For James Parmelee, martial arts began as a hobby. His passion for the sport translated that hobby into a way to give back to the community. Since he was in second grade, Parmelee worked hard in a martial arts class sponsored by the Hernando County Recreation Department. That hard work sparked a dedication that translated directly into his advancement as a third-degree black belt in tae kwon do.
"(Tae kwon do) helped me in so many ways," Parmelee said. "It helped to control my emotions, and I have a better life because of it."
When he felt he had learned as much as he could in that class, he transferred to the Regis Lima Martial Arts Studio last year. Master Regis Lima hoped to bring out the potential in Parmelee, and so far, he believes they have only scratched the surface.
"There's still so much that James can do," Lima said. "He loves martial arts and he loves working with kids — it's a great combination."
His potential relies both on skill and on Parmelee's love of teaching younger students. While he continues to work with Lima when possible, he spent much of his time on the mat at Kennedy Park in Brooksville this summer, helping to teach summer camp students with master Simeon Kinard.
"Some (youths) have (difficulty) learning," Parmelee said, "and I really enjoy the inspiration I can give a young kid."
His skills have been exhibited on larger stages already, including at this year's Florida AAU State Tae Kwon Do Championships in Orlando. Parmelee qualified for the National AAU Championships and the Junior Olympics by earning a silver medal in the Male Black Belt Unlimited Division with a score of 172 points.
He did not take advantage of those potential berths at the larger tournaments because of his prior agreement to assist in instructing beginning martial artists at the summer camp. His word to give his time this summer was more important to him than taking the trip to Madison, Wisc., for the AAU National Tae Kwon Do Championships in July.
"You have to admire that about James," Lima said. "He did very well at the state competition, but he chose to live up to his commitment — most kids his age don't have that kind of maturity."
Next year, the AAU National Tae Kwon Do Championships will be held in Fort Lauderdale, making the trip a little more feasible for the up-and-coming martial artist. Still, he doesn't regret not being able to attend this year's tournament.
"I know I wasn't completely ready for that type of tournament yet," Parmelee said. "So I can get better this year and more qualified for the next chance I get."
Although he only attends class with Lima on a part-time basis, the local instructor plans on having Parmelee on a regular basis.
Eventually, college seems to be in his future, but that won't deter him from continuing his progress in tae kwon do. He's now a high school senior, and his mentors believe Parmelee has a long way to go in the sport.
"He has something going for him that you don't see a whole lot of," Lima said. "He could become a great instructor someday because he knows how and loves to work with kids."
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