Soo Bahk Do student Villareal reaches black belt status

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TOP FORM—Adriana Villarreal delivers a kick at Soo Bakh Do instructor Larry Drehs. Villareal recently completed testing to earn her black belt. Photo by Steve Tracy
HONORED—Larry Drehs, head instructor of Gardena Soo Bahk Do, center, receives Certificate of Recognition. From left are Chamber director Wanda Love, Cindy Drehs, Larry Drehs, Adriana Villarreal, Nital Patel of Assemblyman David Hadley’s office, and Kathy Walker of the City of Gardena.

By Henry Russell

Special to the GVN

For more than 15 years, Thornburg Park in Gardena has been host to Gardena Soo Bahk Do, a traditional Korean Martial Arts. The park has helped support many local children in their quest to achieve what seems to be a rarity now in the martial arts community — reaching the level of Cho Dan (black belt).

Well, the Gardena-based class has again bucked the odds. Another local practitioner, Adriana Villareal, 13, recently passed her Cho Dan test and local leaders are marveling at her diligence and accomplishments.

By Henry Russell

Special to the GVN

For more than 15 years, Thornburg Park in Gardena has been host to Gardena Soo Bahk Do, a traditional Korean Martial Arts. The park has helped support many local children in their quest to achieve what seems to be a rarity now in the martial arts community — reaching the level of Cho Dan (black belt).

Well, the Gardena-based class has again bucked the odds. Another local practitioner, Adriana Villareal, 13, recently passed her Cho Dan test and local leaders are marveling at her diligence and accomplishments.

Villareal joined the school in June 2011, when she was only 8. It took her five years of training to be ready for this test. As she closed in to the final stretch of preparation for this challenge, Adriana and her parents had to make the time commitment that was needed.

They were at the school four to five days a week and while Adriana trained, her parents and her younger brother were out at the swings/sandbox on the playground of the park; it was a symbiotic relationship. Adriana’s younger brother will soon be joining our ‘Kinder-class,’ which accommodates children ages 4 to 7, and is held every Thursday.

In April of this year, Adriana participated in the regional Dan testing and passed with no exceptions. Sa Bom Nim, (head instructor of the school), Larry Drehs attributes her success to her focus and her high level of commitment, the support from the community was tremendous.

Recently the U.S. Soo Bahk Do Federation has instituted a donation program through its 501(c)(3) Charter Foundation. This allows for local community leaders and local businesses to donate direct funds to our Foundation while receiving a tax write off. This has been a key development in helping to financially support the student’s goals of testing for black belt. As we all know, finances can be tough and this donation routing is a big help to our students and their families.

Thornburg Park hosted a presentation ceremony May 11, in which Villareal received her Cho Dan as well as her new uniform.

“There was a large group in attendance to help us celebrate this event,” an instructor said. “We had many of the local sponsors/businesses there enjoying the evening, to include Nital Pital, from State Assemblymen David Hadley’s office; Wanda Love, the President and Executive Director of Gardena Chamber of Commerce; and Kathy Walker, Superintendent for the City of Gardena Parks and Recreation Services. Local sponsors, such as Bill Kalpakoff, General Manager of CalMet Services, also provided significant support for the Villareal family during Adriana’s test.

“We were truly fortunate to present Larry Drehs, the head instructor at Gardena Soo Bahk Do, with a Certificate of Recognition from California State Assemblyman David Hadley, AD66, and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Gardena Chamber of Commerce.”

Those seeking more information about Gardena Soo Bahk Do, or Thornburg Park at 2320 W. 149th St. can look at the website, http://www.gardenasoobahkdo.com/or call the Nakaoka Center 310-217 9537.

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