Martial arts club looks to dominate

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— Although only a couple of students in the Steamboat Springs Martial Arts Club competed at a tournament in Denver Saturday, the remaining 60-plus individuals on the team hope to dominate the competition at a separate tourney in March.

On Saturday, local Tae Kwon Do brown-belt fighter Matthew Gagnebin placed fifth at a tourney at the DIA Holiday Inn Convention Center.

He was fifth in sparring but also participated in a patterns competition, where fighters are judged on how well they execute fighting forms.

Gagnebin, who turned 18 after the competition, was fifth in the 16-17 age category. It was the fourth time in the past five months that students from the martial arts club have traveled to a tourney.

They competed in three tourneys during late September through mid-November, including two in Denver and one in Fort Collins.

Their instructor, first-degree-black-belt artist Chris Carbone, trains with the group Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.

Carbone works with them on all different aspects of Tae Kwon Do, which he says helps them learn discipline and respect.

When the students begin practice, they will take off their shoes and bow before they enter the work space. They line up and then kneel down before they meditate to clear their minds.

Several minutes later, they start the real action that initially involves doing warm-up exercises for about 15 minutes.

When they are through stretching, Carbone drills them on techniques.

They practice punching and kicking combinations and escaping from different holds.

The students, who are as old as 17, are currently preparing for the Rocky Mountain Karate Championships that take place in Henderson March 17.

Carbone, who is one of several Tae Kwon Do instructors at the club, said the experience of traveling and competing against other individuals is beneficial to his fighters.

The club's other instructors are senior instructor Don Grant, and John Witte and Ken Solomon. About 25 adult fighters are in the program.

"I think the kids love it," Carbone said. "I think it's neat to see kids from other places doing completely different things.

"The tournaments themselves are a great experience for the kids. It exposes them to far more styles than we can ever show them in class."

At Saturday's tourney, Gagnebin said about 600 individuals took part in the competition.

While the Steamboat students perform Tae Kwon Do moves against their opponents, competitors also are allowed to use other martial arts styles such as karate or Kung Fu.

Gagnebin said that learning Tae Kwon Do has enabled him to become a stronger individual both mentally and physically. He currently is working toward a black belt.

"(Tae Kwon Do) has just taught me discipline and self-control," Gagnebin said. "It's not to learn how to pick a fight with everyone but to learn how to defend myself.

"It's kind of fun because you're always getting stronger physically. It's a good workout."

Those who competed in the team's three previous martial arts tourneys were Tony Virgona, Devon Miller, Jeff Lambart, Lucas Stover, Scott Ptach, Alex Lomas, Chris Lodge, Vincent Abate, Frankie Chillemi, Dominick Chillemi, Colton Harding, Max Pensack, Miriam Pensack and Andrew Goss.

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail erineer@steamboatpilot.com

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