Westport’s World Champion Taekwondo: Winners In More Than Their Name

When Andrew Keisman was in kindergarten, a friend asked if he wanted to take a Taekwondo class.

The other boy soon stopped. Six years later, Andrew is a national champion.

He’s not the only local winner. Westport’s World Champion Taekwondo team — that’s the name of the school; they have not yet won a world title — returned recently from the US tournament in Minneapolis. Ten athletes, ages 10 to 17, competed in board breaking, forms/poomsae and sparring.

Among their luggage: 6 gold and 5 bronze medals.

Westport World Champion Taekwondo’s nationals team. Front row (from left): Ishr Bhullar, Andrew Keisman, Emily Xue, Olivia Saw, Srish Popuri, Matthew Saw. Rear: Master John Han, EJ Herrmann, Matthew Lee-Chin, Master Emalee Weiss, Meher Bhullar, Rhys Aron, Head Master DongHyun Jang.

Andrew’s mother Allison praises World Champion Taekwondo — one of 13 franchises in Connecticut — for offering him a home away from home. The masters at the Franklin Street institute have given him “self-confidence, goal-setting and camaraderie,” she says.

It’s not easy growing up here. Taekwondo has been a stable part of his life, Allison adds. And Andrew is far from alone.

He and his fellow taekwondo enthusiasts progress from beginner to black belt. Each goes at his or her own pace. But they always strive to improve.

Allison likes the diversity of ages and backgrounds at the WCT school. Classes are coed, and grades are mixed. (There are adult classes too.)

Allison appreciates the respect for each other, and the sport, that the masters instill. The parents have formed a supportive community too, she says.

Andrew earned his 1st degree black belt in 2nd grade. Now — four years later — he’s working on his 3rd degree.

Thanks to an instructor training program, black belts 11 or older help masters teach younger students — at the same time learning leadership, mentoring and volunteer skills.

The school-year program includes movie nights, and Halloween and birthday parties. WCT offers week-long summer camps too.

“This is a hidden gem in Westport,” his mother says gratefully. “It’s a special place for us.”

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