Taekwondo team inspires locals while training here

Apr 15, 2015

Hoo Hoo Park in McCloud was filled with the springtime sounds of birds, leaf blowers, and martial arts yells in late March as the UC Davis Taekwondo Team visited the area for five days of high-altitude training. This training program was the last stage of their preparations before traveling to the University of Delaware to compete at the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships on April 3, 4, and 5.

Sparring Action!   Caslte Lake
Instense Team Training Action
Spectacular Afternoon at Castle Lake

“The team members are giving up their spring break for this special training and preparation,’ said Alex Antipa, head coach of the UC Davis Takeonwdo program. “They do it willingly because they enjoy training and want to succeed.”

After morning agility and footwork training in McCloud, the team traveled to Mount Shasta for sparring training at the Mount Shasta Martial Arts Program’s studio.

“We’re glad to share our facility with these students,” said MSMAP head instructor Chuck Buhs. “It gives our kids the chance to see what it takes to compete at the collegiate level.”


 Teamwork & Altitude

The UC Davis team also provided a two-hour joint workout with MSMAP including plenty of one-on-one instruction for local teens and pre-teens.

“I was impressed that they were a whole team of black belts working together,” observed Lily Weaver, 13. “They’re not trying to be better than each other but are helping each other to get to the same level. And, distraction and speed are part of the best offense.”

“They’re terrifying,” said Riley Witherell, 15. “They’re black belts! They’re very nice, though. I like how open and helpful they are. They never get frustrated with us, and they clearly know what they’re doing.”

Riley’s sister, Brynn, 14, also noticed “how calm and helpful they are with others. And, how they help each other a lot.”

“I love teaching kids,” explained Marisol Flannery, 19, a dual major in Biology and Spanish and the 2014 California State Taekwondo Champion. “Before leaving for Davis, I tutored a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD in Los Angeles. It was an amazing experience watching him progress. I’d get so angry and frustrated at times because it was so much hard work, but he eventually received his yellow belt. The trust that we developed was something I won’t forget. Tutoring him helped me learn patience and how to work with people.”

The extra stress of training in the mountains was felt by the team right away. The first day was the hardest according to both Flannery and teammate David Gibson.

“The altitude was kicking my butt at first,” shared Gibson, 22, who is finishing his degree in Biological Psychology (Neuroendocrinology/genetic analysis, the next level of genetic sequencing). “I wasn’t feeling well at all. But after a day, it’s all good. I feel strong now.”

According to Flannery, training on the first day “was pretty intense. I was feeling a burning from the altitude while running around the track, but I just pushed through it. Now I’m hungrier and have more confidence. I’m ready to do what I do best and go for the championship next week!”


 Co-Active Team Culture

Antipa is also one of the founders of the Pac-West Taekwondo conference, a former national collegiate team coach, and is retired from a university staff position but still retains a PE faculty appointment as a “recall lecturer” (retired annuitant). He coaches the team full-time.

“I study modern sports science and consult with a sports psychologist on a regular basis to create a co-active sports team culture,” explained Antipa. “This means that everyone competes together while still supporting each other. Creating this dynamic starts with setting a tone of a positive environment where the students enjoy being part of the team. The result is a cohesive, positive culture. It is this culture that creates success.’

As for coaching techniques, Antipa stressed that negative coaching techniques have short-term benefits but is negative in the long-term.

For MSMAP’s senior black belt, Vitaliy Tveritin, 14, it was a valuable learning experience.

“I thought the Davis team was amazing,” shared Vitaliy. “It was a friendly environment where you could be on a friend-to-friend level. Even though they are a very serious taekwondo team, they are still great to be around. I also found their training methods interesting. They use different fundamental drills to improve specific performance outcomes. And, they see taekwondo as a team sport even though you compete individually in the ring.”


 Teamwork & Success

“These students are not receiving paid scholarships,” explained Antipa. “They dedicate so much of their time to training because they enjoy it. They enjoy it because it’s a positive experience. And, it’s a positive experience because they are successful.”

Antipa clarified that “success is not just about winning. Yes, winning is great, but it’s trying that really matters. My job is to help the students learn and grow and make their college experience in sports a positive one because that’s what they take away from all this. When I see the students helping each other and the kids here, I know it’s working.”

“When students want to dedicate themselves to an activity and they enjoy it, success will come.”

Flannery added that the team “endure[s] a certain amount of physical pain in our training, and we constantly push each other to be better. As a result, we’ve really become a family and do lots of things outside of training together.”

“When they’re on social media, they’re not messaging or texting because everyone they want to share with is sitting right next to them,” added Antipa.


 Taekwondo in College

Flannery and Gibson both mentioned that taekwondo was something more than just another activity to pass the time.

“Taekwondo is my safe haven,” said Flannery. “I started when I was 8-years-old after my younger cousin encouraged me to join. It’s something I was always doing growing up. When I wasn’t home, I was at the studio. And, in a few weeks, I’m testing for my 4th degree black belt.”

Gibson started taekwondo in 2010 after he completed his high school wrestling career.

“There was a void in my life after I finished wrestling,” explained Gibson. “At first, taekwondo was just something to fill this void. But, my instructor in Torrance [California] pushed me to do more. I received private lessons from a former U.S. Olympic coach and former Russian national coach. After training, we would have dinner and talk about the spiritual and philosophical aspects of taekwondo. Taekwondo soon became more than filler; it became a passion.”


 Out on the trail

In addition to their specialized training, the team also got out on a few trails at McCloud Falls, Heart Lake, and Cliff Lake. Before departing on Sunday afternoon, they went on a snowshoe hike at Bunny Flat to really experience the Alpine environment.

The highlight for Gibson was visiting the “haunted hospital” in McCloud.

“One night we were out stargazing and ended up at the haunted hospital,” shared Gibson, smiling and laughing. “Everyone dared me to go up and touch the doorknob. As I looked through the window, I saw a green form, screamed like a little kid, and nearly fell down the stairs. It was a traumatizing, embarrassing experience. It was pretty bad.”

Antipa had prepped them prior to their nocturnal journey around McCloud sharing his personal experiences with the occult.

“They freaked when I told them that I had participated in a Ouija board,” said Antipa. ”But, I tried to teach them about human interaction in the perception of the unknown. Funny that they went to the hospital after that...”

“These college students are great role models for our kids,” said Buhs. “They’re high-energy, enthusiastic, and extremely dedicated to their passion. Hopefully, this rubs off on us so we push ourselves to achieve bigger and better things.”



Following the collegiate championships, Antipa shared the results saying “that they were the darlings of the event, not just in their high level play but receiving universal accolades for their superior spirit and positiveness. The local hosts passed me a note from their head instructor which said that there was a difference between our team and everyone else regarding their attitude and positive behavior.”

“I’m very proud of them,” said Antipa. “They played their very best. Circumstance and injury resulted in less medals than we hoped but that’s all in the field of play. Their day will come soon. I don’t define success by medals, I define success by their performance and spirit of competition and they were very successful.”

“The ten of us had 23 matches at the end of the weekend,” added Flannery. “Nine of these were won by a gap, and all of them were fought until the end. We left Delaware with one bronze, one silver, and one gold. However, that's not all we left with. We also returned home with lessons learned, and an even stronger bond between one another. Our trip taught us what skills we should work on for the next upcoming tournaments, and it also taught us that together we are unstoppable. No matter what happened in the ring, we remembered to draw strength from one another and stand together as a team.”

“In addition to everything else, all of us qualified to compete this summer at the 2015 U.S. National Championships in Austin, Texas! We will be continuing our training and competing at more local tournaments and scrimmages to prepare.”


 More Information

About the UC Davis Taekwondo Team
The taekwondo club, established 30 years ago, is open any UC Davis student, regardless of their experience or past training and provides instruction for traditional as well as Olympic styles and competes in both regional and national level tournaments.

“Anybody who has been a student athlete understands the difficulty of balancing school, work, and internships with true dedication to a sport. For us, taekwondo is more than just a hobby — it is a passion and a lifestyle. As a team, we have grown together and learned so much from one another. We support each other in and out of the ring, and we always give 110% — but sometimes this is not enough.”

Club sports are self-funded and rely entirely on fundraisers and donations to continue training and actively attend tournaments and scrimmages. You can support the U.C. Davis Taekwondo Team on GoFundMe:

MSMAP, a 501(c)(3) non-profit providing positive activities for youth, adults, and families in our area. More information can be found on their website at www.MtShastaMA.org, email ( ), phone ( 530.859.2024 ), and on Facebook (MSMAP on Facebook).

In The News
Recommended Resources
Fundraising Help