A brief history behind one of the newest, and fastest-growing martial arts schools in T&T
It’s amazing how time can change the plot so much.
Almost three years ago, Edson Breedy was eliminated from the 2016 Olympic Taekwondo Qualification Tournament, but little did he know that preparing for and ultimately missing out on Rio, would have turned into one of the best things to happen in his martial arts career.
Back in March 2016 in Aguascalientes Mexico, Breedy felt like he was in with a shot in the men’s +80kg division. Prior to that event, he had spent the last three months training in Mexico, and was one of the first names on the list along with Lenn Hypolite and Melissa Joseph, for the three-athlete team selected to try to make Rio a reality. Plus the year before, he became a World Taekwondo Open (held in Mexico) and inaugural T&T International Open gold medallist.
Lining up against the US Virgin Islands’ Douglas Townsend, Breedy who was ranked 33rd in the world at the time, established a comfortable 2-0 lead by the end of the second round.
Things went downhill in the final round however, as Townsend managed to get back into the match and go into a 4-3 lead, which could have finished 5-4 in favour of Breedy had it not been for a technical issue with the electronic scoring system.
As frustrating as that flashback may have been, Breedy was in good spirits when he spoke to The Sports Kiosk on Monday, as he now is the brainchild behind the Edson Breedy Taekwondo Academy, which is one of the newest martial arts schools in the country, and has steadily grown in numbers and popularity since they started mere months after the Agauscalientes debacle.
Breedy’s story has always been a coming of age journey, which is why he was able to quickly transition from an athlete into a trainer virtually overnight in spite of the demands of medical school and being an elite athlete.
The current medical student at the University of the West Indies (UWI), turned a lot of heads among his academic peers when he paused his studies in 2014 to pursue his dream of competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
On the sporting side of things, he gained people’s attention when he sought funding through fund raisers, which included a party at the La Soledad Estate, and a Brazilian-themed seven-course meal and open bar event.
That wasn’t enough however, as he also started to build his own brand called “Edson Breedy Taekwondo”, which was an attempt to market himself on various online platforms in order sell merchandise to help fund his upcoming training camps and competitions. This branding was basically the birth of his latest endeavour off the mat, and is a particularly unique story as well, as elite athletes usually go into coaching after they had called time on their careers.
“On my run to go to the (2016) Olympics, the major block that I encountered was not having any athletes to spar with,” he explained with a laugh. “That is, not having anybody my size for sparring partners, so that is why I started an adult programme (at the school) first, because one of the goals for me, was to develop a number of athletes, and the number of sparring partners I might want in the future.”
“I’m focusing a lot on athletic development… I feel that’s one of the niches that I want to push my school into, in terms of really thinking about sports science and trying to get athletes prepared for games and tournaments.”
Searching for the most stable foundation to build on, former national elite athlete acquired help from the highest possible level during his first year running the class.
“When I first started the school, I brought in an elite-level coach from the Olympic Training Centre in Mexico, Erik Rodriguez, and he stayed with me for the first six months, so I could shadow him and see how he conducted his programme.
“He was our first main instructor; it was both of us working together, and I’ve been following a lot of the principles that he uses. He’s trained a lot of Olympic and World Champions.”
Since the brief apprenticeship, the academy has grown, hosted its own national competition last September, and also incorporated other combat sports into their programme, including boxing, grappling as well as tricking, which is an exhibition-based sport based on freestyle karate. Busy times.
Keep in mind however, that Breedy isn’t quite yet finished with the competition rostrum.
“One of my goals is still to continue competing when medical school is finished… if anything, I will be trying to go for Paris 2024, because I need a full Olympic cycle to get ready for that, and I’ll be finishing medical school in November, so I definitely don’t have time for 2020.”
In the mean time however, Breedy has been sharpening his coaching chops, as the school took home a bucket of medals after the National Taekwondo Championships last November. When the school started competing on the local circuit, Siobhan Rogers was his first-ever medallist in 2016, and two years later at the nationals 23 players competed, and 36 medals across the board were won, most notably the promising eight-year-old Taylor Mitchell who was a standout at the competition, andd whom he said won two medals as well as three performance awards, which bodes well for his plan to create an Olympic champion, and to create a number one-ranked athlete.
“I’m focusing a lot on athletic development,” he told The Sports Kiosk. “Taekwondo started as one of the key traditional martial arts… as most people know, it developed into an Olympic sport, and I feel that’s one of the niches that I want to push my school into, in terms of really thinking about sports science and trying to get athletes prepared for games and tournaments.”
So the athlete, who has been practising the Korean sport since the mid 2000s, still hasn’t given up on his quest to become only the third T&T athlete to compete in the sport at the Olympic Games, and intends to play his part whether he makes it to Paris in 2024, or trains the next athlete to Olympic success. However most importantly, Breedy really hopes to change the landscape of the local martial arts community with the example he has set.
“I hope that other young martial arts school owners who are interested in broadening the skills of their students, would (also) reach out to more styles,” he said. “Incorporating some of their training into their students’ programmes… you have to really expose them to other stressers to deal with real-life situations for one. Though their skill might be great in the sport of taekwondo, in our country where this such unfortunate violence and crime… you have to understand that you have to expose them to more stimuli.”
It’s a wait and see whether Breedy’s Olympic end game will come true, but with his determination and innovation displayed so far, sports fans in T&T could well be cheering on an athlete or two from the sport at the Paris Games in 2024.
The Edson Breedy Taekwondo Academy would like to thank Primordial Engineering and Consulting Limited, The Venus Clinic, The Brazil Link, KMA Craft Studios, HADCO, Yoplait, Mott’s Apple Juice for their support in 2018.