Young ninjas represent Helena well

Trophy winners at the IKC Challenge were Christian Tsimpides, second in sparring, third in forms; Saxton Nagy, second in sparring, third in forms; Kylie Pritchard, second in sparring, third in forms; Jabez Kirksey, first in sparring, second in forms; Nicholas Martinez: third in weapons, third in forms. (Special/Laura Brookhart)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

Five dedicated young Ninjas from Helena, Saxton Nagy, age 7, Christian Tsimpides, 10, Kylie Pritchard, Jabez Kirksey, 9, and Nicholas Martinez, 10, were all trophy winners when they recently attended the IKC Challenge in Columbus, Ga., with other students from Karen Mitchell’s Impact Martial Arts.

“We are proud of all our students who participated in this competition and believe that attending this event was a great learning experience for each of them,” said Karen Mitchell. “They saw firsthand the abilities of students from other schools and that can inspire them to raise their own performance goals.”

Nicholas Martinez brought home the first ever weapons trophy for the school. Weapons refer to using a Bo-staff in order to block and counter an attack.

Program Director Dayna Lindsey says Martinez, who has high-functioning Asperger’s, has “amazing ability to channel his focus.”

“He has a complete grasp of how a move should be executed and can remember it when under pressure. He competed against 12 other kids.”

Martinez’s mother, Thea Gilbert, remembers when teachers told her that her son would be unable to learn and lacked balance and coordination.

“But he took to TaeKwanDo like a fish to water,” Gilbert said.

Martinez is an inspiration for every child here, Lindsey says, and will be testing for his black belt soon.

Parent Kelly Nagy says that after watching his son Saxton during lessons over the past two years, he has also begun classes in the sport of TaeKwanDo.

“I really admire the way the teachers here encourage and work with the students and I believe that the philosophy and practice of TaeKwanDo teaches them basic values, such as courtesy and self-esteem, that stand them well in all areas of their lives.

They learn to focus and to be more disciplined and they learn techniques to use to defend themselves if they encounter issues such as bullying in their school.”

Kelly Nagy attended the competition both as parent and coach. “Although I am just learning the techniques, I accepted Karen Mitchell’s invitation to also serve as coach at this event to give encouragement to each competitor.

“I am the rah-rah guy. No matter their age, sometimes ninjas need someone to talk to if they are having a case of nerves prior to their performance or disappointment after.”

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e-mail at