Andrew and Jason Hallgarth are quick studies.
Beginning their martial arts careers just three years ago at the Milford Martial Arts Academy, the pair of brothers not only qualified for the 2012 AAU National Championships in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., they excelled.
Andrew took home eighth-place in the 14 to 17-year-old division for sparring and Jason placed second in sparring and third in Poomse (forms) in the 18 to 32-year-old division.
“I try to keep them busy all the time,” the boys’ father Jay Hallgarth explained. “It’s been a journey where we were looking for a martial arts school and one opened up off of Route 131 in Milford. I just wanted them to get a taste of it and they both took it, just really enjoyed it. It started their path until they would get their black belts, which they both have now.”
Training under Master Paul E. Woodson and his Black Belt staff, the Hallgarth’s have demonstrated the concentration, determination and skill needed to compete at the highest levels.
“It’s been a lot of hard work for the last three years,” Andrew said.
Master Woodson explained the journey to that many people take to get to their black belts, but said that the Hallgarth’s drive and passion was rare.
“I’ve got two students, so that tells you about their work ethic,” he said, “I have the opportunity to have a whole bunch.
“I can get a little grumpy because I expect a lot. I know the reality of the learning curve, but I always push for the final destination. They endured and did pretty doggone good. They exceeded expectations, maybe even their own expectations.”
To get to Nationals, the Hallgarth’s had to go through regional qualifying tournament, in which they finished first and second in, allowing them to advance to Nationals.
In the six months leading up to the Nationals, the brothers would train four to five times a week.
Finally, the first week of July approached and the Hallgarth’s traveled to Fort Lauderdale to compete in their first National Championships on July 5 and 6.
For Andrew, at younger of the two brothers, his eighth place finish wasn’t all that impressive to him in the immediate aftermath. Admitting that he was a little disappointed with where he finished, his father and Master Woodson put it into perspective for him.
“Andrew finished eighth,” Master Woodson said. “He wasn’t really excited about that, but that’s eighth in the country. That’s pretty doggone good. If you’re eighth-best in your competition in the country, you’ve got to be pretty happy with that.”
Jason, at 18-years-old, was competing against people up to 14 years older than him. He was able to capture the silver medal in sparring and the bronze in Poomse.
“He can kick like a mule,” Jay Hallgarth said. “He fights and doesn’t give up no matter what. That’s probably been his biggest key to success. Early on in his career, when he was fighting he didn’t always fight until the end, he didn’t have enough gas. Master Woodson worked him really hard so that he has a lot of energy to get to the end of the fight and finish strong. That’s made the difference.”
Master Woodson put into perspective just how rare Jason’s feat was as well.
‘There’s 3,000 competitors from the United States and Puerto Rico there in 16 divisions,” he said. “Then you assume there might have been 40 gold medals, 40 silver and 40 bronze medal winners depending on weight divisions. There’s a lot more people not getting medals than there are getting them.”
The Hallgarth’s are planning to continue their marital arts careers and are even paying it forward by teaching martial arts at McCormick Elementary in Milford.
Outside of the dojo, Andrew is entering his sophomore year at Clermont Northeastern, while Jason works full-time at ABS Products in Sharonville doing printer and computer repairs.
Still, the brothers feel they have some unfinished business and will continue to compete in martial arts, hoping to better their stout finish at Nationals in 2012 with some more hardware in 2013 and beyond.