Local man gets kick out of Taekwondo

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2001


PHOTO: William Cothren stands behind his students and the 72 trophies they won at the regional Taekwondo championships in Gretna on July 14. Of the 72 trophies taken home by the LaPlace based team, 20 were first place awards. Gianna Cothren, three time regional and world Blackbelt Grand Champion won the women’s third degree sparring championship. LAPLACE – William Cothren is doing what he loves, and he is getting paid to do it, too. As the owner, senior instructor, and namesake of William Cothren’s Taekwondo Plus Karate School, Cothren directs his students education in the 200-year-old Korean martial art known as Taekwondo. Cothren’s school is affiliated with the International Taekwondo Association. Cothren has been active in taekwondo for the past 13 years. He began studying at Art Monroe’s Taekwondo Plus in Gretna before establishing his own school in LaPlace three years ago. The ITA is a mostly American and English association of schools who share a major distinction between them and other martial arts styles. The certification program for instructors is one of the most rigorous and thorough in the world. According to Cothren, the ITA is the only martial arts program in the United States which requires instructors to recertify every year. “Without certification, you can’t teach,” said Cothren. To become a certified instructor, one has to complete an 18-month trial period during which one must teach a minimum of 250 classes. After that, one is eligible to test. In order to become an instructor at an ITA school, one must display a mastery of the physical, oral, and mental aspects of Taekwondo as well as passing a written test. Cothren said there is a zero tolerance for errors. One must past the physical test perfectly. The written test has to be at least 90 percent correct. And if the tester gets the sense at any point during the oral and mental tests that the apprentice instructor wouldn’t represent the school and the ITA appropriately, he or she can demand the apprentice continue their training instead of being given a pass. “My job as an ITA instructor is to ensure that they are ready to pass,” said Cothren. Cothren said he was very proud of Tim Sibley of Waggaman, who just passed his instructor test. Sibley is the first student of Cothren’s school to become a certified ITA instructor. While Sibley is a member of Cothren’s family of local Taekwondo practitioner, he isn’t the first member of Cothren’s family to become an ITA instructor. Cothren’s wife, Gianna, and daughter, Tiffany, are also certified instructors. Gianna Cothren, an environmental and civil engineering professor at the University of New Orleans, picked up honors of a different sort at the International Blackbelt Championships in June. Gianna won the championship. “It wasn’t hard to get my wife and daughter and son involved in Taekwondo,” said Cothren. “My son is too involved in extracurricular activities at Brother Martin but my daughter stays highly involved.” Cothren said his school practices Chang Hung Taekwondo, one of the traditional forms of the martial art. Each belt is divided into a lower and senior rank. To go up a rank, a student must demonstrate a number of techniques as well as attend a certain number of classes. Each test is different: students have to perform forms, break boards, while others have to show proficiency in sparring. Other students have to show mastery of Avoid, Release, and Control forms, or A.R.C. techniques. “The students learn wrist locks, grappling, and rolls. The idea is to create a total martial artist,” explained Cothren. “Traditionally, Taekwondo (artists) are thought as good at kicking (only). Within this organization we do it all. It’s all built into the program.” Cothren said one of the strengths of the ITA program is its copyrighted academic program. “The same curriculum is taught at all schools,” said Cothren. “We have a weekly topic cycle that we have to follow. That week we focus on each area. It’s extremely organized.” While they focus on one specific aspect of Taekwondo, the core aspects are not neglected. “That’s why being a certified instructor is such an important program. Like anything else, if you let down in one area, the whole house comes down.” Another advantage to the organization of the ITA is the closed tournament system which allows only members to participate. “(The closed tournament system) ensures safety, fairness, and judges quality. Only third to fifth degree black belts are judging.” The quality of instruction at Cothren’s school became evident at the regional taekwondo championships held in Gretna on July 14. Overall, Cothren’s school won 72 trophies, including 20 for first place, 11 second place finishes, 40 third places, and one fourth place. Gianna Cothren won the women’s third degree black belt sparring competition. And Cothren loves it. He quit his job at Waterford 3 three years ago, dug into his personal savings and opened up his school. In addition to teaching at his school, Cothren also gives motivational speeches and teaches physical education classes at local schools.