Shawnee Dispatch

Young Taekwon-Do master off to championships in Australia

August 30, 2006

Twice a week for the last 9 1/2 years, A.J. Busby and his father have gone to the Shawnee Civic Centre for Taekwon-Do lessons.

Together, the Kansas City, Kan., residents have worked from the base-level white belt to a first-degree black belt in the sport. And now, A.J., 16, will take what he has learned in Shawnee to the International Taekwon-Do Federation World Championships Sept. 14-16 in Australia.

The Bigby family found out about the classes at the Civic Centre through A.J.'s mother, who teaches school with Shawnee Parks and Recreation Taekwon-Do teacher Susan Crochet.

"We always talked about martial arts, and she said 'I know the perfect person,'" Anthony Bigby said.

So father and son, as well as A.J.'s older sister, Mary, started the martial arts classes together. A.J. said working his way up through the ranks was fun, but he didn't really get into the Korean martial art until he, his father and his sister made first-degree black belt.

"At first I was doing it because I thought it would be cool, but now I'm doing it because I really like it," he said.

A.J. began taking special classes with Crochet at her Overland Park home, training almost every weekend. A.J. gave up the sports he was playing at Sumner Academy -- football and basketball -- so he could focus on Taekwon-Do.

Crochet recommended him for nationals through her own trainer. A.J. said Mary had had a chance to go the year before but had decided against it. But he decided to take the opportunity to test out his skills.

In June, A.J. went to the junior men's national tournament in New Mexico. No preliminary competitions are necessary to go to nationals; competitors just need to register. Competitors compete in sparring, power breaking, specialty breaking and patterns.

"You do your best and if you qualify, you qualify," A.J. explained.

A.J. said he had no idea he would do as well as he did, placing second in the sparring competition.

"With a competitive spirit, you always want to do well, but I just went to test my skills against others," he said.

He credits his teacher for his quick advancement, saying "nobody could have prepared me more than Ms. Crochet."

As a top three finisher, he earned the right to go to the world championships. But going to the world championships isn't free. Before he leaves for Australia Sept. 9, A.J. will need to raise the $5,000 it will take to get him there.

But even with the burdensome task of raising funds, the Bigbys are already making plans for next year, when A.J. will be old enough to compete in the men's division with his father.

"We're going to start training to go to nationals together," Anthony Bigby said.

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