Guilderland martial artists win national medals

GUILDERLAND — Every time Bridget Clancy goes to Guilderland Martial Arts to practice her taekwondo, it feels like a family reunion.

Clancy participates with her younger sister, Meghan, and sometimes their mother attends.

Out of the nine Guilderland Martial Arts students who competed at the USA Taekwondo Nationals two weeks ago in Chicago –– coming back with two Gold medals and four Bronze –– six are related to another student in some way.

“We got treated like they knew us already,” Bridget Clancy, 13, said this week, remembering her initial Guilderland Martial Arts experience. “It’s a very comfortable place, and everyone has great character.”

Master Robert Rice, who moved to Guilderland in 2006 to teach math at Farnsworth Middle School, opened his business in 2007. He currently teaches his son, Mete. His other son, Emre, is a coach. Also, Mr. Rice’s sister, Christine Clark, runs the business side of Guilderland Martial Arts.

Michael Stafford, who won Bronze at Nationals for sparring, participates with his sister, Michelle.

“We have a family focus here, and it works out well,” Rice said. “Whole families come in quite a bit, so it’s good to have parents who understand what’s going on. Taekwondo is a physical thing, but not a huge time commitment. It’s character enrichment.”

This year was the first time students went to USA Taekwondo Nationals since Rice opened his dojo. All nine students finished in the top 10 of their respective divisions, which had anywhere from 30 to 80 competitors.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” said Rice. “I’m most proud of the work they put in to prepare. Taekwondo isn’t a team sport, but we feel like a team. There were some late hours, and some early hours, too.”

Over 4,000 competed at Nationals. Rice said that, if one of his students wasn’t competing, then they were watching another student perform. “They spent the whole day watching their teammates,” he said. “It felt really great. They showed great character, even out on the town.”

The competing kids and their families saw fireworks on July 4 at Millennium Park, visited Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), and always ate dinner as a large group. The trip to Chicago was self-funded.

“We have this togetherness,” Master Rice said. “It really was a dream come true.”

The Nationals had four different competitions –– kata (forms), weapons, board-breaking, and sparring.

Bridget Clancy won a Gold medal in weapons, and so did Rice. Anthony Cusato and Clancy won Bronze in kata and Nicole Teaney won Bronze in weapons.

Clancy uses a bo staff, short for “ishibo,” which is a stick as long as she is tall, for her weapons demonstration. “When I started out, I just picked up a stick off the ground and started playing around with it,” she said. “At first, I did taekwondo to protect myself, but, now, I do it for fun with my friends.”

Rice told The Enterprise that Clancy is really good at executing moves with the bo staff. On Tuesday, she was swirling the bo with purpose. Meanwhile, Teaney charmed with her Asian fans.

“Discipline, self control, focus, and quality all relate to life in general,” said Rice. “Even if you’re not being watched, you should do the right thing.”

Clancy’s younger sister, Meghan, who placed sixth in kata at Nationals, looks up to her sister. Taekwondo has made their relationship better because they’re spending more time together.

The Clancys focus on fundamentals, just as Rice teaches.

“Yeah, I learn from Bridget,” said Meghan, 10. “She doesn’t get mad or cry. We both go with the flow.”