Iowa City ‘kicks’ cancer with Tae Kwan Do


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Sonny Nguyen stood straight, stared at the board in front of him, and whipped his head forward and smashed the board in half. He didn’t flinch.

“If you don’t break it, then, yes, [it hurts],” he said.

Nguyen, 15, is a student at Chol Choe’s Black Belt Academy, 224 Stevens Drive, which hosted a Martial Arts for St. Jude event this past weekend that raised $2,059, breaking the goal of $1,000.

“We were very happy, and now we’re very sore today,” said Frederito Kopittae, the brand manager.

This was the first time the academy teamed up with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to kick cancer.

Grandmaster Choe, the owner of the academy, said his students did a “wonderful job” and he thinks they will make the hospital “very happy.”

“It’s a neat concept,” said Mike Benson, an instructor at the Solon academy. “It’s [the kids] way to give something back.”

The event took place at Nagle Lumber, a business that also sponsored the event, amid household products and hand tools.

The students, ranging in ages from 3 to 70, performed in front of a crowd of around 40 people, breaking about 800 boards with their hands, feet, and heads in front of the hanging rugs.

Benson said that the act of breaking bricks and boards takes a lot of “focus,” but it’s not as hard as it looks.

Events like these contribute to St. Jude’s cancer research, which helps to save the lives of children everywhere, according to the St. Jude organization.

Choe said tae kwon do helps children learn respect. He said some children come to his academy with behavior problems, but after practicing the art, they learn respect.

“A lot of people are very loyal to the school,” he said.

Kopittae said the organization was approached by St. Jude to host a fundraiser and that they normally have an in-house breaking competition anyway, so they decided to turn it into a fundraiser.

“It happened to be the right timing,” he said.

According to St. Jude , the event combines people’s passion for martial arts with the ability to save children’s lives.

Brenda Mayer, an assistant instructor, said the academy will probably make the program an annual event.

“I’m happy with the people we have had come,” she said.

Academy student Terri Summer said it tries to do numerous fundraisers for good causes throughout the year and that St. Jude is always a great thing to support.

“The children do a good job,” she said.

At the end of the event, Benson stepped in front of the crowd to prepare for his event-breaking bricks.

“There are eight bones in your hand,” he said, “I’ve broken seven.”

Benson threw his hands over his head, shouted, and swung them back down, breaking five bricks in the process.

“That didn’t hurt,” he said.

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