McALESTER — McAlester Tae Kwon’s connections to Grand Master Jack Hwang and the International Martial Arts Federation date back to the school’s opening in the early 1970s. Hwang helped train Phillip Perkins, who founded what would become McAlester Tae Kwon Do; Perkins then trained John Tapscott, and Tapscott trained Ray Harp, one of the school’s current owners.
So when Hwang presented the 50th Anniversary All American Open Tae Kwon Do & Karate Championships in Oklahoma City, of course Harp and McAlester Tae Kwon Do would be there.
But McAlester Tae Kwon Do didn’t just show up. They starred in Oklahoma City, winning 14 gold medals and 36 medals overall in a range of age groups and belt colors.
“It was a great experience,” Harp said Wednesday.
“All the kids fought higher than their rank, and they just kept fighting and everything.”
Martial artists competed in both individual sparring competitions and forms. Sparring matches consisted of two one-minute rounds in which each fighter scores points by landing blows on the opponent.
If one fighter ever builds a lead of five points, that fighter automatically wins. Harp said several from McAlester Tae Kwon Do won via the five-point spread.
“They just stuck in there, and that’s the most important part,” Harp said. “You just keep fighting.”
In forms, martial artists had to demonstrate a specific sequence of movements.
Six from McAlester Tae Kwon Do also got to compete with Team Oklahoma in a team sparring event against. Oklahoma took silver, losing to Team Texas from Hwang Martial Arts in Forth Worth — an academy run by Stacy Weeks, Grand Master Hwang’s daughter.
“We had our demo team ... and they performed in front of Mr. Hwang,” Harp said. “And the 3- and 4-year-old Pandas did nunchuckas to ‘Wipe Out’ (by the Surfaris).”