Taekwondo leaves Ara living the American Dream

Posted 7/19/19

SILER CITY — Taekwondo has been a part of Antonio Ara’s life since the age of 9.

It was then that the Cancun, Mexico, native began studying and practicing what is one of the oldest forms of …

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Taekwondo leaves Ara living the American Dream

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SILER CITY — Taekwondo has been a part of Antonio Ara’s life since the age of 9.

It was then that the Cancun, Mexico, native began studying and practicing what is one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world since its origination more than 2,000 years ago in Korea.

Thirty-six years later, at age 45, almost every aspect of Ara’s life is interwoven with Taekwondo, and has left the 1999 International Bantam Weight champion living the American Dream.

Ara began taking Taekwondo for family reasons — protecting his older brother, who tended to frequently get into fights on the soccer field.

“My brother always seemed to get into fights on the soccer field,” laughed Ara. “So naturally, I would always try to protect and help him. One day I tried to push a guy away from my brother, and he turned and ran after me. I ran away and decided I needed to find a way to protect my brother and myself, and Taekwondo provided that opportunity.”

It didn’t take long for Ara to fall in love with the martial art, and success followed soon thereafter and only continued as the years passed.

Ara was honored by being selected for the Olympic Trials of the Mexico Taekwondo team at the age of 18, making him an International Olympic Competitor.

That training led to Ara winning the 1999 International Bantam Weight title in Raleigh.

“My goal was always to compete to win, and I went through a lot of intense training,” said Ara, who credited Mentor Grandmaster Sang Ho Lee for so much of his success. “For me it’s just such a part of my life that its like a daily routine.”

Ara moved to Charlotte later in 1999, and then to the Triangle area where he began teaching Taekwondo at the famed White Tiger School in Cary, the largest in the United States with more than 800 students at any given time.

That professional business opportunity inspired Ara to start his own school, which led to his current business, the AFE TKD Martial Arts The Best of Siler City Academy. Located in the former Elder Printing Building on U.S. Hwy. 64, the facility gives Ara plenty of room to host competitions as well as teach classes for what is now approaching 100 students.

With Taekwondo such a part of his life and family, the AFE stands for Antonio, his wife Fatima (a personal fitness trainer) and his rising 6th-grade daughter Eli, a 2nd Dan Blackbelt.

“It’s a family business, and my daughter has been a part of it since she was small and now competes and helps me with classes,” Ara said. “Taekwondo is not just about kicking and punching, but also about life skills and discipline and its valuable for her and all the other students to learn regardless of their age.”

And the age groups are of a wide variety, beginning with the Little Ninja Class which features tots ages 3 to 5, followed by the 6 to 12 age group, and a 13 & older age group. The school is open Monday through Saturday with students signing up to come three times a week at the minimum, while many come more.

Ara has even started a Black Belt Leadership Program as well, for students who come every day. This group does extra one-on-one training as well as a lot of extra events such as a trip to the Greensboro Aquatics Center which Ara rented out just for his students in that group this week.

The AFE Academy has future International competitions planned for Cancun, as well as Seoul, South Korea.

Most recently Ara took students to compete in the 2019 State Games of North Carolina for the sixth year in a row and had 10 members medal.

“I’m very proud of them and the courage that they showed at the State Games,” said Ara. “It was a great experience for them and they opened up a little bit and came back with more confidence and determination.”

While Taekwondo is obviously the king of the hill when it comes to Ara and his family-owned-and-operated business, it’s just part of what is offered at the facility.

“We also offer kickboxing, yoga, an afterschool program, bounce house rentals, birthday party space rentals, wedding space rentals, private self defense training,” he said. “We try to utilize all the space of the facility and to offer something for everyone.”

For more information about the school access www.afetkd.com on the web, AFE TKD Martial Arts The Best of Siler City on Facebook, or call 919-799-7500.


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