Photo by Heather Middleton
By Doug Gorman
Whenever Eid M. Koja speaks about the students at his Tiger Martial Arts Olympic Tae Kwon Do school just across the Clayton County line in Fayetteville, he sounds like a proud parent.
These students are all like my own children," he said.
Koja's team comes in a wide variety of ages. His youngest student is about six, his oldest is nearing adulthood.
There's one common denominator -- this school builds world-class champions and solid citizens.
Most recently, T.M.A. sent several of its students to the Tae Kwon Do J
unior Olympics in San Jose, Calf., and returned home with several medals to prove just how hard they work.
The winners included: Matt Dixon (Gold medal-World Champion), Jayla Lewis (Gold-Medal, World Champion), Jay'la Lewis (Gold medal, World Champion), Cheyenne Weddle (Silver Medal World Champion) and Camryn Edmonds (Silver Medal Junior Olympic Champion).
Aladdin E. Koja, the head coach's son, is a competitor, but also serves as an assistant coach.
He says its great to see the students excel.
"They work hard and it shows," he said.
Eid Koja admits the success of the team wouldn't be possible without the help of several families.
"I need to thank David Collins (and family), Matthew and Elizabeth Todd (and family), JavAuane Powell ( and family), Matthew Dixon (and family), Camryn Edmonds (and family), Cheyenne Weddle (and family), Jay'la Lewis (and family) and Miguel Vasquez (and family)," he said.
One of the biggest success stories for T.M.A. is Matt Dixon.
As a child Dixon competed in the sport, but gave it up for various reasons.
Now, he is back and is enjoying the competition more than ever.
"It's great to be back doing something that I really enjoy," he said.
In addition to their success in their sport, the TMA Tae Kwon Do team is also getting it done in the class room.
Simply put, if T.M.A students don't concentrate on their school work, they can't be on the team.
"Our students are going to some very good colleges," Koja said.
Rabin Swilley, who has sort of become the team "grandma," has watched her own granddaughter and other students develop into well-rounded people.
It's great to see how these kids have grown from the time they first started to the time they have been here awhile," she said. "It doesn't matter if it is your child, or somebody else's child, we care about everybody, like they're our own children."
Swilly loves the academic-first attitude.
"They know if they don't take their school work seriously, they can't compete," she said. "He won't allow it."