Faith-ful: Gainesville 9-year-old excels at taekwondo | Headlines

She’s a giggly girl at 9 years old, but don’t let that fool you. When Faith Danna and her father, William, do taekwondo together, it is he who bows to her because she holds the higher rank of second-degree black belt to his first-degree black belt.

“She absolutely adores it when that happens,” said her mom, Gretchen. Granted, William is a federal agent with a black belt in kung fu, but it is Faith who shines in taekwondo, specifically poomsae.

Faith, a student at Glenkirk Elementary School in Gainesville, sampled many activities – including ballet, softball, swimming, tumbling, horseback riding and rock climbing – before finding her niche.

“Faith is a natural athlete and was 3 when she began taekwondo,” Gretchen said. “When we recognized she had a talent, we moved her to US Tigers where they could really support her. Now, it’s like a second home – we practically live there.”

In fact, Faith trains six days a week at US Tigers. “Master Charlie is her main instructor,” Gretchen said. “Since 2019, she has entered 14 big competitions, placing mostly gold with a few silver and bronze.”

In December, Faith finished second in the US Taekwondo Poomsae Metro Open International in Jersey City, NJ

Poomsae, or forms, is a set of choreographed movements in a particular sequence consisting of fundamental stances, kicks, punches and blocks to help students master balance, coordination and technique. Faith is the youngest member of the 12 person US Tigers poomsae team.

“Each form is consistent and known worldwide,” Gretchen said. “Faith knows 18 different ones. Competition is serious – each judge is looking at a different part of the body – her hands, feet, eyes, head, fingers, and then she receives a combined score.”

Though part of a team, at the competitions participants are by themselves in front of the judges. Faith takes steps to prepare not only her body but her mind.

“I have to clear my mind and just focus right before each competition,” she said. “I get sort of nervous when I begin.”

During the pandemic closures, Faith kept training. “She amazed me,” Gretchen said. “For almost eight months she did classes via Zoom in addition to private lessons.”

Training includes 10-finger pushups, knuckle pushups and an unbelievable amount of stretching – lots of splits on the wall, on a chair, holding techniques and more, so she can be stretched and loose and can kick over her head.

“I like everything about it,” said Faith. “There are breaking and kicking techniques, and I taught myself a one-handed cartwheel.”

What’s in store for Faith’s poomsae future? There is taekwondo competition at the Olympics, but that does not include poomsae.

“They are petitioning for poomsae to come to the future summer Olympics… but there are unfortunately no guarantees,” Gretchen said. She noted that when Faith attains her fourth-degree blackbelt, she will be considered a master. At that point she will be around 15 years old and can begin teaching. “And who knows, maybe she’ll be an Olympian.”

This article originally appeared in the Gainesville Haymarket Lifestyle Magazine, published by InsideNoVa.

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