Nine-year-old Nora Potter won the South Atlanta Open martial arts tournament with a broken toe in September. Her brother James, 6, won six first place trophies and a second place trophy at the Diamond Nationals in Minneapolis in October.
The Potter children have won several tournaments locally and nationally after just one year of competition. James and Nora are the children of two martial arts teachers from Trussville: Will and Heather Potter, owners of Birmingham Martial Arts, which recently expanded to Vestavia Hills.
James and Nora have been practicing martial arts, especially Tang Soo Do – a Korean form of karate – since they were barely toddlers, Heather said.
They have continuously found success in competitions in tournaments. Nora won the Grand Champion title in her previous tournament and took first place in a tournament in June. James has competed in two North American Sports Karate Association tournaments and won five of the 10 ProMac karate tournaments.
James was adopted in South Korea when he was 2, Heather said. Soon after, Heather and Will realized that James was not like other kids her age. “He could do push-ups and put his foot in the air and hold it. We were like, ‘This is not normal,’ ”said Heather. He started gymnastics at the age of 3 and did gymnastics intermittently before starting private lessons, she said.
“He could do cartwheels when he was 4, he started doing backhand jumps at the age of 5, he can now do a rounded rear spring and is working on his circular fold.” , Heather said. They both realized that he was more advanced physically than other children his age.
James watched YouTube videos of professional athlete Tyler Weaver performing creative / extreme forms – martial arts presentations performed with music – and was mesmerized by him.
“James would look at him and say, ‘I want to be Tyler Weaver,'” Heather said.
Nora’s older sister, Amelia, started training in martial arts at the age of 3. Will and Heather hadn’t planned on letting Nora start until she was 3, but she wanted to attend classes with her sister. “Nora had a nervous breakdown every class her sister went to because she wanted to take classes too,” Heather said.
Heather said she finally gave in and let Nora start when she was 2.5 years old, but wasn’t able to test any other belts until she was older.
Heather said it was harder for Nora to compete regionally. Nora went from winning at local tournaments to third and fourth at the national level, she said.
“She entered that super regional level as an advanced belt so a lot of other kids she competed with had competed at that level since they were. [James’] age, ”Heather said.
Nora started sword training with Jewelliana Ramos Ortiz, a martial artist and stunt actress playing in the upcoming movie “Power Rangers: Dark Unity”, so she would be on par with the other kids.
Although Nora and James compete in tournaments, Heather said, they are only two of three out of 400 Birmingham martial arts students to participate.
“We just had a meeting for potential people who want to start competing like them, and we’re looking at a squad of maybe only 10, so that’s a very small subset of our population and not a big part. of what our school is focused on, ”Heather said.
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