Fighting to Stay Together

There’s an old saying: Families that break bread together are families that stay together. The Spells family doesn’t only believe in breaking bread together; they actually break boards together. That’s one of the many techniques the Spells family has picked up while learning taekwondo together.

Will and Jessica Spells are the owners of S and S Automotive and Diesel of Valdosta, Georgia, and they — along with kids William, Gabriel, and Ashlyn, plus Will’s father, Bill Spells — are all taking taekwondo classes together at Performance Martial Arts Academy, located in Remerton, Georgia.

Their interest in martial arts started in 1990 when Bill took son Will to taekwondo classes. Their interest in martial arts lasted for about two years, until the company business demanded more of Bill’s time. They had to stop, but intended to pick it back up, which they did… 27 years later.

In October 2017, William, then age 7, came home from school one day, saying he wanted to start going to “karate” class. There was a classmate who was involved in martial arts, and William wanted to join him. According to father Will, things hadn’t worked out with other sports.

“William tried baseball and football, but he just wasn’t interested,” Will said. “He had mentioned his friend at school who was involved in karate, so we asked him if he wanted to do it, too.”

Just like in the early ’90s, business is still booming at S and S Automotive and Diesel, thus making it hard for Will and Jessica to take off and take William to mid-day classes.

So, Bill offered to take his grandson to the classes. That’s where he ran into his former teacher, master Mitchell Church, who encouraged Bill to consider joining along with his grandson, to which he said OK.
With her father-in-law and son enrolled at Church’s studio, Jessica thought it would be great for husband Will to join them.

“Will never takes a lunch break,” she said. “He never leaves the shop, and I can see the stress it puts on him. So, I thought it would be a great way to relieve some stress and get away from the shop.”

And, if it’s good for three members of the family, why not have the rest of the Spell family join in? That’s exactly what they did. Jessica and her oldest daughter also joined the classes, leaving the youngest, Ashlyn, as the only Spell family member not active in the karate classes under Church. But, according to father Will, her time will come.

“Give her time,” he said. “She’s too young right now, but it won’t be long until she’ll join the rest of us.”

So far, the family has participated in several area tournaments, winning 15 total medals as a family, including eight first-place medals.

“Dad (Bill) is a first-degree black belt and will be testing for second degree in October,” Will said. “Will (William) just tested for purple belt and will test for his black belt in September of this year. Gabriel and Jessica just tested out of their white and into their orange belts.”
One thing is certain: Don’t mess with the Spells.

Basic Karate Moves

There are three common karate stances: kiba-dachi, kokutsu-dachi, and zenkutsu-dachi

Kiba-dachi is a side stance. Stand with your legs spread wide apart and bend your knees slightly, putting your body in a sitting, almost squatting, position.

Kokutsu-dachi is a back stance. Stretch your left leg out and place it in front of your body. Keeping that foot straight, turn your body to the right and place your right foot parallel with your body. Do not stretch your right leg out. Your feet should now be perpendicular. Bend your knees slightly, then shift your upper body back to the left. Your left leg should now be forward with your right leg positioned behind you. Keep both feet flat.

Zenkutsu-dachi is a front stance. Place your left leg out in front of you. Bend your left knee. Then, place your right leg outstretched behind you while keeping your right foot flat.

To perform a shutō-uchi, more commonly known as a karate chop, the most well-known karate strike, you must first take your stance. Flatten your hand and lay your thumb against your pointer finger. Then, bend your fingers slightly. Lift your arm above your head and bring your hand down in one quick motion.

If using wood as a chopping block, you must complete the chop before bringing your hand back up. Practice will improve your accuracy and results.

One of the most important and most used kicks is the Mae Geri, or front kick. As always, take your stance. Lift your front leg, bending your knee. Lift it high until it’s at about a 45-degree angle. Lift your arms, bend your elbows, and ball your fists. Keep your arms up as you deliver the kick with force. When kicking, be sure to use the ball of your foot to deliver impact.

There are several types of karate punches and ways to throw them. One type is a straight punch, called choku-zuki. Begin in a natural stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch your left arm out in front of you and bring your right arm down by your hip, bending your elbow and balling into a fist. Pull your right arm back so you have enough room to gain momentum. Thrust your right arm forward, using the force that comes from your body, not just your arm.

Your body will turn with the punch, so you should drive the punch with your hips and shoulders. It should be quick enough that it makes a snapping motion.

Be sure to form the same starting position with your left arm when it comes back — position at the hip with elbow bent and fist balled. Snap your right arm back and throw your next punch with your left arm.

While there are many kinds of blocks, both high and low, the soto uke defends the body from mid-level blows with an outward block. To practice this block, you may want to take the zenkutsu-dachi stance. Raise your hands in front of you, bending your elbows and balling your fists. Turn your body slightly away from your opponent, making it harder to direct the attack. Swiftly bring your arm up from your hip and bring it inward towards you, blocking your opponent’s swing. The contact of both arms should be perpendicular.

Written by: Phil Jones | Photography by Eric Vinson

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