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16-year-old black belt serves as a role model

CARMEL VALLEY – Local Taekwondo champion Julia Pian, 16, will be performing at the first ATA (American Taekwondo Association) Martial Arts Invitational in traditional weapons on Oct. 21. The event is part of the 2011 Fall Nationals in Orlando, and will be broadcast live on via the Internet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. PT.
Julia is a third-degree black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. In 2006, at 6-years-old, she began studying under the direction of Trish Church, owner, Church’s Martial Arts.
The following year, Julia won the California State Championship in sparring, girls division, color belt range.
“She has a tremendous work ethic and never gives up,” Church explained. “Julia has embraced sparring and teaching and is a great role model. I ask my students what they want to be when they grow up. One girl said, ‘I want to be just like Julia.’”
Julia’s mother, Kar Beck Pian, once contemplated arranging martial arts lessons for Julia “like piano lessons,” she said.
The issue became a priority in February 2002 when seven-year-old Danielle VanDam was abducted from her Poway home and murdered.
“As a parent, you are always concerned,” Kar Beck Pian said. “Julia is definitely more aware of her surroundings and I am grateful that she has some training.”
There are other rewards, too.
“It’s given Julia an opportunity to grow, to develop leadership and teaching skills and, most important, to give back to the community,” she said. “She also learned how to manage her time.”
That’s become important since Julia began her freshman year at Harvard University.
“I just loved every moment in Taekwondo class,” she recalls. “It teaches you discipline and integrity which applies to many different facets of life. It’s really empowering to know these set of skills.”
She adds that developing a “black belt attitude” has served her particularly well.
“A black belt attitude is approaching something that is fun with the view that you are going to try as hard as you can, and be respectful and happy with the knowledge that you gave it your all,” she said. “You are ready to devote yourself to whatever it is you want to do, and you will succeed.”
Julia started teaching at 11, and is looking forward to returning to Church’s school this summer as an instructor.
“I’ve reversed roles,” she said. “My instructors taught me so much, and gave me so many good times, and now I am able to give back my knowledge to girls so they can enjoy the sport as I have.”
Julia also has the luxury of being able to sit on her laurels. She won’t be able to test for her fourth-degree black belt until she reaches the age of 18.
Meanwhile, she enjoys her classes at Harvard and is keeping her options open in choosing a major. She also relishes those occasions when she runs into hometown friends on campus, and shares a bite to eat in the school’s dining hall.
Julia admits that the invitation to appear on ESPN3 took her completely by surprise.
“I was shocked and it was truly an honor,” she said. “This is the first time ESPN has covered an event like this and I am very excited to both perform and see the other competitors again.”
Trish Church has produced many other champions including Julia’s major competitor, coincidentally Church’s niece, Alexa Rodrigues.
“The two girls trained side-by-side,” Church said. “They compete with each other, but there is a camaraderie where they care about each other.”
She explained that Alexa recently took a year off from competition, and instead went to events to support Julia.
“After one event Alexa had tears in her eyes and said, ‘She won it all!’ and she was so proud. The relationship between the two girls is amazing.”
This year, 19 of Church’s students have already won world titles.
For more information about Church’s Martial Arts, visit or call (760) 519-5095.