Maria Shaw, Christina Feraca, A.J. Munoz and Sage Brooks, four athletes from the Fayetteville-Fort Bragg community competed in the Taekwondo U.S. Open in Colorado Springs, Colo., in June.

Collectively, the foursome brought home nine gold medals, one silver medal, one bronze medal and one best spirit medal forever etching the community in the history books of the Taekwondo U.S. Open, Hanmadang.

Vowing not to be outdone by her son, who is also a Master instructor, Maria Shaw recently earned her 5th degree black belt.

Shaw, who volunteers her time in the taekwondo center, said teaching and learning from her students is the best thing about taekwondo.

She is also a licensed massage therapist who specializes in sports massage and has practiced Taekwondo since 1996.

By day Christina Feraca serves the community as an acute nurse navigator-case manager at Cape Fear Valley Hospital in Fayetteville. In the evenings, she sheds her hospital scrubs for a martial arts dobok and works out the day’s stressors in the U.S. Taekwondo Center as a Master Instructor, assisting other students.

Feraca is currently a 4th degree black belt, who has practiced Taekwondo for the last 23 years. She said she loves the art of taekwondo.

“It is about respect and confidence building,” said Feraca.

For A.J. Munoz, Taekwondo is all about maintaining confidence

“I like the confidence and strength it gives me to motivate myself to being the best person I can possibly be,” said Munoz, who is beginning her junior year of high school and aspires to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. She is currently a 2nd degree black belt and has practiced Taekwondo since 2009.

Sage Brooks, is a seventh grade honor roll student at Overhills Middle School.  As a self-proclaimed “Army Brat” he’s practiced taekwondo off and on in various states since he was three years old. And like most boys, he has played multiple sports, but his success always comes back to the art of taekwondo.

Brooks is currently a blue belt and has hopes of obtaining his black belt by the end of the school year. When asked what he likes most about taekwondo, “It’s fun and it’s a good workout,” Brooks said.

Brooks also has hopes of competing on both the world level and in the Olympics.  Champions in their own right, each of these athletes train under the direction of Grandmaster Myong Sok Namkung Mayes at the U.S. Taekwondo Center in Spring Lake. The center features athletes as young as three and those as old as 70, each challenging themselves to the art of Taekwondo.

Labeled a “living legend” by the Korean government, Mayes was the first, and is currently the only woman to attain the highest degree black belt in the world, 9th dan. She is recognized by the World Taekwondo Federation and her accolades include: four-time Korean National Champion (male and female); 1988 U.S. Olympic Head Coach; U.S. Coach of the Decade and 20 years as President of the North Carolina Taekwondo Association. Not only has Mayes impacted the lives of her students, but she has also trained many of Fort Bragg’s finest Soldiers.

As demonstrated by the plaques and coins displayed in her office, her work and service to the community is recognized and appreciated by many.

While the 2013 U.S. Open was an experience Shaw, Feraca, Munoz and Brooks will never forget.  The individual accomplishments of these four athletes are a reflection of their hard work and bring great pride to the U.S. Taekwondo Center family and the Fort Bragg community, as a whole.