Father, son win tourneys, bond through tae kwon do

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Matching father and son jackets and belts are usually considered unfashionable. For two base residents, however, owning matching clothes is a matter of pride because the items serve as a testament to their superior tae kwon do skills.

This year, Army Sgt. 1st Class Tim Bell and his 8-year-old son, Austin, were both named state champions in American Tae Kwon Do Association competitions for the second year in a row.

After competing in several competitions over the course of the year, Sergeant Bell came in first place in the traditional weapons, Xtreme forms and Xtreme weapons categories in the 40- to 49-year-old age bracket, while his son placed first in the same categories in the children's bracket. In 2007, both father and son were named state champions in the traditional weapons category.

"Just by coincidence we both won the same championships both years," Sergeant Bell said. "We had 22 straight wins."

"We've gone to every New England tournament for 24 straight months without missing one," he said. "We took first in the New England regionals, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but you can only represent the state that your dojo is in, so you could only win the jackets for one state."

The pair received their matching state champion jackets this month.

Sergeant Bell, an Army Reserve Career counselor who works in Boston, began training with Austin in March 2006. Both began as white belts. Since then, their training has paid off; both earned black belts this summer.

The father and son spend at least half an hour each day practicing their moves at home and about two and a half hours each week training at a dojo in Burlington, Mass., Sergeant Bell said.

During competitions, Sergeant Bell and Austin will perform gymnastics moves, such as kicks and flips, while wielding weapons such as bo staffs and nunchucks.

During the Xtreme competitions, for which both won state titles, they choreograph their performances, which are similar to gymnastics floor routines, to music. The routines incorporate dancing, acrobatics and "flashy," decorated weaponry instead of plain, traditionally designed weapons, Austin said.

For Sergeant Bell and Austin, the lessons and benefits of tae kwon do aren't about winning competitions.

Sergeant Bell credits the cardio components of his training with helping him to shave two minutes off of his timed run for the Army's physical fitness test and said his training has helped him to have more stamina for the test's pushups.

For Austin, who attends Hanscom Primary School, learning life lessons, such as honesty and respect, is an important part of the training he receives at his dojo.

"It's not about the fighting. It's about the discipline. Being able to walk away from a fight is the most important thing because you know what you can do," said Sergeant Bell whose three rules for his son are: always give 100 percent, always have fun, and try to make a new friend at every tournament.

Sergeant Bell said he has noticed a change in his son's self-confidence level and both have made a number of friends at the competitions they have attended - many of whom live outside of Massachusetts.

"It's really great to compete against all of your friends and have fun," Austin said.

After two years of participating in competitions all over New England and as far as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the two plan to take a year off from competing, but will continue to train.

Sergeant Bell will take a test to become a tae kwon do instructor in October, while Austin dreams of owning his own dojo when he grows up.