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Show-Me State Games martial arts a family event for Jefferson City father and sons

Saturday, July 24, 2010 | 7:35 p.m. CDT
Third-degree black belt Corbin Howard, 13, performs in the weapons portion of the Show-Me State Games. There are three categories in the martial arts tournament: form, weapons and sparring. Corbin took first place in the weapons portion of his age group.

JEFFERSON CITY — Corbin Howard, a five-time world champion in tae kwon do at 13, competed Saturday in the martial arts competition of the Show-Me State Games.

However, Corbin Howard is not the first world champion in his family. Rob Howard, Corbin's father, is a four-time world champion.

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"It was 18 years before I won my first (world championship)," Rob Howard said. 

As commissioner of the martial arts event in the Show-Me Games, Rob Howard hosted the tournament at the Helias Catholic High School basketball gym with six rings mapped out with blue tape. He owns three taekwondo schools in Missouri, including Howard's Black Belt Academy in Jefferson City where the family lives. Taekwondo, a Korean martial art, has brought together the Howard family. 

"If I wasn't in it for a living, I would still have my kids in martial arts," Rob Howard said.

A native of Fort Meyers, Fla., Rob Howard and his parents moved to Salem, Mo., where he discovered tae kwon do. He tries to create a relaxed atmosphere at his school.

"I don't push competition. Some people train every day their entire lives and never become world champions," Rob Howard said. "Only a very small percentage of the population actually gets there."

Competitors can reach the world finals in Little Rock, Ark., in three categories: form, sparring and weapons. Corbin Howard has at least one world championship title in all three, and Rob Howard won all four of his in sparring.

Along with older brother, Jordan Howard, 20, the three Howard's enjoy training with each other five days a week.

"I have to be on my toes, but it's fun," Rob Howard said. "Now if I got in a cage with my older son (Jordan), it would be a lot tougher. But in tae kwon do, I'm much more experienced."

Corbin Howard competed in the under-17 junior black belt division at the Show-Me State Games, which had three competitors. He finished first in form, despite being nearly a foot shorter than the other two athletes in his division. In the final category, sparring, he took last place.

"He wasn't focused," Jordan Howard said. "The only thing you can get here is medals."

Because the Show-Me State Games tournament is not a sanctioned American Tae kwon do Association event, competitors cannot receive points that boost them into position to compete at national tournaments and the world championships. Only athletes ranked in the top 10 in points can contend for the world championship in their age division. 

Jordan Howard recently began training and fighting in mixed martial arts, a full contact sport fought in a steel cage known as the "octagon." Although he had been competing in tae kwon do since he was age 5, Rob Howard was still nervous at first.

"I support it (the switch), whatever they want to do," Rob Howard said. "I (was nervous) the first couple fights, but now I know he won't get hurt."

One value Jordan Howard learned from tae kwon do is humility.

"When I was younger, a colored belt, I would never lose. I did the same my first year as a black belt, didn't lose a match," Jordan Howard said. "Then, I got to the world championships, ranked third or fourth in the world, and I went and got waxed (beaten) in the first round."

Even after switching to mixed martial arts, Jordan Howard is still a full-time employee at Howard's Academy. He attends Lincoln University in Jefferson City, pursuing a degree in Business Administration. Rob Howard said he thinks the family business will continue with his sons.

"They'll both be school owners some day," Rob Howard said. "They both want to do it."


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