Because of its association with street gangs, retired army veteran Johnny Williamson’s parents prohibited him from learning martial arts at a young age.
“I started in junior high because it’s when Bruce Lee came out,” Williamson said. “My father forbade me to do it.”
However, he defied his parents’ orders and continued to delve into the world of martial arts, which lead him to open his own academy in Goodyear years later.
The studio is thriving locally and earning respect outside of Arizona.
At the recent Regional Tang Soo Do Karate Championships in St. George, Utah, Starworld Martial Arts Academy brought home five Grand Championship trophies back to the West Valley.
The martial arts studio owner’s daughter, MoShay Williamson, earned her fifth consecutive Grand Championship title in the 18 to 34 age group. Diana Garcia won her first Grand Championship in the 35 to 49 age group.
In the 14 to 17 age group, Kellicia Taing took her third Grand Championship title in four years. Tylah Stalling and Anthony Lake, both in 13 and under age groups, also won titles.
The students of the Goodyear dojo learned to value the core principles of martial arts which lead them to their victories.
In his dojo, which teaches the art form of Tang Soo Do, Johnny Williamson said the principals he focuses most on are mental. “Mostly confidence, discipline and focus,” he said.
“Confidence to stand up to injustice if you’re being bullied. Discipline to do the right thing, even when nobody is watching and focus.”
Johnny’s daughter, MoShay Williamson, a student and instructor at Starworld Martial Arts, agreed. “It’s not so much about the sport,” she said. “ I think it’s more about the confidence, discipline and the family feel. Most of our students join because of the self-esteem they need to build. It’s not just punching and kicking, it’s more about the character.”
The championship consists of three sections: sparring, weapons and forms. Competitors are judged based on the number of points they earn in the categories, earning a maximum of 10 points per section. MoShay Williamson received a perfect score with 30 points.
She has practiced martial arts since she was a child and values the discipline it teaches students. Fellow Starworld Martial Arts member Diana Garcia started martial arts later in life.
Garcia, from Avondale, said she took the class out of a desire to learn self-defense.
“I’ve always been interested in martial arts, ever since I was little, but we couldn’t afford it,” Garcia said. “When I moved here, I had a son and he had some issues with bullying, so I found a school and three months after he enrolled, I took a self-defense class and I just fell in love with it.”
Garcia went on to earn 28 points in the competition, placing first in the sparring category. But self-defense is not the only quality Garcia has taken away from martial arts as she has also found it to be empowering and has heightened her confidence level.
“Ever since I’ve been here, my confidence has grown,” Garcia said. “Another aspect I really enjoy is working with students.”
Confidence is a big factor for student Tylah Stalling, 12, who earned 26 points and placed first in open-hand forms, second in sparring and third in weapons.
She recalled a time where her confidence level was not quite at the level it currently is.
“I’m not shy now but when I was younger, I was really shy,” Stalling said. “I didn’t really like to talk to people I didn’t know, so it took me out of my comfort zone.”
She said she began her martial arts career over eight years ago when her sister enrolled in a club where she sat and watched her sister practice. She soon became involved and quickly picked up the art form. Her goal is to eventually earn the highest-ranking and open her own dojo.
“My goal is to be able to go to grandmaster, which is the highest-ranking belt and when I get older, my sister and I want to open our own studio together.”
Martial arts is not just about kicking and punching, but about discipline and extreme dedication. Starworld Martial Arts works to instill these concepts in their students in hopes the students’ confidence will increase and become leaders of the world.
“The thing a person is going to need the most to succeed in this world is confidence,” Williamson said. “This is why I call my dojo a leadership academy. The leader in you is what we’re trying to bring out.”
For more information, visit martialartsgoodyear.com.