MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
JaWaun Stanley wants you to remember his name so you will be ready when the 2016 Olympics roll around. That is when the now-10-year-old Berkley Manor resident expects to make his first appearance as a member of the United States tae kwon do team.
Stanley, the son of Gunnery Sgt. Edward K. and Candita Stanley, returned to Camp Lejeune with a bronze medal in sparring from the recent National Tae Kwon Do Junior Olympic Championships, held July 10-15 in San Jose, Calif.
The 5-foot, 71-pound Stanley competed against 17 of the best 10 and 11 year olds in the country in sparring and placed fourth out of 23 competitors in forms.
“I do my best,” he said. “[Tae kwon do] isn’t just about fighting. It’s a lot more. It’s about self-control, perseverance and respect.”
Success on the national stage is nothing new to Stanley. He already has a silver medal for sparring in the 8-9-year-old age group from the 2006 Junior Olympics. He also placed fourth in forms that year.
The rising fifth-grader at Bitz Intermediate School has studied tae kwon do since he was a 5-year-old stationed with his parents in Japan.
“[JaWaun] was really into the Power Rangers. He was always running around kicking stuff,” explained his mother. “We were walking by a dojanj [martial arts studio] and he looked in and said, ‘Wow, that’s just like the Power Rangers. I want to do that.’”
Since then, Stanley has risen quickly through the ranks in the national tae kwon do scene. He currently studies with Remark Sport Tae kwon do at the Young Men’s Christian Association in New Bern, N.C. He has earned his blue belt and competes in the Elite class at the Junior Olympics.
“My goal is to get my black belt in one year,” he said.
“Everything JaWaun does in tae kwon do, he does it because he wants to do it,” said Candita. “And my husband and I feel that, if he has the love for it, why not back him?”
“Backing him” for Stanley’s parents means driving 1-1/2 hours round-trip to New Bern three times a week for practices lasting 2-3 hours. “You learn a lot about each other during the drive,” said his mother with a chuckle. And then, of course, there are the tournaments. Stanley participates in 10 tournaments a year, as well as the North Carolina State Games and the Junior Olympics.
In order to stay on top, Stanley participates in as many other sports as he can, including soccer, track, baseball, football, basketball and even bowling. But tae kwon do has remained his cornerstone. “It’s what I stick to because I like the sparring and making friends,” he said. “When you beat someone, you don’t rub it in their face. You show sportsmanship. You tell them, ‘You did a good job making it to this level.’
“I think what sets me apart is my speed and practice, practice, practice,” Stanley continued. “My goal is to make it to the world championships next year and the Olympics one day — and I’m talking about the real Olympics … the one for adults … the really good ones.”