Braxtyn Fleming may be only 9 years old, but don’t underestimate his abilities. Fleming and three other Whidbey Island athletes qualified for the 50th annual American Taekwondo Association world championship July 8-14 in Little Rock, Arkansas.
More than 1,000 clubs from around the world will be represented.
Braxtyn will be joined at the world finals by his father Trevor Fleming, Jenny Chisney and one of his coaches, Robert Armstrong, chief instructor and owner of Armstrong’s ATA Martial Arts dojangs in Oak Harbor and Clinton.
Braxton Fleming, who turned 9 June 13, is the Washington state taekwondo champion in the 8-and-under division in eight events. He earned the titles by compiling the most points in competitions over the past year. By finishing among the state leaders, he qualified for district, which was June 8 at Oregon City, Ore. The district competition included athletes from throughout Canada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah. There, he finished first in five events, second in one and third in two.
That led to an invitation to the ATA world championships.
Fleming began training in taekwondo when he was 4.
“We decided to start him in taekwondo to help provide a good foundation of respecting others and oneself, confidence and to teach him important life skills,” his mother Mallarie Litwiller said.
Braxtyn worked his way through each belt color and obtained a black belt in February.
What separates Braxtyn from others is his work ethic, according to Armstrong.
“Talent is overrated,” Armstrong said. “Braxtyn has the capability to push through hard things. His effort and amazing attitude is unlike anyone else’s at our dojang. It’s hard work that makes skill, and he’s got the effort.”
Braxtyn displays another outstanding quality — selflessness, according to Armstrong.
“He cares for others, and sometimes at the expense of himself,” Armstrong said. “He is more concerned about others than his own success.”
Braxtyn, true to form, said the thing he enjoys the most about taekwondo is “watching other people at the tournaments and cheering them on.”
He likes that the sport has taught him respect, communication, discipline and other life skills.
Braxtyn trains about four times a week and represents the Armstrong dojang at community demonstrations and parades as part of the Leadership Program. June 14 Braxtyn was invited to be part of the Legacy Program, the highest offered by Armstrong.
Qualifying for the world tournament is “really special,” Braxtyn said. “It’s a big accomplishment, and I worked really hard to get there.”
The Armstrong dojang has produced one world champion, Jeffrey Chia in 2017. Armstrong said Braxtyn has a chance, but regardless of the outcome, qualifying for the tournament is the “golden ticket.”
“Being there is amazing, really cool,” he said.
Armstrong, Cisney and Trevor Fleming each won four division titles at district to earn berths in the world competition.
Armstrong persuaded Trevor Fleming to give taekwondo a try.
“Mr. Armstrong was really good at twisting my arm,” Trevor Fleming said. “He said since I was already there watching Braxtyn, I should get on the mat.”
That was three years ago, and Trevor Fleming has developed in to a world-championship qualifier.
“This is great, something I can share with my son,” he said. “We get to go to tournaments together, traveling around in our travel trailer.”
After honing his skill, Trevor knew qualifying for the world tournament was a possibility but never dreamed Braxtyn would be at his side.
“I am so proud of him; this is just awesome,” Trevor Fleming said.
“To go there and represent the United States — this is really special.”