Learning,  Projects

Transylvania Tae Kwon Do continuing to grow in downtown Brevard

Published in the Transylvania Times

Martial arts studio Transylvania Tae Kwon Do has grown from an idea to a studio in downtown Brevard in the last year.

Born of both a love of martial arts and a desire to bring a Tae Kwon Do style program to the area for their children, Transylvania Tae Kwon Do was started when parent,Caroline Chambers of Cedar Mountain, walked into the Hiker and the Hound and asked the owner Colin Watkins if he wanted to open a Tae Kwon Do school.

“It actually was that simple,” said Chambers, who now has more than 40 students who attend afternoon programs at their studio in downtown Brevard right next to the Brevard Rock Gym. “I had a very specific type of program in mind that I wanted for my children and the nearest comparable thing was in Hendersonville. I also knew Colin had a Tae Kwon Do black belt and was interested in a program for his daughter.”

Tae Kwon Do originates from Korea and translates to the art of kicking and punching. Similar to karate, Tae Kwon Do focuses more on foot strikes, although there are plenty of hand strikes and blocks. In the 1960s and 70s, the artform emigrated from Korea and several different masters established schools in the United States. Classic training includes practicing punches, kicks and blocks, sequences of movements called forms or poomsae, sparring, weapons drills and movement combination drills.

“One of the first things we did was reach out to the American Taekwondo Association),” said Watkins, now the lead instructor at Transylvania Tae Kwon Do. “I received my black belt at an ATA-licensed school, so that was the curriculum I was most familiar with. We met with them and discussed what it would look like to be a licensee and they offered an excellent set of services and support — from well-developed curriculum to a network of schools, tournaments and suppliers to help us get started quickly.”

In the summer of 2022 Chambers and Watkins started their teacher training, the ATA Legacy Instructor certification. This included making sure they knew the Songahm Taekwondo forms, kicks, strikes and weapons drills, but also how to teach that material to various ages and skill levels.

“It’s one thing to know how to do a particular kick,” Chambers said. “It’s another to know how to teach it to a 5-year-old versus a 10-year-old and how to create different drills.”

On Sept. 19 the program officially ran its first class out of the Cedar Mountain Community Center for 14 students including Watkins’ daughter and Chambers’ daughter. By May 2023 they signed a lease for the old Brevard Ballet Academy space and opened their doors in downtown Brevard. Having a permanent location means access is more convenient for most families and they can offer more scheduling options for after-school classes. The student body now includes children as young as 4 and adults in their 50s and 60s.

This past August, Watkins and Chambers traveled to ATA headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, to complete their teacher certification which allows them to train and test individuals through black belt. It also gave them some valuable in-person time with their instructor, Senior Master Keegan Ireland. This trip included multiple chances to observe class and discuss teaching skills, a full day of training and a skills test to ensure both instructors could perform the material even when exhausted and under pressure.

“From a box full of uniforms and the bare minimum number of pads to a full floor of classic tatami-style mats and significantly more kicking pads and equipment, the last year has been a big one for starting and growing a martial arts school,” Watkins said.