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Taekwondo offers Franklin family discipline, self-control and, yes, fast kicking

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It has become something of a routine in the Grove household in Franklin.

Just before the family sits down for supper on any given evening, one of the two Grove boys — 17-year-old Tim and 15-year-old Matthew — will shout, “Food’s ready!”

And then the scuffling commences.

“‘Food’s ready’ means a sparring match is about to start in the kitchen for a few minutes,” explained Karla Grove, mother of the two teens. “Before we sit down to eat, kicks start flying, punches start flying. Sparring is a regular occurrence in our (household).”

The brotherly playfulness notwithstanding, the sparring stems from the family’s very serious involvement in taekwondo, a Korean martial arts practice that features head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques. The Groves began taking lessons in January 2007, and within three of four years all four had earned their black belts (Dad Brian no longer trains).

“I got involved because of our older son, Tim,” Karla Grove said from Franklin Family Taekwondo, the studio where she is now owner and head instructor. “He was 6 and Matthew was 4. We needed an outlet for (Tim’s) energy level, something productive. About two months after we started them, my husband and I joined.

“It very quickly became a good fit for me.”

To the point that soon after getting her black belt in October 2010, Grove became an assistant instructor under the person who taught her, longtime Franklin resident Jack Smithson. He has been practicing martial arts since 1978 and, specifically, taekwondo since 1985. 

Grove opened Franklin Family Taekwondo in July 2016. The studio, which has around 75 students ranging in ages 5 to 23, is part of the Choong Sil Kwan Taekwondo Federation (CTF). This particular type of taekwondo centers around developing “an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing through a highly stylized and deliberate method of rigorous martial arts training,” according to the Franklin Family website.

“That’s what we’re about — to watch them learn the discipline, learn the respect and the courtesy, all those things,” Grove said. “It’s so much beyond the kicking and punching. It’s about the youth, about teaching them life lessons.”

And yes, there is spirited competition. All three Groves will be competing on Nov. 11 in the CTF Nationals in South Haven, Miss., a tournament in which Tim won the 2016 championship for the 16-17 male heavyweight division and Matthew took second in the 14-15 male lightweight. Also competing in the tournament from Franklin Family Taekwondo are Ian Rapp (10-11 male heavyweight), Dean Peltier (14-15 male heavyweight) and Lalit Pusapati (14-15 male heavyweight). Grove is competing in the 45-and-up female black belt division.

The Grove boys took to taekwondo from the get-go, even at such a young age. They said it’s difficult to imagine what life would be like had they not obtained the discipline the sport offers.

“It’s hard for me to tell, because I’ve been raised with this,” Tim said. “It’s hard for me to think of what it would be like without it. … The biggest thing I get from taekwondo is perseverance.”

Tim is also a member of an international taekwondo team, and last year competed in his first tournament outside the U.S., in Birmingham, England. He didn’t place in that July 2016 competition, but last May he won two gold medals in an international tourney in Canada. He returns to England in 2018, and Karla and Matthew are working toward qualifying as well.

The competition and, of course, the medals are a significant part of the taekwondo experience. But in most cases, according to Grove, parents are enrolling their children for the discipline and self-control the sport offers. Its benefits are far-reaching.

“They have rules at home,” said Smithson, who still helps with instruction even though he has retired. “They have to have good grades or they can’t get promoted. They have chores to do and they must do them without being told. How they act at home is more important than how they act here. When they leave out of here, we don’t have any control over them, so we try to instill that in their minds.”

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