Kari Taffi, ranked fourth nationally, choreographs her own routines in Extreme Tae Kwon Do. This 10-year-old teaches two classes a week and competes four to five times a year.

Bridge City resident Kari Taffi, 10, is ranked fourth nationally in Tae Kwon Do for her age group.

The International Tae Kwon Do Alliance released the rankings based on her performance in 2007.

Only contestants ranked with a Black Belt are eligible to be in the top 10. Ranking is based on points earned in the national competitions. A first place earns 15 points, second place is 10 points, and third place is five points. The points accumulate through the year and the highest totals at years’ end are ranked in the top ten in each division.
Kari has been taking classes for three and a half years and has made remarkable progress. She competes four to five times a year in national competitions and has also competed in international competitions.

She competes in Extreme, Traditional, and Sparring categories.

In Extreme, she must develop and choreograph all her moves. The Extreme competition is more acrobatic than the traditional competition. In the Sparring competition she will have one-on-one physical contact with an opponent in her age group. The Traditional competition is the one most familiar.

Thus far in her career, she has won five first place gold medals, three second place silver medals and two third place bronze medals.

She is currently a Level Four, First-Degree Black Belt. To achieve this level, she has earned ten belts of color. Her 11th belt is the Black Belt. There are nine levels of the Black Belt rank.

Kari is an instructor trainee and teaches two classes, plus takes two classes each week. She has also begun classes in Jiu Jitsu and attends one class each week. To achieve her instructor rank she must be 12 years old and have learned to teach 10 different forms.

In July she will go to Houston to compete in her first national competition of the year.
Kari is a fourth grade student at St. Mary’s School in Orange and maintains an A average. She is active in her church activities and participated in the Christmas program for the Catholic Daughters fundraising. She is also an altar server.

She competes in soccer with the Orange County Soccer League and plays basketball in the Upward Basketball League at First Baptist Church in Orange.

“We are very proud of all that Kari has accomplished. She is a very hard worker and is focused on her goals,” said her mother, Malinda Taffi.

Kari is a student at the Orange Tae Kwon Do Academy. She is the youngest student at the academy to achieve national ranking. Other nationally-ranked students are Roman Sandacz, a student of two years and a student at West Orange-Stark Middle School. Roman is ranked third Place in Traditional in the Super Junior First Degree Black Belt Division.

Devon Lestage is currently ranked third in Sparring in the Super Junior First Degree Black Belt Division. Devon is a student at Orangefield.

Aaron Thibodeaux, a student at Little Cypress-Mauriceville, is ranked fifth in Traditional Forms in Super Junior Second Degree Black Belt Division.

Adults from the Orange Academy who are nationally ranked are Ron Borel, ranked 2nd Place in Traditional Forms and 2nd in Sparring in the Men’s 2nd Degree Black Belt Division.

Elyse Thibodeaux is in First Place in Traditional Forms in the Women’s Second Degree Black Belt Division.

Ryan Cedars is ranked fourth in Traditional Forms in Adult Men’s Fourth Degree Black Belt Division.

Cedars is also the leading instructor at the Orange Academy. He said “there are three main competitions per year where points are earned. There are as many as 5,000 contestants in all divisions at each competition.”

The Orange Tae Kwon Do Academy teaches Brazilian Defense and Hanmudo, the art of working with Samurai swords. All three areas of Tae Kwon Do are also taught. There are eight Tiger Team Instructors. These are instructors that hold a Blue Belt or higher ranking. They are working with the goal of becoming an instructor trainee. The academy has 13 Trainee Instructors and six certified Instructors.

Cedars said, “I could let any of the certified instructors hold classes if I needed to be away for a short time; they are very qualified. We have a very friendly program here and people are very willing to help each other.”

The Orange Tae Kwon Do Academy has been teaching in its current Green Avenue location for 20 years. “We are always taking in new students and have a summer program that will start shortly. We currently have 230 students,” Cedars said.

For information about the academy, contact Ryan Cedars at 409-886-7077 or go to the website tkdtexas.com