Category Archives: Success Stories

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Craig Kimbrel

Category : Success Stories


     “Taekwondo gave Craig the self-discipline and confidence to achieve.” – Sandy Kimbrel

     Previously with the Atlanta Braves, Craig is now a relief pitcher for the San Diego PadresHe was awarded The National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2011.

Craig began training with R.E.A.D.Y. at the age of seven, and continued through high school. Under the guidance of Grandmaster Smith Craig reached as high as Second Degree Black Belt, before dedicating his time fully to baseball. Craig’s 46 saves in 2011 is a National League and Atlanta Braves record for a rookie pitcher.

Craig’s mother Sandy feels that goal-setting, patience, and respect were among the key traits that Craig gained from his participation in Grandmaster Smith’s program.

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Category : Success Stories

By 18 months of age, autism had taken away Jalen’s ability to speak.  This disorder coupled with his mother’s work-related travel demands posed a tremendous challenge to the young man and his family. Yet with his family’s support and his involvement with Grandmaster Smith and Taekwondo, Jalen later became his 8th grade class’s valedictorian. One of the youngest Black Belts in the area, Jalen was driven to overcome his challenges as well as to perform well in the classroom.

The desire to achieve and the memorization required in Taekwondo provided the structure that led this remarkable young man to his high level of academic success. Taekwondo gave Jalen the focus and confidence to excel in life

“Grandmaster Smith gave Jalen the understanding that if you do not try, you cannot succeed,” said Jalen’s grandmother.

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Ali Thomas

Category : Success Stories

“Grandmaster Smith did an awesome job with Ali, and has been a savior to us,” said Ali’s mother.

The R.E.A.D.Y.  Taekwondo Academy is not merely a martial arts school, nor is Ali Thomas merely a teenage boy. It is also safe to say that it is not often that both a school and a student have benefitted so well from each other. The R.E.A.D.Y. Academy provided a framework and value system to a young boy facing incomprehensible issues. This framework led Ali on his path to physical, social and academic success. He managed to give the Academy and Grandmaster Al Smith much to be proud of for their efforts.

It is difficult enough growing up these days, and some children are faced with unusually challenging circumstances at very young ages. Ali Thomas found himself in just that position early in his life. It is how people face these challenges and from whom they receive assistance and guidance, that will define them later in life. This is a success story for all involved.

Ali was fortunate to have a strong family network around him. He is also lucky that his mother had a college friend who operated a renowned Taekwondo Academy. Ali, now in his late teens, is a very accomplished young man. He carries himself with confidence and radiates positive energy to everyone he meets. Ali is now a positive role model who always leads by example, and always with compassion.

In circumstances such as young Ali found himself, many young boys would have reacted with anger. Ali Thomas knew that something was building inside him, even at a very early age. Fortunately, Grandmaster Smith and the R.E.A.D.Y. Taekwondo Academy provided the perfect outlet for him. Ali became an example of the physical, social and academic achievement through discipline, diversity and respect that the Academy and Grandmaster Smith strive to provide to each and every student.

Starting in Taekwondo at age six, Ali applied himself diligently to the Grandmaster’s lessons in the dojang and in life. His dedication resulted in reaching his Black Belt at age ten, skipping two levels along the way. These physical lessons would be applied to boxing and wrestling later in life. Ali still takes great pride in his specialty, the flying side kick.

The diversity Ali found at the R.E.A.D.Y. Academy provided an environment that led Ali to his desire to be active in his community through participation in programming such as his local library board. Beyond his various community service activities, Ali has also developed into a natural leader. Homeschooled until the fourth grade, the Academy provided a positive social environment that aided in Ali’s growth and maturity, as well as his ability to acclimate to school. Taekwondo played a role in Ali’s first place finish in a speech competition, an accomplishment in which he still takes great pride.

Academic achievement is constantly stressed by Grandmaster Smith, and students must document their performance in school before they are permitted to advance to the next belt level. With this formal structure and the intense focus on academics, Ali flourished and has recently been selected to the National Honor Society. Ali also distinguished himself early in school by requesting his school assignments, even when home sick in bed.

While his strong family support played a great role in Ali’s development, his mother states, “Grandmaster Smith did an awesome job with Ali, and has been a savior to us.” Robin Thomas also feels that she always knew that Grandmaster Smith would support her and back her up on all issues. The Academy, according to Mrs. Thomas, provided Ali with a “wonderful atmosphere based upon mutual respect.”

Ali cites the Grandmaster’s statement that “you must finish what you start” as a significant influence in his young, but already successful life. The reality is that Ali Thomas has always gone well beyond simply finishing things; he is driven to excel in all that he does. Ali has also proven to be a loyal and trustworthy friend.

Rather than dealing with the temptations of the street as many young men his age are now doing, Ali Thomas is contemplating which college he will attend. With remarkable confidence, coupled with compassion and the desire to succeed, there is little doubt that Ali will follow a course of his own choice, but on a solid foundation provided by Grandmaster Smith and the R.E.A.D.Y. Taekwondo Academy in Benton Harbor, Michigan.


“The student’s respect has grown for all adults, including teachers. I have had fewer disruptions and more learning going on in my classroom that I can directly attribute to the Taekwondo training of my students.”
“I know that a lot of the kids I see here, if they weren’t here, I would be seeing them on the streets.”
“Taekwondo gives us a chance to do something together, outside of work. Plus, kicking is fun and gets out a lot of stress.”