Family’s garage became a breeding ground for these Fil-Am taekwondo champs

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA — This may look like a typical suburban neighborhood — but inside this Filipino family’s garage, champions are made.

These kids ages 10-14 were recently crowned National Taekwondo Poomsae champions.

In Poomsae, there are no actual fights. Instead it’s all about the form, which the students at Jao TKD have mastered.

“I feel excited that I get to compete more often,” said taekwondo champion Victoria Hsu.

“It was our first year on the cadet doing team, and we won first place that’s why it was surprising it was a great experience because it was our first time I didn’t know how to feel,” said Haley Contreras, National Taekwondo Champion.

This all started when 16-year-old Rianne Rikki Jao began dedicating her life to taekwondo.

“At first it was just for physical exercise, but then I eventually started competing and I’m like wow, maybe I have a future in this and I just kept training to strengthen my skills and eventually I made it to the worlds,” said Jao.

As her parents also got involved, students began to train with her — the sport eventually took over the entire family home.

“We moved the piano over and basically lost our living room, and became a training area here,” said Rick Jao, Asst Coach JAO TKD.

Padded, insulated, air conditioned, and surrounded by tools, six students train alongside Jao — five of them Filipino.

There’s no tuition at this school, which has become a twice a week family gathering.

Parents watch their kids turn from quiet preteens into kicking, screaming champions.

“My dad I enrolled me because it was supposed to be a summer thing for us, to just defend myself but I really like it, so that’s what’s got me into doing it for a long time,” said Isabelle David,
National Champion Cadet division.

And as disciplined as they are, they clean up after themselves, so the cars can go back in for the night.

Next up for this team of champions is Costa Rica, where they will compete in the Pan American games and the Costa Rica Open later this month, and they hope to sweep up some more medals.

Kicking it in the garage the past few years has paid off for these martial artists after they won the 2016 national championships last July.

Several of the members were invited to be part of the US national team.

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