Father, son 'kick it' together for quality time, win championships

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Clinton Atkins
  • 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Being a single, military parent can certainly present challenges when it comes to finding opportunities for spending quality family time. However, one Hanscom father-son duo overcame that obstacle -- and it was as simple as one, two, three kick. 

In March 2006, Army Sergeant First Class Tim Bell and his son, Austin,now 7, walked into a local American Tae Kwon Do Association dojo where they began taking classes. When the two of them initially started looking for an activity they could do together, they established three simple rules: always have fun; always give 100 percent; make new friends. 

"We wanted something that we could do together," Sergeant Bell said. "I wanted something on a trial basis, so if he didn't like it he could [withdraw] and I wanted to be able to do it with him." 

"We went to this Tae Kwon Do place and I met the instructor, Jason Feightner, and right after my first private lesson with him, I started to like it," said Austin, who started learning Tae Kwon Do when he was 6. 

Though Sergeant Bell had previous martial arts training, he wanted to walk the same path alongside his son. 

"I wanted to start at the same level as he did," he said, "because then I'll never outrank him in belt. This way, he'll always have an incentive to stay at the same level as me. If I outrank him, it's easier for him to drop out." 

With only time together initially in mind, the father and son duo would soon make winning a family trend. 

With only a month of training behind him, Austin entered his first competition and placed second. 

"He took off like a natural," Sergeant Bell said. From there, Austin's confidence grew, and the duo never lost sight of their first rule -- always have fun. "[At the ATA Black Belt Academy in Burlington, Mass.,] parents are allowed to take part in their children's class. 

"It gets us closer together because he's doing things with me at the same time," Sergeant Bell said. "He got to spar with me once and the instructor looked at me and said, 'Now, Mr. Bell, don't hurt him.' Then [my son] turned around and said, 'I won't.'" 

Sergeant Bell could only smile and laugh. 

What started out as father and son time, turned into a way of life for Sergeant Bell and his son. The two of them train three to six times per week and participate in Tae Kwon Do training camps whenever the opportunity arises.

 "The way Mr. Feightner runs the training camps allows you to tap into your full potential and you come out as a better martial artist -- kicking higher, punching harder and moving faster. But you also get to have fun with the other students that have become like family," Sergeant Bell said. 

Now, both Sergeant Bell and Austin are red belts, and the path that lies behind them is marked with victories at tournaments all across the Northeast region to include Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Austin won in all four states, while his father won in all except New Jersey. 

As a result of their hard work and determination, Sergeant Bell and Austin achieved the great honor of becoming the American Tae Kwon Do Association Weapons Division Champions for the 2007 tournament season in their individual groups (children and age 40 to 49). To symbolize their great achievement, the duo was awarded state champion jackets and certificates. 

"To win the championship, it's an 11-month competition [June 1 to April 30]," Sergeant Bell said. "In May, they count all of your points from the tournaments you competed in." "It was awesome. I got to make a lot of friends from different states and Dad lets me get room service," Austin said. 

"For me, winning the state championship was the result of hard work and dedication not just by me and Austin but also our instructors and classmates, who constantly helped us to improve," Sergeant Bell said. 

Aside from the glory, which comes from winning competitions, there is an even greater value of training in Tae Kwon Do. 

"The big thing that I've noticed with [Austin] is that Tae Kwon Do is not just about fighting," Sergeant Bell said. "He really came out of his shell -- his attitude is different. 

"ATA just doesn't do the fighting part," he said, "There is an 8-week curriculum, which teaches qualities such as dedication, perseverance, honor, loyalty, respect and discipline. 

"Austin is much more disciplined," he said. "I never have to repeat myself." 

Sergeant Bell also said Austin performs better in school and has a greater sense of etiquette in public by opening doors for others. 

Sergeant Bell said that Tae Kwon Do has improved his physical fitness, allowing him to perform better on physical training tests. All of these are just added benefits to Sergeant Bell, because what is most important to him is quality time with his son. 

"For me, it just basically brought me closer to him," Sergeant Bell said. "I'm going to school part time and working full time so we wanted to find something where we could spend quality time together. We don't have quantity so we wanted quality." 

He also mentioned that ATA is a very family oriented organization and that almost everyone has family there. 

"Everybody is friends," Sergeant Bell said. "It's like Cheer's -- you go where everyone knows your name."