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Black Belt's Boy Wonder

Ten-year old wins gold at Taekwondo World Championships

Posted: July 15, 2008 12:31 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Lorenzo Rangel-Santos, a 10-year old, practices at the Black Belt Academy in Valencia. Rangel-Santos won gold in his fourth American Taekwondo Association World Championships.

Whirling kicks, pick ax-like weapons and a black belt are part of the exciting universe of Taekwondo.

One would think these attributes would describe a wise karate instructor or a martial arts movie star.

One would be wrong, however.

Lorenzo Rangel-Santos, a 10-year-old with a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, won a gold medal in traditional weapons, after he competed in the annual American Taekwondo Association World Championships in Little Rock, Ark.

The young man trains at the Black Belt Academy in Valenica.

Using sang nats - imagine two miniature versions of the Grim Reaper's sickle - Rangel-Santos broke a tiebreaker against a competitor, who used nunchuks.

He used traditional kamas, which have edged metal at the end of the blades.

"It was very nerve-wracking," Rangel-Santos said at Gavin Espinoza's Black Belt Academy. "I knew I'd get over my freestyle. That's my favorite weapon, you can do a lot of tricks with it."

Freestyle is when a student's moves are choreographed. Rangel-Santos performed more than such 80 moves.

"They have 20 seconds to do the thing they do that's unique to them," Espinoza said. "They can twirl with their thumbs, between their legs, they've caught their weapons behind their backs."

Thew boy's father, Les Rangel-Santos, drives the fourth-grader and his older brother Daniel from Woodland Hills to the academy in Valencia on a regular basis.

Lorenzo Rangel-Santos also won a silver medal in extreme open hand forms, and he tacked on bronze medals to his haul in extreme weapons, traditional forms and his favorite category - sparring.

In his fourth ATA World Championship, Rangel-Santos grabbed the gold.

In the extreme categories, students perform to music of their choice.

They win points from judges and get the crowd pumped. Presentation, focus, skill and difficulty are part of the judges' criteria.

"He's definitely one of the fastest-rising kids here in our studio," Espinoza said. "He wants to be better than Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Most kids say, ‘I want to be as good as them', he wants to be even better.

He's a humble kid. He doesn't brag about it."

Rangel-Santos is also a first-year member of the traveling World Demo Team.

In Alltel Arena in Little Rock, Ark., the team put on a 45-minute presentation. They have been to places like Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla.

"We did a lot of tricks," Rangel-Santos said. "We throw a lot of things."

The student began learning at age three years, 10 months old under Espinoza and his instructors at an old studio at Canoga Park.

Four years ago, Black Belt Academy consolidated under one roof in Santa Clarita.

There are plans in place for another studio in Stevenson Ranch.

"It was a long journey," Rangel-Santos said. "I really think it could improve my life. I improved how to defend myself."

Rangel-Santos said he has not had to use his skills outside of competition, like against a potential
kidnapper or against anyone near his home or school. He likes to draw, swim and do extreme moves.

The next main competition for Rangel-Santos is a black belt only one, set for Jan. 30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.


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