Striking a blow for unity

Rick Devereux

When a child gets involved in sports and the parents want to be

involved with the child, the parents are usually relegated to being a

taxi driver, cheerleader, refreshment vender, launderer, equipment

manager, or some other supportive role. A few are able to become

coaches and teach his or her kid, along with everyone else's, at

every practice.

No one ever thinks of actually playing with or against their


Can you image trying to strike out your son?

Or racing your daughter in swimming?

Or stopping junior from scoring a soccer goal?

Costa Mesa resident Ron Housepian, 53, regularly competes with and

against his son Corey, 15, in tae kwon do.

The two entered Marshall's Tae Kwon Do in Costa Mesa on the same

day 3 1/2 years ago with the thought of getting Corey active in some

form of martial arts.

Ron grew up studying martial arts. In high school he studied tang

soo do, a hybrid of Japanese and Korean styles of fighting. He

received military training in the Army, although he doesn't know what

style it was ("It was the Army so it was a little bit of

everything"). And in dental school, he practiced shotokan, a form of


His dad's background had an influence on Corey.

"I've always had a little interest in doing something in martial

arts," Corey said. "I really like the psychological part of it."

Corey also participate in team sports -- he has been playing

soccer since he was 4 -- but he and his father think team sports

don't offer the complete training one gets in the martial arts.

"I was looking for some martial art because of the philosophical

conduit," Ron said. "Team sports are great, but they don't give you

the philosophical and spiritual guidance like you get with martial


Ron and Corey, who will be a junior at Newport Harbor High who

competes for the school's crew, rose together in the tae kwon do

ranks and both tested for their black belt on the same day about five

months ago.

One of the tests is to break a board. Corey was able to break it

on his third and final try, but Ron wasn't able to and didn't receive

his black belt with his son. Ron tried the test two months later and


"We can compete in a more physical way than most fathers and

sons," Ron said. "He finally surpassed me in skill. Either that, or

my skills are deteriorating because of old age."

The Housepians aren't the only father-son black belts at


Rod Neighbors from Newport Beach wanted to learn a form of martial

arts when he was a kid. The 36-year old was referred to tae kwon do

by a neighbor.

"I always wanted to get involved in martial arts when I was young,

but, year after year, I never did anything about it," he said. "I

have two sons and wanted them to get into it. I heard about tae kwon

do from a friend and came down to see if it would be what I wanted

for my boys."

Rod visited the school and was so impressed he signed up for

classes before he signed his sons up.

"I started six months before my sons," Rod said. "I thought I was

too old, but Master [Thomas] Marshall encouraged me to try out."

Rod's sons Kellen, 8, and Trevor, 6, had different reactions to

the intense training. Kellen took to it, while Trevor's interest

seemed to wane.

"Trevor started when he was 5, but he wasn't taking to it like

Kellen did," Rod said. "I didn't want to push him. He loves other

sports, so that's what he plays."

Kellen, on the other hand, enjoyed tae kwon do so much, he earned

his black belt in May. His black belt test involved breaking a board

while blindfolded. He did it on his first try.

Kellen said he likes breaking boards, sparring and practicing the

proper techniques.

"I like learning stuff you never knew before," he said.

The joy for Rod is different. He said his dad was supportive when

he was younger, but Rod's relationship with Kellen is closer than he

had with his own dad.

"This has bonded us together," said Rod, who earned his black belt

in January. "We were chasing down the same dream and the same goal.

And that's no easy task."

He has seen the effects of the martial arts training on Kellen.

"He has learned to be patient and how to complete a goal," Rod

said. "No one is making us come here. He has learned how to be

disciplined, and I think that's very important."

Also taking classes at Marshall's is Perry, Lauren and Ryan Balky

from Newport Beach.

Perry, 46, signed up on the same day he enrolled Lauren, 8, and

Ryan, 6, for instruction.

"I come mostly for the workout and the challenge," Perry said. "I

want my children in it for the discipline and to stay physically


The Housepians and Neighbors have been training for more than

three years and are black belts, the sixth and final belt. The

Balkys, however, signed up a year ago and have risen to a green belt

(the third level) for Perry, and yellow belts (the second level) for

Lauren and Ryan.

"We share a common goal," Perry said. "We do it at the same time

and we're at the same level."

Lauren, who enjoys drama and the arts, likes that it is an

individual sport.

"It's a good way for me to express myself," she said. "To become a

black belt will take lots of discipline, but I'm going to try my


The lessons of discipline Lauren absorbs come less easily to Ryan,

Perry said.

"He has all of the athletic ability. We joke that he's half monkey

because he climbs over everything," Perry said. "But he has hit the

wall in his training. He doesn't want to come, but once he's here he

doesn't want to leave."

Marshall, who was a three-time U.S. champion, said he has taught,

"thousands upon thousands of black belts," but this grouping of

parents and their children has really touched a cord with him.

"I look at them when they train and it amazes me," he said. "I

know what it means to these guys to set the goal of getting a black

belt and then working at it with your kids."

Marshall, who doesn't have kids of his own, has started a special

class for 3-year-olds in which the parents must do the techniques

with the children.

"This helps with family unity," he said. "Other sports like soccer

and baseball, the main thing that is taught is winning and losing.

Here, we teach discipline."

Discipline comes from hard work, though, and that is the only

complaint Lauren has about her tae kwon do workouts.

"I enjoy everything about coming here, she said. "But, sometimes,

I get sweaty and tired."

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