Years of hard work and discipline are coming to fruition this weekend for several members of Starkville's Naval Postgraduate School Taekwondo Association.
Beginning Friday in Atlanta, Ga., 10 individuals from Starkville will undergo testing to become either First, Second or Third Dan (black belt), as NPS Taekwondo celebrates 20 years of community service-based martial arts instruction.
"All of (the individuals testing) have shown an incredible amount of commitment, dedication and focus in preparing for this competition," said chief instructor Allen McBroom, whose group meets twice each week at Starkville's First United Methodist Church. "You have to reach really deep inside during this event and pull out something you didn't know you had."
Those testing in Atlanta include First Dan candidates Macin Horstemeyer, Mallory Horstemeyer, Keats Voges-Haupt, Beckett Voges-Haupt, Evan McBroom and Thomas McBroom; Second Dan candidates Stephen Horstemeyer and Hannah Horstemeyer; and Third Dan candidates Evelyn Hayes and David Harris.
All candidates will experience ongoing evaluations from taekwondo masters throughout the weekend, as well as be judged in sparring and the execution of forms.
As for the Starkville NPS Taekwondo members who will undergo this testing, most insist they are anxious, but ready and prepared.
"I'm going to be nervous because there are going to be a lot of people there," said Beckett Voges-Haupt. "I'm ready though. I hope I do good in the sparring and the forms."
Others say their nerves have been calmed thanks to class preparation.
"The past couple of weeks, we've been doing forms and things in front of the class and that has helped a lot," said Keats Voges-Haupt. "The very first time we did that, I messed up completely, but having practiced in front of people, I think has definitely helped."
David Harris says his strategy to combat his nerves is simply repetition.
"The key is just to go through the forms so many times that doing them right is the only way you know how to do it," said Harris.
While virtually all the candidates say they are experiencing at least a small bit of nervousness, their teacher is brimming with confidence.
Allen McBroom says he knows his students are prepared for the weekend and ready to live up to the club's motto – 'Ordinary people doing extraordinary things'.
"Each instructor takes their candidates personally," said Allen McBroom. "There's a lot of checks and balances before the candidates go. If we had any doubt about any one of them being prepared, being able to do what's asked of them and what's required, we wouldn't let them make the ride to Atlanta.
"We've told them all many times that they've basically already tested because they've passed our scrutiny here."
Allen McBroom's basis for confidence is well-founded as most of this weekend's candidates have been under his instruction for quite awhile.
"Some of these guys came into the program when they were just 4, 5 or 6-years-old," said Allen McBroom. "They have spent two to four hours a week (in class) practicing, depending on what our schedule was at the time. Plus they've practiced at home. We have a rule that you have to practice at least 30 minutes a day somewhere."
Due to the students' many hours of work and preparation, Allen McBroom feels it will be an incredibly special weekend for himself, Starkville NPS Taekwondo masters and club administrators Dr. David Dampier and Caryn Dampier, as well as the candidates themselves.
When the weekend's events are wrapped up, at least one candidate says he has a celebratory plan already in place.
"I'm going to get a cheeseburger," said Thomas McBroom.