She’s a silly 9 year old girl, but don’t let that fool you. When Faith Danna played kickboxing with her father William, he was the one who bowed to her because her 2nd black belt was higher than his.
“When that happened, she absolutely loved it,” said her mom Gretchen. Granted, William is a federal agent with a black belt in kung fu, but it’s Faith who shines in taekwondo, especially in pin stance.
Faith, a student at Glen Kirk Elementary School in Gainesville, tried many activities – including ballet, softball, swimming, tumbling, horseback riding and rock climbing – before finding her niche.
“Faith is a natural athlete, she started kickboxing when she was 3 years old,” Gretchen said. “When we recognized she had talent, we moved her to the American Tigers, where they could really support her. Now, it’s like a second home — we pretty much live there.”
In fact, Faith trains six days a week with the US Tigers. “Master Charlie was her main mentor,” Gretchen said. “Since 2019, she has participated in 14 major competitions, mostly gold medals, and very few silver and bronze.”
Faith finished second at the Poomsae Metro Open International in American kickboxing in Jersey City, NJ in December
A poomsae or form is a set of movements that are choreographed in a specific order, including basic poses, kicks, punches, and blocks, to help students master balance, coordination, and technique. Faith is the youngest member of the 12-man U.S. Tigers team.
“Each form is consistent and well known around the world,” Gretchen said. “Faith knows 18 different ones. The competition is fierce – each judge is looking at a different part of her body – her hands, feet, eyes, head, fingers, and then she gets a combined score.”
Although part of a team, in the competition, the contestants stand alone in front of the judges. Faith takes steps to prepare not only her body, but her mind as well.
“I had to clear my mind and focus before every game,” she said. “I was a little nervous when I started.”
Faith continued to train during the pandemic shutdown. “She surprised me,” Gretchen said. “For nearly eight months, in addition to private lessons, she also took classes via Zoom.”
Workouts include 10-finger pushups, knuckle pushups and incredible stretches – lots of splits on the wall, chairs, grips, and more, so she can stretch and relax, and kick over her head.
“I love everything about it,” Faith said. “With breaking and kicking techniques, I taught myself a one-handed cartwheel.”
What does the future hold for Faith? There are taekwondo competitions in the Olympics, but not pin stance.
“They’re begging Pins to compete in future Summer Olympics … but unfortunately, there are no guarantees,” Gretchen said. She noted that when Faith earned a fourth-level black belt, she would be considered a master. She was about 15 then and could start teaching. “Who knows, maybe she’ll be an Olympian.”
This article originally appeared in Gainesville Haymarket Lifestyle Magazine, published by InsideNoVa.