MATTHEWS, NC – Sixteen-year-old Sean Laloan has accomplished something few kids his age can claim: the rank of 4th Dan Kukkiwon Black Belt in the martial art of taekwondo.
Taekwondo is an ancient Korean martial art. Dating back over 2000 years, it is recognized as one of the oldest forms of martial art in the world. “4th degree black belt is a master in taekwondo,” explains Sean, who earned the rank at just 14 years old. “I was excited because I’m one of the youngest masters I know. It was something I‘ve looked into since I was a young kid and looking up to my dad, to be a master just like him.”
The son of Master five-time US National and US Open Champion and US Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee Justin Laloan, it might seem like taekwondo is in Sean’s blood. But the reality is that Sean trained for over a decade to reach such a prestigious rank.
“I started in taekwondo at two-and-a-half or three,” recalls Sean. “My dad got me into it. Back then, it was really fun for me to pretend I was a Ninja Turtle or the Karate Kid!”
Nowadays, Taekwondo is more than fun and games for Sean, who boasts a remarkable list of accomplishments for someone so young. He’s the current Junior Pan American Champion, a tournament for all the countries in the Western Hemisphere. “Knowing I’m the best on this side of the world is a big motivator,” says Sean. He also recently competed at the Junior World Championships in Sophia, Bulgaria. Although he didn’t medal, the competition it helped him boost his sparring rank to #3 in the world.
Ultimately, Sean has his hopes set on the Olympics, possibly as early as 2024. Taekwondo made its Olympic debut as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Games and was officially added to the Olympic programme in the 2000 Sydney games. Taekwondo is one of only two Asian martial arts in Olympic competition.
A junior at Porter Ridge High School, Sean hopes to have a long Olympic career! He’s also aspires to join the US Army’s World Class Athlete Program, which allows top-ranked soldier-athletes to perform at the international level while serving their nation in the military. In fact, Sean already trains in Colorado with with the US Army and the current Olympic taekwondo coach.
Sean trains at Achieve Martial Arts in Matthews, where he also works teaching kids, just like his dad Justin. When he’s not training or teaching, Sean likes to stay active working out and playing basketball.