Dedicated to martial arts, Alexa Sankey of Houtzdale is seeking junior instructor certification in martial arts in an effort to help other young people.
For years, Sankey, 14, a second degree black belt, has volunteered her time helping out at D.J. Studios Karate. She is now preparing to take the Junior Kyo Sa Examinations, which would allow her to become a junior certified instructor.
The examination will occur at the upcoming International Tang Soo Do Federation World Championship in Orlando, Florida. A tournament, recertification tests and seminars are also a part of the event, which takes place July 29 through Aug. 1.
The pandemic postponed last year’s event, giving Sankey more time to practice. She puts over 10 hours per week into martial arts.
Sankey has been involved in martial arts for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother brought her to D.J. Studios Karate around the age of four. Martial arts gives her the ability to protect herself and others.
“If anything does happen to me, I know how to defend myself or other people that might need help,” Sankey stated. “That just brings me so much joy that I know that I can help someone else instead of just standing back and not doing anything.”
The examination lasts around three hours, according to David Josefik, who owns both D.J. Studios Karate in Philipsburg and Clearfield. There is a physical and questioning component. Sankey could be asked anything ranging from identifying what is wrong with a uniform to naming hand techniques in Korean.
Students, particularly small children, will ask instructors the unexpected, Josefik noted. It’s up to the instructor to maintain calm. If a person taking the examination is unsure of the answer, they should admit they don’t know and bow.
“We’re preparing them that you’re always learning,” Josefik said. “That’s what’s nice about the martial arts. We have never come to a place where we’re no longer growing.”
Every student comes to martial arts seeking something different. Some might be competitors. Others may have experienced bullying and need a confidence boost. A role model, Sankey helps students, according to Josefik.
“It’s nice whenever someone her age can help another teenager with those problems, because they can communicate better sometimes than when they can with an adult,” Josefik stated. “It’s nice that somebody her age is able to help somebody her age. You don’t get a lot of that these days.”
Although Sankey can defend herself, she has never had to use any physical force in the outside world. When placed in a potentially dangerous situation, she has sought the help of adults.
“The best thing to do is protect yourself by staying safe,” Josefik said. “We use our martial arts only when we’re backed into a corner and there’s no way out.”
A competitor, Sankey will also be participating in the upcoming tournament. At her last world tournament, she placed first in a board breaking competition and second in sparring.
About 10 people are traveling to Florida, according to Josefik. Some are going to learn how to judge; others make the trip to compete against people from all over the world. There will be schools from Portugal, Puerto Rico, Mexico and more at the event, according to Josefik.
“For five days, it’s like 24-hour karate,” Josefik said. “The competition sounds like you’re going there to beat each other up, but it’s actually the time to renew old friendships and make new friends.”
Language barriers can present a challenge. However, the use of Korean terms makes communication easier.
“All these countries come together under martial arts and they communicate as humans,” Josefik said. “That’s what I find fascinating about the martial arts. People can throw the politics, religion, race and everything away.”