Monday, March 23, 2009

Tae Kwon Do Instructor to United States Marine

Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar
Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar/Lance Cpl. Jesse Leger

Kicking and punching his way to five international martial-arts championships, Justin now continues his training in the Marine Corps.

Lance Cpl. Justin T. Stewart has 13 years of training in Korean martial-arts and just about two years as a United States Marine.

Stewart, 20, was born in Augusta, Ga., but moved to Jackson, Miss. only two years later because his mother was a traveling nurse, whose contract bound them into moving often.

“I was always into Batman, Ninja-Turtles and of course the Power Rangers, so my parents thought [martial-arts] would be good for me,” said Stewart.

When Stewart turned five he went to his first martial-arts class.

“Little did I know then, that it would be a huge part in my life,” he said.

Tae Kwon Do is the martial-arts path he followed, which translated means, ‘the art of kicking and punching.’

In 2001, he moved to Meridian, Miss. where he found the International Tae Kwon Do Alliance (ITA).

He trained with the ITA and traveled to Houston, Texas where he became a certified martial-arts instructor.

Though he studied with multiple Tae Kwon Do federations as he moved around with his mother, his passion for martial-arts never faded. By the time he was 16, Stewart had already become a 2nd degree black-belt and traveled to Seoul, South Korea with one of his instructors to train with the World Tae Kwon Do Federation.

After returning from Seoul, his mother’s contract sent them to Riverside, Calif.
“I stayed in the ITA, I just trained with a different instructor because the organization has schools all over the country,” said Stewart.

He trained with that instructor for only six months before he was able to test for his 3rd degree black-belt.

At 17 years old and a senior in high school, his mother’s contract moved them to Rio Rancho, N.M. where, since there was no ITA school around, he trained with the Action International Martial-Arts Association until his early graduation in December 2006.

After graduating he moved to Corona, Calif. on his own to start teaching full-time at a studio where he used to train.

Working at the studio for almost a year, Stewart decided he wanted to see the world. After a few encouraging words from his brother who is in the Marine Corps, he decided to join the service as an infantryman. He now serves as part of Scout Sniper Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“He is very good [at Tae Kwon Do] and gets as much support from his parents as he does from the platoon,” said Sgt. Jonathan F. Herrera, assistant team leader, Scout Sniper Platoon, BLT 1/1, 13th MEU.

“The Marine Corps has challenged me both mentally and physically which, in turn, has made me a better martial-artist,” said Stewart.

He spends his time working out on his own to refresh his techniques and also practices Tae Kwon Do by teaching the art to his peers.

“He has become a valuable addition to our platoon,” said Herrera. “He has shown us a few of the basic fundamentals of Tae Kwon Do, which we can mix in with MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program).”

Though Stewart is an asset to his platoon and the Marine Corps, he does not plan to make it a career.

“I will not reenlist because of the fact I’m a martial-artist at heart and miss it too much, but I will continue to better myself and my techniques in the Marine Corps until that time comes,” said Stewart.

Developed by his passion and heart, Stewart said his inspiration to succeed, in both Tae Kwon Do and the Marine Corps, comes from a famous Chuck Norris quote.

“There are no limits for the person who refuses to accept them.”

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