6-YEAR-OLD EARNS BLACK BELT GIRL IS ONE OF YOUNGEST IN TAE KWON DO.
WEST HILLS - In pigtails and standing about 3 1/2 feet tall, Ariana Hernandez showed her high-kicking abilities, breaking boards held over her head.
Three years ago, the 6-year-old West Hills girl started studying the Korean martial art tae kwon do. Every week she practices kicks, punches, other moves - and proper behavior - at two or three 50-minute classes. Twice a month, she spars with other students.
On Saturday, her dedication all paid off: She received her black belt, symbolizing proficiency in the martial art - one of the youngest in the San Fernando Valley to accomplish such a feat.
``I'm really excited. Ariana has seen many kids drop off, but she stuck with it,'' said her mother Magaly Hernandez.
Ariana and three other young black belt recipients at the International Tae Kwon Do College demonstrated the skills they learned before family and friends Saturday at Shadow Ranch Park in West Hills.
While tae kwon do teaches students many physical defense techniques, it is really not about fighting, said Ariana's instructor, Master Jin Park, who teaches at the West Hills martial arts school.
Studying martial arts, Park said, teaches students how to be more disciplined in other aspects of their lives.
In addition to learning defense techniques, students under 13 years old must show self-control and respect for other people.
``We don't want to give someone a black belt and not have them know the rules of tae kwon do,'' said Park. ``They must know how to act inside the home and how to be kind to their friends.''
Ariana is Park's youngest student. Often, her classmates were adults. She tested for the black belt in May, while she was still 5.
``It can be really hard to keep up the motivation, but Ariana is very talented in that way,'' said Park.
Another black belt recipient, Christian Joya, 12, said he is better-focused as a result of taking the classes. Christian has been studying tae kwon do for two years.
``This type of stuff is good for Christian so he knows how to defend himself and stay away from trouble,'' said his uncle, Carlos Alfaro, who came with the rest of his family to watch the demonstration.
For most students, it takes about three years to earn a black belt, depending on their level of commitment.
``It really depends on the students' willingness to learn,'' said Mina Park, the school's manager.
Of Ariana, Mina Park said: ``Ever since she started, she did very well and spent a lot of extra time at it.''
Ariana's mother and father Efrain said their daughter has always been talented at whatever she tries, whether it be chess, fencing or swimming.
``Since she started this at such a young age, we thought she might shy away but she's out there two or three times a week,'' said Magaly Hernandez. Along with their black belts, the students each received a presidential physical fitness certificate, signed by President George W. Bush. Once their paperwork is completed, they will also receive official certification from Korea.
With that certification, Hernandez and the other black belt recipients will be eligible to take their skills to higher levels. There are nine levels of black belts that students can receive.
U.S. Tae Kwon Do Association President Grand Master In K. Park ties a black belt around Ariana Hernandez.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jul 17, 2005|
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