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Friday, July 31, 2009

Female TKD Practitioner Sets world record

From: Sun Coast Pasco

Cheryl Cleveland celebrated Independence Day by setting a world record. While competing July Fourth at the U.S. Open World Martial Arts Championships in Orlando, she set a martial arts record for most boards broken by a female with a side kick.

"Cheryl broke five 1-inch-thick pine boards placed back to back in a metal holder with a skipping side kick," read a related news release. "In recent years the record was four boards, held by multiple women from around the world. Now Cheryl and one other competitor from Texas hold the world record at five boards."

Cleveland, 30, is chairwoman and CEO of Community Fun and Fitness Center in New Port Richey. She has 24 years of martial arts experience, and was first introduced to the sport at age 6.

"My main focus has always been Tae kwon do but I also explored Kenpo, Uechi Ryu, Capoeira, Kali Kuntao, and Kung Fu a bit too," she said. "I first got involved when I was 6 years old. One of my older brothers was taking Tae kwon do and would come home and show me what he learned in class."

"He was really just using me as his training dummy," she said, adding with a chuckle, "I don't remember if I joined because I liked what he was showing me or felt that I needed to defend myself from him."

She considers her new world record the highlight of her career.

"I have won quite a few trophies in sparring, forms, and board breaking but never anything like this," she said.

She first learned about this world record through extensive online research before the tournament; armed with this information, Cleveland started working toward a new goal.

"I made sure I did 100 crunches, practiced my forms, and side kicked a heavy bag as hard as I could every morning," she said. "Sometimes I would kick the heavy bag so hard that the bones in my fingers would hurt from the shockwave...I knew I had a good kick when that happened."

At the actual event, Cleveland set the new world record on her second attempt.

"Once I realized I had broken all of them it was such an awesome feeling," she said.

Cleveland, also a tae kwon do instructor at the New First Baptist of Odessa, wants to pass this feeling onto her students, inspiring them to overcome the odds to achieve their goals.

"This is a story of perseverance I can tell my students because my side kick was by far my worst technique for years until right before I got my black belt," she said.

Inspiring people to get the most of martial arts and fitness is the idea behind Community Fun and Fitness, Cleveland's Pasco-based nonprofit organization headquartered in a building donated by New First Baptist Church of Odessa.

Community Fun & Fitness Center, at 1234 Gunn Highway, is a nonprofit organization in Pasco County that will offer donation-based fitness classes and community service events for all ages and all incomes, she said. "I formed this organization in 2007 with hopes that I could provide all ages, toddlers to senior citizens, a place to join physically and mentally beneficial classes (like martial arts and dance classes) all on a donation-based system so that everyone could afford to take part in something that has been such a good part of my life," she said.

She even took out a personal loan to pay for the $100,000 renovations the building needed before its scheduled 2010 opening.

"We just got a new roof, and this week the building is getting a face lift with new exterior paint and a new parking lot," she said. "I really hope once we are open people will rush in to take advantage of our donation based classes."

In Cleveland's eyes, the rewards of studying martial arts are well worth the work.

"The most important benefit by far is confidence, especially for women," she said. "Women usually feel that there is nothing they can do if they are attacked by a man who is so much bigger and stronger than them. In the first class I have my students learn to break boards with a palm strike. Right away I see their confidence grow and I know that they are already more able to defend themselves should the need arose. Flexibility is also something that I see develop in students. Other benefits are: strength, endurance, discipline, overall health, the list goes on and on."

In the future, she plans to compete at the US Open World Martial Arts Event again in 2010 - this time, she'll try to break her own record.

"Next year I will try for six!" she said.

~武德为首, Martial Art Virtue comes first


  1. I am not sure where you have been in the past 20 years or so, but I broke 7 boards with a standing side kick in 1983 while a second degree black belt. I (and my former husband, Master John Tompkins, VIII Dan) have had several ladies break 6 and 7 boards with STANDING side kicks. 5 and 6 are common place in the ITF! Sorry to burst your bubble.
    Master Jean Tompkins, VII Dan, ITF

  2. No idea, what's the thinkness of the boards that ITF are using? This competition are using 1-inched pine boards, is that a standard or???