By Doug Gorman
Tiger Martial Arts coach Eid Koja and his son and assistant, Aladdin Koja, have reason to be all smiles.
Their Southern Crescent martial arts team racked up several awards recently during the Junior Olympics at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, including gold medals that went to Simone Harris and Musa Ali. Danielle Clark and Darren Mitchell each brought home silver medals.
David Collins, Muhammad Ali, Aladdin Koja and Jasmine Clark also competed at the event and turned in strong performances.
This year for the first time at the Junior Olympics an electronic scoring device was used, but the Tiger Martial Arts team adjusted to the new system, which including a foot senior and chest pad for scoring.
"It was different than what we have used in the past, but it was good," said Eid Koja.
If there is a drawback to the success, Koja is losing one of his best students in Harris. The young martial arts student moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates with her family soon after the Junior Olympics.
Harris' mom, who is a doctor, will be practicing medicine in that country.
It won't be the end of her association with Koja. The instructor will fly to her new home to work with his student every two months.
"It s an honor to be able to do this," he said. "I am going to stay three days at a time, so I can continue to train her. We are going to keep working with her, until one day she makes the (Olympic) team."
Koja admits he will miss working with her on a regular basis.
"She is very dedicated and disciplined," he said.
Harris has benefited greatly from taking up the sport, first as a little girl, and now as one of the top competitors in the 8- and 9-year old division.
"There's a big difference between confidence and cockiness," she said. "Daily repetition and practice can help an ordinary girl do extraordinary things."
Her teammates would agree.
For Ali, the whole experience of going to the Junior Olympics was exciting.
"This was the first time for me to win a gold medal," he said. "I have been doing this for three years, so it was really fun."
Clark was happy to come away with her silver medal in the 10-11-age group.
"It was a good experience for me," she said. "I want to keep doing this as long as I can."
Mitchell's silver medal is the sign of his hardwork.
"I have been doing this for about 4-and-a-half years," he said. "I really like coming here."
Koja is a firm believer in what the sport of Tae Kwon Do can do for students, and he will start them out as young as three.
"It depends how they act when I am teaching them," he said. "If the child that young understands communication, we will take them as they come."