NEW BEDFORD – Few 14-year-olds can claim to have a black belt in taekwondo and have traveled to Mexico to train with the national Olympic team.
On December 26, Michael Lewis was privileged to have this chance when his teacher, Jong-hyun Yi, took him and six other top-ranked Evolution Martial Arts students to Westborough for a week to train at Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.
“I thought I was the best kid,” Lewis said. “But once I got there, wow there were a bunch of good kids there.”
But that only motivated Lewis to train harder. “Every time there is someone above me. I always say I have to get better than them. “
Lewis has been training with Evolution for 10 years.
Invited by the coach of the Jamaican Olympic team, Master Tony Byon, the students were introduced to the national team and trained by the coach of the Mexican Olympic team, Master Young Bang and the coach of the team. World Poomsae from Mexico, Master Kang Lee.
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“You could have spent your winter vacation relaxing with your families, but you chose to spend it with us for the growth and expansion of taekwondo. We are eternally grateful to you,” wrote Master Yi of Evolution.
Lewis, a New Bedford resident, said he learned a few new kicks, such as a back kick, and learned more about persistence and keeping an eye on his goal.
And he added that the weather was “hot”.
Kick off at age 4
Taekwondo is one of Korea’s most systematic and scientific traditional martial arts, according to TeamUSA.org, and teaches more than just physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways to improve one’s mind and life by training body and mind.
“Tae” means “foot”, “leg” or “to step on”; “Kwon” means “fist” or “combat”; and “To do” means the “way” or “discipline”.
At just 4 years old, Lewis took his first class. “It was just love at first sight,” said Catia Lewis, her mother.
“[He] and his master, honestly they have the strongest bond and I couldn’t ask for a better place to have my son, ”she added. “He (Lewis) trains his heart. He leaves accomplished.
Driving an hour each way, Lewis trains three to four times a week. “Taekwondo is my home,” Lewis said. “The master is my taekwondo father.”
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Lewis said that once he met Master Yi and started training with him, he knew he wanted to be like him and learn all he could.
“He’s off the street. He takes care of his body. He watches what he eats. And I just couldn’t ask for better, “said Catia Lewis.” Beyond my imagination what a 14-year-old could do. “
The eighth-grade student at Roosevelt Middle School was ranked number 1 in the United States as a red belt. In 2018, Lewis successfully obtained his black belt.
“I just kept training, training, training until I got to the top. And then my teacher finally told me I was ready, “he said.
With over 30 medals, Lewis has competed locally as well as in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, DC, Utah and Minneapolis.
Lewis said he had already beaten his master. “It wasn’t easy at all. Let’s just say, “he recalls.” My launch was really quick. So I just walked in and then got two points up. “
Go back to the top
In 2020, Lewis decided to take a break from taekwondo during the pandemic.
“When I came back I was in a bit of trouble, then I got in the mood. And then I was one of the best in school again,” Lewis said.
In October, Lewis won gold in a New Jersey Legacy Cup taekwondo competition.
Next, he wants to attend the US Open in Las Vegas, a four-day competition, so he can receive a world rank on his black belt.
He plans to test his second degree black belt this summer. He hopes to be good enough to join the United States national team in the near future.
“He’s at the top. He loves the adrenaline rush, ”said Catia Lewis.
In addition to training, Lewis was recently invited to give classes at the dojo (school) for little hoists (ages 3 to 6) and tigers (ages 7 to 10).
“I love helping kids,” he added. “When I was old enough and got my masters, I would open my own school.”
Lewis says he tells anyone interested in learning taekwondo that it’s fun, but it takes hard work to get to the top. “Always push yourself, have persistence and never give up,” he added.
“If you fall, always get up and get back on the mat, never give up. Keep on going.”
Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.