By Mickey Winfield, PNT Staff Writer
Keene Brown is like most 13-year-old boys. He works hard in school, helps his family on the farm and loves annoying his older sister.
But there’s something different about this Portales boy — something revealed by that dark length of cloth wrapped around his waist.
Keene is a first-degree black belt Taekwon-Do student of instructor Steve Blakeley’s Portales Taekwon-Do class, and as impressive as that rank is, he’s got company living within the walls of his own home.
“I’m the second highest ranking in the family,” Keene said. “Audra is the only higher rank than me.”
Audra Brown is Keene’s 18-year-old sister, and his mother, Linda, will be testing for her black belt this summer.
“He’s been raised around Taekwon-do. Before he could even walk, he was sitting in Taekwon-do classes. So he basically had about three years or so of watching classes before he even walked out on the floor,” Blakeley said.
Audra will travel with three other students to the International Taekwon-Do Federation’s world championships late this summer.
This will be Brown’s second time at the ITF world championships, she earned a bronze medal in the breaking competition in South Korea in 2005, meaning she was the third best in the world in that event.
“I’ve got a lot of training left,” Audra said. “I trained quite a bit for the qualifiers, but now that I’ve qualified I’ll kick up the training. I’m going to try to work out five days a week and we’ll try to work it where I’m peaking in August.”
Brown joins Mark Yoesting, Danielle Houston and John Bridges on the trip to England for the competition set to begin on Aug. 1.
Blakeley explained that since it is not currently an Olympic sport, this is the world’s top Taekwon-Do competition.
“We just basically sent four people to the Olympics. I don’t know of too many towns the size of Portales that have ever done that,” Blakeley said. “They’ve all got an additional drive that my other students don’t have,” Blakeley said.
“Three people going from a small town such as this, that’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Audra Brown said.
Keene, however, missed out on qualifying.
“It was a good experience,” Keene said. “For my first time I figured I did pretty good and it gave me a lot of experience to get ready for it next time.”
“He’s still very young. He’s small for his (age),” Blakeley said. “So that’s been a detriment. In a competition when you’re fighting other people, size does make a difference — especially if they’ve got the same skills you do.”
But Blakeley also says that Keene can turn that into a positive as he progresses through the sport.
“He was as young as he could possibly be and go and compete,” Blakeley said. “So he’s going to have some real advantages when he comes on down to another two or three years.”
“I’m real proud of him because he did excellent at the qualifier,” Audra said of her little brother. “It’s real nice because I’ve seen him progress. I saw him when he started and he’s improved so much in the last two years. When he was training for the qualifiers he improved so much.”
The Portales group headed for England estimate that they’ll need about $3,000 each for their trip in August, and plan on holding several fund raisers in the next couple months to defray the cost.
“We had very good support in 2005 when we went to South Korea,” Blakeley said. “We had about four months last time to prepare, this time we’re only going to have a couple of months to get the money raised.”