Lyons stopped class and the room bowed as Hwang, and three other high-ranking black belts entered the room. “Good evening, sir,” he said.
Meeting Hwang, much less having him stop by for a surprise visit, is a bit of a rare treat. The grand master has been profiled in and given Hall of Fame status by Black Belt Magazine. Before taking over as head of the Moo Duk Kwan in 2002, Hwang had achieved the high rank of ninth-degree black belt.
Hwang had also just gotten back from a meeting with some of the European dojo masters in Belgium. He and the other higher-ups waited silently as Lyons finished running through fight routines with the red belts and black belts.
Hwang then called Lyons to the front of the room for a special ceremony -- his promotion to the rank of master. The grand master read off the promotion certificate in Korean, and the three masters took Lyons weathered black belt off and encircled him with the master’s belt.
“I’m just a little overwhelmed,” the 22-year-old instructor said.
Technically, one becomes a master at the rank of fourth-degree black belt in Moo Duk Kwan. The physical belt also looks different. It is dark black with a band of red running through its center, and it’s embroidered with gold lettering.
“It’s not only a number. It carries a history and a tradition,” Grand Master Hwang explained about the fourth-degree rank. “I congratulate you. You’re part of history.”
He added: “Your accomplishment is not only your accomplishment. It’s a group accomplishment. It’s an accomplishment of our art.”
Lyons teaches classes at the Pyong Ahn Institute in New Paltz, and also volunteers as a firefighter. He’s been training in this fighting style for more than 16 years, since he was 5. To get a picture of how long he’s trained to achieve the master’s rank, Lyons became a first-degree black belt at age 11 in 1999.
William Johns, one of the masters of the fighting style who came with Grand Master Hwang, praised Lyons for his work in keeping the Korean equivalent to karate alive in New Paltz.
“It’s always nice to come back to New York,” Johns said. “It’s very meaningful that you’re continuing the presence of the Moo Duk Kwan in this area. I’m just very proud.”
A 22-year-old getting to the rank of master does happen, but “he’s quite early. It’s not really rare, but it’s not quite often,” the grand master said. “We’re proud of him.”
Lyons did look visibly thrown off guard by the surprise visit, but he did know that he was likely going to get a promotion.
“I kind of had an idea that it was going to happen today,” he said. “It’s more than I ever dreamed of. It’s been a long time coming.”
While each martial art style does things a bit differently, typically the heads of a school have what amounts to a master’s belt -- which signifies that they are the teacher of teachers.
But even fourth-degree black belt isn’t the end since Lyons can still progress further in rank, of which he is hopeful. “There’s still things to learn. It never ends.”
For more information on the Pyong Ahn Institute, head to www.pyongahninstitute.com or call 255-3047.
-- Mike Townshend
The New Paltz Women’s Rugby Team at SUNY New Paltz will host its third annual Ruckfest Women’s Rugby Tournament this Saturday, April 10. The games will start at 10 a.m. on the rugby field located on campus behind Lenape Hall. The tournament will benefit the New Paltz Fire Department.
HAWKS at Eastern Zones
Seamus Trzewik-Quinn, Jimmy McColgan, Emile Kuyl and Aodhan Fogarty of the USA HAWKS went up against the best swimmers all along the Eastern seaboard in this past weekend’s Eastern Zone Championships in Rochester. Records in the Zones (ages 9-18) include the likes of Olympians Michael Phelps, Elizabeth Beisel and Katie Hoff, who all began their careers as young swimmers in the Eastern Zone.
The 14-year old Fogarty not only made the finals in the 13-14 boys 100 breaststroke with a 1:05.89, but went on to medal with a 1:04.89.
The 12-year old Kuyl, a first-year swimmer, not only got to Zones, but did a personal best 30.58 in the 11-12 boys 50 backstroke.
McColgan, also 12, and a third time Zones Qualifier had his best meet ever with personal bests in the 11-12 boys 50 butterfly (with a 30.67) and 200 butterfly (with a 2:32.83).
And saving the best for last, 10-year old Trzewik-Quinn won three titles in the 10-and-under boys competition -- a first-ever for HAWKS swimmers -- setting a new Adirondack record in the 200 Individual Medley with a 2:23.66; winning the 50 backstroke with a personal best 30.54; and winning the 100 backstroke in an Adirondack record time of 1:03.64 and missed breaking Phelps’ 1998 record by just over a second (he is ranked second in the nation in his age group). Trzewik-Quinn was just out-touched by two one-hundredths of a second in the 500 freestyle, setting a new Adirondack record with 5:41.79 and finished second in the 100 IM with another personal best 1:08.82. He was the high point winner in his age group.
“They swam their hearts out,” said HAWKS and Adirondack Zone coach Erin Quinn. “It was quite the impressive showing from our four Zone qualifiers, the most the HAWKS have ever brought to the meet, and it’s only going to grow the way the team is soaring over the water.”
Tom’s Repair Shop gears up for 2010 racing season
On Friday, April 16 Tommy Johnson will represent Tom’s Repair Shop in the first Friday night race at Accord Motor Speedway for the 2010 season. Motor heads in the Hudson Valley got their first racing fix of the season at the 19th annual Middletown Motorsports Show, which took place March 19-21. The motorsports show, which was held at the Orange County Fairgrounds, was a weekend of racing fun with race cars on display, driver autograph sessions and tons of competitions.
For Johnson, the 2009 Bryant’s Towing Pure Stock Champion, and the whole number 45 Tom’s Repair Shop race family, this was the first time they had ever appeared in the show. Johnson said that preparing for the show was “a lot of work.” His newly rebuilt car needed a lot of detailing to make it show ready, with new parts and a new paint job, but in the end the car was displayed with pride. The 2010 racing season at Accord Speedway began last weekend. Tom Johnson, owner of Tom’s Repair Shop and father of Tommy Johnson said, “Right now the car is pretty much ready. There are still some adjustments we need to do because they can’t be made too early, but the car will be race ready shortly.”