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Tae kwon-do studio opens in Sequim

Looking at Brandon Stoppani, a grown man with an aura of friendliness and a soothing English accent, it might be hard to imagine him as a young boy getting bullied and beaten-up.

But he was. That is, until he started boxing. And though he enjoyed the competition of boxing, Stoppani was most interested in learning self-defense. Which is how he found his calling for tae kwon do, the scientific use of the body for self-defense developed in the Korean military. He started training at the age of 18 and 22 years later he is a fifth-degree black belt aspiring to achieve the seventh degree and third-highest achievement in tae kwon do: master.

“Some people think, ‘Oh, I can see how hard I can hit someone,’ but that is not what this is about,” Stoppani said about the martial art form. “This is so that if somebody grabs your arm you can get them off of you. This is how you get away from somebody rather than how you can attack them.”

Wanting to share all he’s learned, Stoppani started teaching tae kwon do in the Port Angeles Sons of Norway hall seven years ago. “I felt I wanted to start sharing what I’d learned,” he explained. “Tae kwon do is a good confidence builder and I want to make that accessible to others.”

Stoppani had his eye on the 244 W. Washington St. location for more than a year. After Dinners Done Right closed, he jumped at the opportunity to lease the space.

“There are other martial arts schools in Sequim but I think the community has grown and is big enough it can support another studio,” he said. “There is more crime in the world and people should think about security more than they did seven yeas ago.”

The studio, also known as a “dojang,” opened Feb. 4.

Bodystrong Tae Kwon-Do Academy offers lessons for juniors 6-12 years of age, teens and adults 13 years and older and adults over 50. Students learn basic tae kwon do moves including throws, rolls, floor work and jumping but the curriculum is toned down for seniors.

Classes are made up of about 15 people. One-on-one and small group instruction is available upon request. The first two lessons are free.

“I don’t want to take money from people who aren’t going to decide to train, so come to a couple sessions free of charge,” Stoppani offered. “Male or female, young or old, it doesn’t matter. There is no reason for you not to come if you are interested.”

In addition to self-defense and confidence, tae kwon do is said to improve self-discipline, fitness, strength, flexibility, balance and mental stimulation.

A special self-defense course with instruction on basic grabs and offensive techniques begins March 1.

Students should wear sweat pants and a T-shirt to all lessons. No special footwear is necessary.

Stoppani is also a personal trainer and instructor at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. He moved to Sequim from England with his wife and two sons in 2001.

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