LAND O' LAKES --
They are students with many masters.
At the newly opened World Champion Center Taekwondo, 2121 Collier Parkway in Land O' Lakes, there are nine South Korean masters to teach and mold minds as young as 2 years old. In a former Blockbuster store, but revamped to host a variety of classes, plus after-school care, WCC teaches 15 different belts in taekwondo from Korean national champions.
"We want to teach traditional taekwondo," master Yonghyun Kang said. "Tae means Foot … Kwon means fist … and do means way of art, but we teach a lot of respect to the kids. That's very important. The philosophies that we (teach) are taught in every belt that is (taught)."
When it opened in mid June, WCC became the third location for this small franchise. The two others are in Brandon and Valrico, the latter being the original one that opened in 2008. Head master Dongnyeok Kang and his fellow eight masters — Younghyun Kang, Jinah Hwang, Heewon Kim, Insun Min, Changjae Lee, Hyo Yeong Jeong, Jong Ki Kim and Sunghoon Park — teach the martial arts.
"The main purpose for us coming out here (to Land O' Lakes) was we saw an opportunity," manager Jessica Jung said. "An opportunity to extend martial arts. There weren't many places out here for martial arts, plus there's great space, so, we said, 'Why not? Let's try this out.' "
Most students are also there for after-school care. WCC is willing to pick up kids at their schools, provided it's within 30 minutes of the center. Once at WCC, the instructors let the kids have some "play time."
"They're exhausted from school," Jung said. "Who wanted to do homework right after getting out of school?"
But then it is time for homework, including some journal time with instructors, which allows parents to see progress throughout the taekwondo classes. And finally, it's on to taekwondo classes, as some parents arrive to watch and pick up their kids.
"Children have to have fun to want to come to this place," Jung said, "then we teach them to respect and listen to their masters. (We say), 'It's fun — you're having fun, but we're teaching you, too.' It's not a bad thing, we have to tell them, but they need a positive re-enforcement to help learn it."
Master Hwang, a Korean nationalist in poomsae, or forms, agrees, adding that a structured environment such as WCC helps with discipline, teaching kids to respect their superiors, something that may not come from other outlets.
"Taekwondo was passed down for centuries in Korea," Hwang said, "but now that its come to America, it has a lot to do with the physical parts — the fist and the foot — but it has even more to do with the discipline and mind control."
WCC offers classes for the youngest of children, from tiny junior champion classes at age 2-3, up to teen and adult champions from 13 and up. While these classes focus on sparring, endurance, board breaking and self defense, WCC also provides the center for birthday parties that come with balloons, demonstrations from the masters and cake cutting with a WCC.
"The one thing that's different about our taekwondo place is that all (the) instructors are masters," Jung said. "They have done taekwondo since they were age five and they graduated with degrees in taekwondo. They also all have medals. They were all world champions. That's the best part that we're proud of."
For more information on World Champion Center Taekwondo, log onto www.wcctkd.com or call (813) 525-8321.