GJ’s Johnson does well in first International Taekwondo competition
Nick Johnson knew this could be his only chance.
The Grand Junction 27-year-old was just hoping to be competitive in his first International Taekwondo Championships. He never imagined he’d do as well as he did last month in Broomfield, near the United States Taekwondo Federation.
Johnson took first place in the men’s heavyweight sparring, first in breaking (flying high kick) and third in the patterns competition.
“I’m proud of all of it,” Johnson said. “Going there and doing it, whether I placed or didn’t place, (to compete) was my goal. It was an honor to compete with so many people all over the world.”
There were close to 500 people competing in the different men’s, women’s and junior’s weight classes in the two-day event.
Johnson, who weighs 194 pounds, had 15 to 16 people in his heavyweight bracket (186 to 201 pounds).
“In the months preparing for it, I conditioned myself the best I could,” Johnson said. “I wanted to get my body in the best shape I could get it, so I could give my best effort.”
Sparring is a full-contact event between two competitors in an 8-meter square area. Competitors who cause an opponent to bleed profusely can be disqualified. Punches to the head are not allowed.
“Sparring is cool,” Johnson said. “It can get at your nerves, so you’ve got to stay calm and trust your training.”
The patterns competition is a sequence test of memorized technique and form. It is designed to test the competitors’ artistic ability in the sport.
Breaking tests the athlete’s ability to break a piece of wood with a flying high kick. The athlete must use a combination of power, speed and technique.
Johnson grew up in Grand Junction and picked up Taekwondo from his father. He started taking classes at age 10 under Master Bill Strouse and earned his first black belt by age 14. He is a Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College graduate.
Johnson, who is 6-foot-4, is now a third-degree black belt. He will be eligible to test for a fourth degree next summer.
Athletes can compete through a fifth degree. There are nine degrees of black belt.
Johnson uses his height to his advantage, especially when it comes to sparring.
“Being taller, I can use my long legs to keep the guy away,” he said. “The smaller, quick guys can get inside.”
Johnson is an instructor at the Western Colorado Taekwondo facility, 588 N. Commercial Dr.
The facility has classes at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays that are open to the public.
Taekwondo originated in Korea in the late 1940s.