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Batt takes his attack to the mat

Garrett Batt won a gold medal in taekwondo at the 2017 Pan American Games. Batt outlasted 16-plus athletes in his division, defeating opponents from Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico.—Courtesy Photo
At the age of 9, Garrett Batt tried out a new sport called taekwondo. He and his father, James, hoped it would help the young man find something to calm his emotions and achieve greater discipline.

Along the way, he also found a Pan American gold medal, a spot on the U.S. Junior National Team - and that discipline and calmness he was looking for.

“It’s more than a sport. It’s a way of life,” explained Batt, parroting tenets drummed into him by his coach, Master Dennis Kim of Ashburn-based Phoenix Taekwondo. “To be good in taekwondo, you have to be disciplined, honorable and smart.”

Batt must have learned his lessons well. He’s become a mainstay on the junior taekwondo circuit, traveling to Florida, California, Mexico and elsewhere to engage in international competition, usually with lofty results.

“Garrett isn’t anything special physically, just a normal 10th grader,” said Kim. “I think what makes Garrett special is how he’s always battled through low points, never quitting. He just keeps on fighting.”

Kim noted Batt’s marked improvement over the years, resulting in championships after several years of participating and not winning.

“Persistence is the key,” Kim went on. “What Garrett does better than anyone I’ve had is that he just doesn’t quit. He just works harder.”

In June, Batt earned a spot on the US Junior National Team. In August, he won his way through the bantam division at the Pan American Junior Taekwondo Championships in Costa Rica, bringing home gold.

At present, Batt is training for as many as 20 hours each week, readying himself for December’s Amateur Athletic Union national championships in Florida. Batt is also anticipating making his case for the junior national team when tryouts take place next July.

“The winner will go to Worlds, and that’s a big deal in the taekwondo community,” he said. “That’s where we find out who really is the best in the world.”

Training for battle

Batt’s training regimen includes plenty of time sparring with teammates on the mat, and a lot of running. The stamina is needed to employ the aggressive style Batt prefers.

But he’s training himself mentally as much as physically. He plans on enlisting in military service after graduation, and is considering applying to Virginia Military Institute.

“I might go there and fight for their taekwondo team, as well as be assimilated into the military,” he said.

The demanding challenge taekwondo presents, and the need for discipline that it instills, has benefitted Batt off the mat too. He said his dedication to the sport has helped him stay focused and think before acting.

“Now, before I go into a tough situation, I think of what are the pros and cons, what can I do to solve the problem.”

The youngster’s newfound proclivity for calmness in the face of adversity is typified by a moment from a long-ago tournament which Batt almost didn’t complete.

“I think it was 2010 and it was in the quarterfinals. I did a backhook kick, which is like a spinning turn kick,” Batt remembered. “I hit the guy right in the face and knocked him down. The officials thought it was excessive contact and were going to disqualify me.”

In those moments, as the officials debated Batt’s tourney status with the crowd of spectators loudly voicing their opinions, the young man kneeled down and observed his coach.

“I saw how calm he was. He was so calm under pressure,” said Batt of Kim. “That really inspired me to learn how to handle situations like that.”

Batt was not disqualified, went on to win the match and finished the tourney as a semfinalist. But what he learned in those moments when things were beyond his control has stayed with him since.

“That really motivated me,” he said. “I just wanted to get back home and keep working.”


Garrett Batt

-Age: 16

-Resides: Broadlands

-Attends: Loudoun County High School

-Sport: Taekwondo

-Years in sport: 7

-Junior Olympian: 6 times

-Gold medalist: 2017 Pan American Games (Bantam division)

-Next competition: AAU National Championships

-Best move: The “Superman Punch,” a jumping punch into a roundhouse kick


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