By Bill Tamburrino
Nikolaus Arcaina will be in third grade in the fall and already has a first degree black belt in tae kwon do that he earned in second grade.
Tae kwon do is a Korean martial art resembling karate but also employs a wide range of moves.
It is extremely rare for a 7-year-old to earn a black belt in tae kwon do, according to his instructor, Jordan Nguyen.
“Nikolaus has been working with us for four years. He has advanced rapidly and has not had to sacrifice other sports. He still plays soccer, football and other sports but he has shown dedication in tae kwon do not common in students his age,” said Nguyen.
Taking tae kwon do was entirely Nikolaus’ idea.
“I saw a group of kids taking a class and it looked like fun so I asked my dad if I could try it,” said Nikolaus.
His dad, Fred, who at one time studied martial arts, thought it was a good idea even though Nikolaus was only 3 1/2. Fred is glad that he agreed because he has seen Nikolaus grow in areas other than tae kwon do.
“He became more confident at home and at school. He has learned to deal with people, adults in particular. He has improved his attention span and most importantly, he has learned respect and patience,” said the dad.
Nikolaus is not as precise as Fred when he explains what he feels are the benefits of tae kwon do.
“I like learning new things,” he said. When pressed for examples, Nikolaus listed different types of weapons, kicks, flips, and flexibility exercises. He said the most difficult aspect of tae kwon do is “performing some of the flips.”
Nikolaus is a very athletic individual. He demonstrated some of his tae kwon do moves, displaying his balance, quickness, flexibility and jumping abilities.
He is not just a one-sport kid. Nikolaus also plays flag football, soccer, basketball and would like to try lacrosse. Both of his parents have athletic backgrounds. His mom, Trish, played basketball and golfs. His dad is a golf professional and has played football, basketball, volleyball, and baseball. His brothers, Freddy and Aaron, also are athletic. Aaron is currently a sergeant in the army in Afghanistan. Freddy is a teacher/football coach at Eastlake High School.
Nikolaus explained that what one sees in martial arts movies is not always accurate. “Some of it is fake, some is real,” he said.
The competitions that Nikolaus attends are not like the ones portrayed in the “Karate Kid” movies.
“The competitions are controlled and protective equipment is worn,” Fred explained.
The father tries to help when he is asked.
“He basically uses me as a punching bag,” Fred said with a chuckle.
Nikolaus competes in traditional form, weapons form and creative form. The emphasis is always on form and control.
With his black belt came new responsibilities. Nikolaus is now a junior instructor. He loves competing in competitions and hopes to make tae kwon do a lifetime endeavor. His martial arts idol is Bruce Lee.
Nikolaus impressed a group of adults who watched him demonstrate his tae kwon do skills. One female senior citizen said after the demonstration: “He may be a tiger to you guys but he is adorable to us.”