By Ryan Kaczmarski
Westlake resident Joey Krysh is still a few years away from being old enough to drive, but the Lee Burneson Middle School eighth-grader has accomplished something most adults could not do. He has earned his third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.
Krysh has been training since 2003 – at J.K. Kang’s Tae Kwon Do Center in North Olmsted – when at age 5 he expressed an interest in martial arts to his parents, Joe and Joanne Krysh.
“I was really just looking for hobbies at age five, and I was really interested in learning self-defense techniques,” Krysh said. “At that age, I was only interested in martial arts and basketball.”
Both parents knew of the physical benefits of exercise and were encouraged to learn of the mental and philosophical benefits of training.
“He really gravitated towards tae kwon do,” his father said.
Krysh earned his first black belt at the age of 9 and achieved second-degree at the age of 11. To advance to the different degrees, he was tested in the different formations and techniques and had to present them to the grand master, J.K. Kang.
“My favorite part of it is probably the different self-defense techniques, because to me, that is the most realistic things that you would use (in a real situation),” Krysh said.
“For example, they would teach him what moves to use if he were approached by someone with a knife or a gun, either from the front or the side, or even multiple people coming at him,” his father said. “They teach you how to deal with those situations.”
Grand Master J.K. Kang, a seventh-degree black belt, 1984 Korean national champion and Korean military instructor, began his training at age 7 and earned his first-degree black belt at age 11. He believes that Joey is a strong and disciplined student – who despite breaking his arm twice (playing basketball), persevered to earn this honor. He also believes that Joey and other good students typically develop qualities such as respect, courtesy, modesty, self-control and spirit.
“I would really like to continue (training) all the way through high school,” Krysh said. “By the time I graduate from high school, I hope to become a fourth-degree black belt.”
Krysh and his parents have been talking about what the future holds for him.
“We have discussed whether I would choose to stay with tae kwan do, or expose myself to other training (with different techniques),” he said.
Krysh will be attending St. Edward High School as a freshman in the fall, and he hopes to also participate in basketball and golf on the varsity level.