning important life skills. Then, in the Black Belt Series, which also includes the possibility of nine degrees, students continue to hone basic skills and techniques, while adding more advanced levels of forms, sparring, and board breaks. Additionally, students execute their abilities to use weapons, joint lock self-defense strategies, and leadership skills during a number of midterms and rank testings. "Achieving a Third Degree Black Belt takes a great deal perseverance," said Trefz, as he explains that up until 2008, he can count the number of his students who have achieved this rank accomplishment on one hand.
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