Other Roads: P.B.'s Taekwondo World Champ

Feb 06, 2008

“You can have all sorts of philosophical discussions on life, the universe, and everything, but if someone’s beating your face in, you’re pretty much focused on the present moment.”

—Tony Page

Tony Page delivers. This fact is what has made him an American Taekwondo Association World Champion, and holder of over a hundred other ATA regional and national titles. It’s what has allowed his martial arts school, the Black Belt Academy of Poplar Bluff, to flourish; it’s what propels his students to victory after victory in nationwide competition, year after year.

Now a 4th-degree black belt, Memphis-born Page graduated from Christian Brothers College with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1981. Relocation for an engineering-related job led Page to St. Louis in 1989; by 1992, the long-time martial artist had opened his first school for taekwondo. Within less than a year, Page had quit his “day job” and was devoting himself full-time to teaching at the new school. Nine years and one move later, Page established the Black Belt Academy in 2001.

One senses in Page a profound, natural drive to push himself to the limit in his chosen discipline; he suggests that the chief benefit of the many honors it’s brought him is only this: hard-won credibility in a highly competitive teaching field.

He says it is natural for prospective students to wonder, “Does Mr. Page have any credibility?” and then to decide, “Oh—he did this. He must be good”. Page admits that “it’s difficult to engage in something like humility while having to affirm your credibility,” but he’s quick to clarify that “accolades are ‘validators’, and not the goal itself”.

According to Page, the martial arts, unlike other athletic pursuits, explicitly “promote a value system, in addition to a training system. Some choose to embrace it, some don’t. It’s a ‘daily-living’ choice. We call it ‘black belt attitude'”.

Page says this attitude encompasses courtesy, loyalty, responsibility, honor, integrity, and self-control. He goes on to assert, by way of example, that the absence of such underpinnings spelled disaster for at least one well-known former champion: “Mike Tyson didn’t have these things to give him strength in a time of difficulty. No background, no basis to make the right decisions. He surrounded himself with people who made him comfortable, instead of people who told him what he needed to hear”.

It would appear that Page has little interest in entertaining students in their respective “comfort zones”. At the Academy, “Every person coming through the door has a self-improvement issue,” says Page. “In taekwondo you have to face your fears. You can get hurt. Testing is scary. Tournaments are scary. There are lots of opportunities for fear, and chances to overcome that.”

Part of the secret of Page’s own martial-arts success lies in his ability to tune out everything in creation save for the opponent immediately before him. In competition, philosophy and theory apply only toward the objective of an honorable triumph. Page puts it this way: “You can have all sorts of existential discussions on life, the universe, and everything, but if someone’s beating your face in, you’re pretty much focused on the present moment”.

The Black Belt Academy is located at 4885 West Boulevard, Poplar Bluff. For more information on how you or your children might learn to develop “black belt attitude”, visit the Academy, or call 785-5425.