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Tyler Smith Named Hong Martial Arts 2005 Student of the Year

Article from O'Fallon Progress Thursday March 23, 2006 by Mark Raeber


Since May 2005, once a husky Tyler Smith, 8, of O'Fallon, Illinois, has lost more than 30 pounds while learning the disciplines of Tae Kwon Do and Karate.

Tyler Smith, 8, was over weight and asthmatic until martial arts helped him kick some bad habits

Tyler Smith enrolled in martial arts classes at the Katy Cavins Center looking for fun and a little exercise. What he got was a whole new person - nearly 30% smaller than he once was - with a new can-do attitude towards life.

Tyler, 8, began martial arts lessons from Justen and Jacob Hong in May of 2005. Once he became hooked on the sport he easily advanced through the skill levels, beginning with white, then moving to yellow and green. Last Saturday he took another step up the color ladder, successfully passing the test to earn his blue belt.

While earning colored belts is a measure of success for martial arts students, for Tyler, the son of Tamora and Beryl Smith of O'Fallon, Illinois, this class offered something even more important - it has been a life-changing experience.

Since beginning the program 10 months ago, Tyler has slimmed his 4 foot, 4 inch from to 70 pounds - dropping 31 pounds. Along the way, Tyler also increased his self confidence and improved his overall health.

"He changed everything and he absolutely loves it," his mother said.

Tyler's coach said he was not surprised by the LaVerna Evans Elementary School second grader's weight loss but noted no changes were made to the training routine to spur on the loss of pounds.

"I think what happened was that by him starting this training he moved in the direction of being more healthy," Hong said. "He took it upon himself to start eating better. He is not eating junk food and he is continuing to work out. And it culminated in him losing over thirty pounds."

Hong said he sees many youngsters with weight problems.

"unfortunately, now a days, it is no surprise that I get kids who are on the heavier side," he said. "I have several kids who come in who need some extra physical activity. And, any time a kid comes in who I can tell is overweight, I ask the parents if they have gotten an OK from the child's doctor.

"Generally, what comes back is they want the child to do more stuff than we would normally do. They really want these kids to be huffing and puffing and sweating. But we already try to keep our students going the full 45 minutes they are in class."


As for Tyler, he didn't realize the reward Martial Arts would provide. His goal was to have fun.

"I did not know I was going to lose weight," he said.

But that was his mother's goal.

"I wanted him to be healthy and he is doing just that," Tamora Smith said. "This class has been an excellent thing for him. Before he started the class I was thanking God Wal-Mart carried husky sizes. He was wearing a 14 husky and he was just 7 years old."

Tyler's typical daily meal schedule included breakfast at home and again at school, lunch at school and then a snack and dinner at home.

The menu often included pizza, soda and junk food snacks.

He used to eat a big snack after school and then wonder what we are going to have for dinner," Tyler's mom said. "And he could eat just as much as me or my husband.

"But after he began class his appetite started going down and he has changed his eating pattern. Instead of eating three pieces of pizza, he now will eat only one. And he hardly drinks any soda; he drinks fruit juice. He also is eating a lot more fruit, which he really did not care for, and he no longer eats candy.

"He is very proud of himself because of his weight loss. He absolutely feels better."

Smith said martial arts training also has significantly boosted her son's self confidence.

"He does not believe there is anything he can not do," she said. "He used to say, I can't.' But now there is nothing he can't do. Instead, he says, 'I just have to figure it out."

That new-found self confidence also is evident in Tyler's school work, she noted.

"He wants to do well and wants to make his teachers proud," she said.

Tyler's fashion consciousness has been raised, as well.

"As he exercised more he became more aware of his physical body and he felt better about his appearance," Tamora Smith said in noting the youngster even dresses more stylishly now.

But, most importantly Tyler's health has improved.

Hong noted, "Tyler has asthma, so that was a concern, but even that has gotten better."


Smith gave Tyler's class her glowing endorsement, crediting the martial arts discipline for her son's turn-around.

"Tyler used to cry when he started training because he thought it was too difficult - because he was so heavy," she said. "They had him doing calisthenics and push ups, and he would be doing jumping jacks and bouncing around. He was getting exhausted.

"But the Hong brother are so good. They are no nonsense and they are not coddling. They are very patient with the kids and they are encouraging. So gradually Tyler did not want to miss the class."

Tyler added, "It is fun doing this. I look forward to it."

Tyler trains with Hong each Tuesday and Thursday and has become a model student. The coach noted the youngster's motivation allowed him to reach the blue belt level "a little ahead of schedule."

"His work ethic is fabulous; he comes to class ready to go every time," said Hong, a fifth degree black belt. He then added Tyler's goal is to reach black belt, which is five levels away.

"I would really like to continue to get more belts," Tyler agreed.

But the path to a black belt will take Tyler about two more years.

We anticipate the kids taking between three and four years to reach the first level of black," Hong said.





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