NCHS Junior travels to Ireland for Martial Arts Competition
NCHS Junior travels to Ireland for Martial Arts Competition
May 3, 2017 | Yes Minded | When the school year ends on May 26, almost 15,000 NCISD students will head in all directions for summer vacation. But one of those students will be heading for a 4,507-mile trip to Ireland.
NCHS Junior Megan Thompson will travel to Killarney, Ireland Aug. 27 to Sept. 1 to compete in the World Competition for Martial Arts.
The upcoming world meet is Megan’s second overseas competition. In 2015, she advanced to the World Competition in Altea, Spain.
Megan also competed at the 2016 World Competition in Orlando which was much closer to home and gave her a chance to visit Universal Studios.
But this year’s competition gives Megan a chance to explore another country.
“I’m so excited for the sights, the people and getting to see my international friends who competed with me in Spain,” Megan says. “Going to Spain gave me the bug to travel. I’m itching to go back.”
But before Megan can relax and enjoy the beauty of Ireland, she’ll need to go back to the mat and remind her international friends why she earned another opportunity to compete with martial arts students from all over the world.
Watching Megan in competition, it’s easy to see how the 17-year-old has advanced so far.
When her number is called, she steps on the mat. Standing before the judges, Megan begins her routine with a very slow and respectful bow to the judges. She lifts her head, slowly straightens her back and takes a deep breath focusing on her next move.
Then for the next two minutes, Megan alternates with powerful kicks that could easily knock J.J. Watt off his feet, high leaps that seem to propel her in the air and punches that might shatter a brick.
Yet in the next moment, the 5’2” athlete stands on her toes and becomes a ballerina spinning a perfect pirouette before crossing the mat with graceful full-leg split in mid-air and ending in a beautiful arabesque with one foot planted on the ground and the other creating a perfect 180-degree angle.
In the final seconds of her routine, Megan stands at the corner of the mat before making a powerful run to the center and ending in a hands-free flip that lands her facing the judges who will critique her technique, power and intensity.
To the novice martial arts spectator, there might be confusion as to whether Megan competes in martial arts, ballet or gymnastics? The answer is all three.
“I actually competed in gymnastics for 12 years before I was drawn to martial arts,” Megan explains. “I enjoyed how martial arts blends karate and gymnastics.”
Megan participated in gymnastics from age three until she was 14 years old. During that time, she had the opportunity to train with Bela and Martha Karolyi at their Huntsville gymnastics camp. She also trained at the same gymnastics facility as Olympic Champion Simone Biles.
But Megan decided she wanted more than gymnastics allowed. That’s when she found martial arts.
“There are various forms of martial arts, but I compete in Traditional Form, Korean, Traditional Weapons and my favorite, Creative Form,” Megan explains. “I enjoy Creative Form because it’s a combination of karate and music. It’s a lot like the gymnastic events that use music with the routine. I guess it’s like karate with a beat.”
Once Megan set her sights on martial arts, it didn’t take long for her instructors to recognize her talent. She started learning karate in January of 2015 and two months later, her instructor encouraged her to compete for the USA World Team.
“I had to learn fast because it was already March and the trials were in May,” Megan recalls. “If I qualified, the finals were in October.”
Obviously, Megan is a fast learner because she breezed through the trials, advanced to the finals and then earned herself a spot on the USA Team heading to Spain.
“Spain was gorgeous,” she remembers. “The food was delicious. The architecture was amazing. We saw the most beautiful church with vaulted ceilings and beautiful arches.”
Being in a foreign country wasn’t frightening for Megan.
“I had no fear in Spain,” she admits. “We were all from different countries but we enjoyed hanging out together. None of us were afraid. We walked all over the city at night. I can’t wait for all of us to explore Ireland together.”
Megan is also looking forward to one of the traditions of World Championships -- exchanging team T-shirts.
“I’ve got T-shirts from Lebanon, Scotland, Germany, Wales and England,” she says. “I’m bringing at least five extra T-shirts to Ireland so I’ll have plenty to share. It’s really cool.”
Hopefully, Megan will share some of her T-shirts with her four older brothers and sisters. After all, their involvement in sports probably toughened up their little sister.
“All of my brothers and sisters were involved in sports in some way,” she said. “But my brothers keep reminding me that they can still take me down no matter how many trophies I win.”
Megan admits that her room is getting crowded with her martial arts trophies. But there is one trophy she is especially proud of.
“It’s my trophy for winning the Junior Warrior Cup at the American Association Meet in Chicago,” Megan says. “I guess that one is my most significant award.”
But Megan is quick to add that she would not be receiving the awards if not for her coaches and parents.
Megan’s first coach was Johnny Peavy at Kingwood Top Kick Karate. She credits him for getting her started in martial arts.
Her current coach is Rommel Gargoles whom she calls “Master G.”
“He is patient and kind and understands my limitations, but he pushes me to exceed those limitations,” Megan explains. “Master G believes in me.”
Another person who believes in Megan is her mother, Sheri Bush, who has taught in NCISD for 20 years.
“I have to admit that it broke my heart when Megan left gymnastics,” Ms. Bush admits. “But I’m so proud of how much she’s accomplished in martial arts.”
The role of the mother of a world class athlete is fairly simple, she adds.
“My job is to cheer her on and get her to where ever she needs to be.” Even if Megan needs to be 4,507 miles away.