by Lauren Dunn

HUNTERSVILLE – Lance Lawsin may be one of the shortest kids in his class, but don’t be fooled. When things get tough, he’s not one to back down.

At only 7 years old, standing at 3 feet 7 inches, Lance has been practicing tae kwon do for nearly his entire life. Starting training at only 4 years old, Lance has become a fierce competitor. He recently earned a first-degree black belt and a first-place trophy at the American Tae Kwon Do Association World Championship tournament.

Lance, as the only competitor from the area, headed out for Little Rock, Ark., on June 23 along with his parents, Ro and Stella Lawsin, and instructor Rafael Perez for the tournament.

“It was his first year in the tournament,” Ro Lawsin, said. “His main objective was to get experience.”

But before he could enter the ring, Lance had to learn a different type of tae kwan do than he’s spent his life mastering. The form he had studied was not being used in the tournament.

He would have to learn the entirely new routine in one night.

Lance and instructor Perez wasted no time. The night before the world championship tournament, they practiced a new routine in the Lawsins’ hotel room.

The next morning, tournament officials divided Lance, along with 52 other competitors in the 8-and-younger category into four different groups to compete in sparring, traditional weapons, traditional forms and creative weapons.

Things started out poorly for Lance as he reverted back to the wrong style for his first match in traditional forms, netting him the lowest possible score – a 9.0. That low of a score could have meant a disqualification from the tournament.

“His instructor was told incorrectly that he could use his old form, and he was penalized for it, at no fault of his own,” Ro Lawsin said. “He was devastated, and he still had to pick himself up.”

The traditional weapons section was his chance to make a come back. With Nunchucks in hand, Lance began his newly learned routine.

“He nailed his performance, just nailed it,” his father said proudly.

That impromptu lesson in the hotel room had earned him a first-place trophy. Excited and proud, the Lawsins congratulated their little victor, but the tournament wasn’t over.

Lance, the third smallest in his age group, was pitted against the second biggest boy for the sparing round of the tournament.

“It was an unfair match,” Ro Lawsin said.

Lance lost after receiving two quick kicks from his towering opponent.

The final round of the tournament– creative weapons– didn’t go any smoother.

However, even without music, as he was accustomed to in his routine, Lance still managed to place fourth out of 12 competitors using the kama, a handheld stick weapon with a long curved blade attached to the end.

He showed “a lot of heart” in all the matches, even the ones where he didn’t place, his father said, and despite the bumps and bruises, he beat all expectations.

“His instructor as well as me and his mom are very proud,” Ro Lawsin said. “His instructors all knew he had talent, and he proved it, in front of all that adversity too. His will and determination made him believe he could accomplish anything when he put his mind to it.”

His father hopes his son can inspire to other children. Lance now displays his first-place trophy at the American Tae Kwon Do School in Huntersville.