Taekwondo medalist ready for military

Saturday, August 2, 2008 | 9:31 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - The all-black taekwondo dobok uniform intended for Jonny Stevenson almost didn't make its way from Nebraska to Columbia for Saturday's competition.

The 19-year-old had to pick it up from a UPS store on Friday in Columbia so he could arrive at Rock Bridge High School with the proper attire to participate in the State Games of Mid-America taekwondo tournament. There was another dobok he had and could have worn, but he said he wanted the new black one.

Next spring he will have a new uniform to wear, this one camouflage and issued by the military. His training with the sport started two-and-a-half years ago, and in May he will be using those skills in the Army.

Stevenson, who lives in Kearney, Nebraska, had never been to Missouri before and was the only out-of-state competitor at the Show-Me State Games' taekwondo competition. When he is a part of the army he will be spending more time in the Missouri at Ft. Leonard Wood, where he will begin his training. His mother Linda Stevenson, 56, said that he will be the fourth generation from his family to join the military.

"My mom was an Army nurse and my dad was (in the) Navy and my uncle went to the Marines," Jonny Stevenson said.

His father, Ron Stevenson, was an electrician with the Navy from 1970-1976. Linda Stevenson was in the Army from 1970-1978. She still works in the nursing field through the Red Cross.

Jonny Stevenson said he has working on increasing his endurance and reaction time at the Nebraska School of Martial Arts. He earned his black belt in taekwondo last month. Through the school he said he learned a perfect technique is more effective in combat than power, which is useful tip considering Stevenson stands 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds.

With more than 100 members training at the Nebraska School of Martial Arts, Stevenson is only one of a handful who competes in tournaments. He said competing throughout the region against new people gives him an advantage, because it allows him to see a variety of different fighting styles.

"When it comes to sparring, you can learn the other techniques and styles by traveling," Stevenson said.

Stevenson won a gold medal for his performance with a sword in the weapons event. The weapons event does not include sparring or fighting, but is judged on a single person's ability to stay balanced while having proper timing, power and technique with the weapon.

Linda Stevenson said that her son's focus has increased since he got involved with the sport, and that focus lead him to decide to enlist in the army. His plan is to work with the military for several years and unless he decides to stay, he hopes to become a police officer.


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