Carey Daughtry of Daughtry ATA Martial Arts in Richmond Hill has dedicated the last 20 years of her life to the practice of martial arts. Certified in combat forms most of us can’t even pronounce, the 2001 World Champion and ATA nationally accredited judge still considers herself very much a student.
“One of my priorities is to continue to educate myself,” Daughtry said.” Just because I am established in the community doesn’t mean I take a day off. It makes me want to work even harder to continue to raise the bar.”
For the last six years, Daughtry has been raising the bar at her own school of martial arts at 11368 Ford Ave. Just as her own instructors taught her, Daughtry teaches young athletes that combat sports are as much about respecting your opponents as they about roundhouse kicking them into submission and earning a new belt.
And while her credentials speak for themselves, every now and then she gets a little extra help whipping her students into shape. On July 19 it came in the form of six-time state champion and fifth-degree black belt Darin Prazer, who arrived from Evans to judge the Daughtry’s students’ belt promotions.
“I try to provide as many opportunities as I can for my students to experience the most comprehensive experience with their martial arts training,” said Daughtry. “The Prazers have owned their own ATA Martial Arts school in Evans since 2009. I’ve been a guest judge at their school, and this weekend I had the honor of returning their hospitality by hosting them at my school.”
Prazer, who was accompanied by his wife and fellow martial artist, Gena Prazer, wasn’t content just to sit back and hand out a few belts. Throughout the weekend, Prazer put the students through their paces in a series of sparring seminars, encouraging them to kick higher, yell louder and, perhaps most importantly, believe in themselves.
“I encourage them to have confidence,” said Prazer of the students. “Because it lacks even in adults. If we teach confidence at a younger age — I, myself was a shy kid that got picked on when I was younger — they’ll achieve more later, whether it be in terms of their own health, their own finances or even the jobs they get.”
Initially, Prazer refused payment for the seminars from Daughtry or any of the parents. But when Daughtry suggested the seminars be used as a fundraiser for the H.U. Lee Memorial Foundation, Prazer jumped at the chance to funnel money back into the ATA and the sport he said loves so much.
According to its website, the H.U. Lee Memorial Foundation is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established by the American Taekwondo Association in honor of its founder, Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee. The foundation provides college scholarships to students around the nation who exemplify qualities of perseverance, dedication and the courage to overcome great odds.
“The foundation is amazing,” said Prazer. “Any money raised in our region, 75 percent of it stays here for regional scholarships. So, most of the money that we raise will go back to students in the ATA in this region. The others 25 percent will used for national scholarships.”
Amazingly, Daughtry said her students and their families raised $705 by the end of the belt promotion. What’s more, Daughtry volunteered to match the donation, bring the the total to $1,410.
A scholarship would be nice, but for students like David Clarkson — who just earned his second-degree black belt — learning to kick, chop and yell from a six-time state champion is more than enough.
“I still want to learn more sparring techniques for the next tournament,” said Clarkson. “I also want to do better in classes — and just have fun.”