Photo by Gabriel Stovall
Tiger Martial Arts coach Eid Koja’s undefeated Tae Kwon Do team will look to extend its longtime success at the Junior Olympics today through Monday in Dallas, Texas. Pictured from bottom left: Angel Vasquez, Samantha Sealy; from middle left: Ay’la Lewis, Jalon Brady; from back left: Sinclair Cannady , Miguel Vasquez and Matthew Dixon.
Tiger Martial Arts coach Eid Koja sat in his Tae Kwon Do studio in Fayetteville, just outside of Clayton County and specifically pointed out one of his star pupils Matthew Dixon.
Dixon, 22, just finished making a victim out of a punching bag with an impressive series of lightening fast kicks and punches.
A gold medal winner in last year’s Junior Olympics, Dixon could have had a shot at competing for more awards at the U.S. Open Martial Arts Championships, but Koja held him back to teach him a lesson.
“Sometimes you have to discipline these guys,” Koja said. “They have to learn that they must behave in order to compete.”
Dixon must’ve learned his lesson, as this year he will accompany 11 other young martial arts specialists to compete in the Junior Olympics in Dallas, Texas today through Monday.
“I’m excited to compete,” said Dixon, who has been involved in martial arts since he was six. “I got interested by watching Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and stuff like that. I just wanted to learn. I can’t help but love it.”
Koja, who said Dixon is his godson, is not just interested in making martial arts champions out of his students but also model members of society. In order for students to maintain active status in his school, they must maintain an A or B average academically in the classroom.
“This school is all about discipline,” said Koja, who has been teaching martial arts in the area since 1989. “It’s about honesty, loyalty and teaching them to be loyal citizens to their country. I give them no special privileges and I treat them all like my kids.”
Besides Dixon, Koja will be taking several other young students with him who will be competing in the Black Belt division. Among those are 10-year old Angel Vasquez and 12-year old Miguel Vasquez.
“Those are two of my top powerhouses,” Koja said.
Several first-year students such as 14-year old Sinclair Cannady and 8-year old Samantha Sealy are showing promise, having picked up gold medals in the Georgia Games USA Tae Kwan Do State Championships qualifier held this past May in Kennesaw.
Koja’s school has built a long-standing tradition of success both locally and nationally, and it doesn’t seem to take long for that winning attitude to rub off on students.
When Koja beckoned for Sealy and asked her what she expected to bring home from Dallas, she paused only long enough to smile.
“Gold,” she said confidently.
Koja, a six-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, said he learned the method of self defense 43 years ago.
“I was living in the Bronx, I didn’t speak any english and I was getting the crap beat out of me everyday,” Koja said. “I had to figure out some way to learn how to defend myself.”
But his students are learning it for different reasons than his. That’s why this Junior Olympic-bound group has yet to lose in any competition this year, Koja says. It’s also why he feels good about their chances for success beyond this competition and even beyond martial arts.
“These kids here, they have freedom,” Koja said. “They excel at what they do because they enjoy what they do.”