Enzo LaFont, an 11th grader at Washington Virtual Academy, represented the United States at the Cheongju World Martial Arts Mastership in South Korea in September. Enzo competed in hapkido, a style of martial arts once used by Korean police and military organizations as self-defense training. His team was the first from the U.S. to ever compete at the Cheongju World Martial Arts Mastership.
My trip to South Korea was outstanding! I really don’t know how to put into words how I felt during and after the trip, but I guess I have to start somewhere. It all started on a Thursday afternoon when my master, Sung Lim, asked me if I would like to compete in a world martial arts tournament and be a part of Team USA for hapkido. When I heard this news I was ecstatic because it is my dream to be a world–class athlete.
When I began this journey, I had to go through very intensive training for two months prior to the tournament. This training was excruciating because my teammates and I really had no prior experience in hapkido, which meant that we had to learn very fast to be completive against people who have practiced this martial art for years.
All the pain I went through preparing for this tournament was worth it in the end. This world martial art championship was the first time I have ever competed in my life against anyone, and I ended up not only winning a gold medal in speed kicking, but I also made it to the semifinal of the jump high kick while also going to the second round out of the five rounds in hapkido. This championship not only enabled me to compete, but it also helped me find myself as person, as I had to take care of myself in another country without my parents. This enabled me to see what the world is like firsthand through nights of staying in my dormitory and doing daily necessities, as well as paying for myself and in a way experiencing what life is like being on your own.
In addition, I was able to experience other cultures in such a unique way. I became friends with people from all around the world and was introduced to their cultures. I also went to dinner with Korean natives who showed me how inviting and caring the Korean culture is. One of my favorite parts about experiencing the Korean culture was the food! The food in Korea was amazing I enjoyed every bit of it and ate to my heart’s content; they literally keep giving you food until you can’t eat any more! Another one of my favorite experiences in Korea was exploring Seoul, the capital city, and going to a king’s temple and a Buddhist temple. I also got to meet the U.S. ambassador to Korea, as well as one of the heads of the tournament. I honestly love Korea and can’t wait to go back not only to compete again, but to see my awesome friends I made there and learn even more about the culture!
I had the time of my life in Korea – I just can’t emphasize enough how life–changing this experience was. I met so many amazing people and achieved so many of my dreams, and even set new goals for myself for what I want to be as a martial artist within the next two years. I want to thank my family, friends, and instructors for helping me become not only the martial artist I am now, but for helping me develop into the person I am while also opening a whole new world to me that holds my future.