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Through my Taekwondo training I've learned how to defend myself, but as a Leadership student, I also received advanced lessons with traditional weapons. I never imagined that using something as simple as a Bo Staff could be so empowering! Although I hope I never have to defend myself against an attacker, I now have the confidence and ability to do so.
–Christina Morales, Brown Belt, 18 years old

Leadership Profiles

NEW YORK HUSTLE: 9 year old Jimmy Clarke aims to be 2nd Degree and “Double Platinum” Presidential Champion

First platinum winner in ATA shows initiative, perseverance, and leadership to reach outstanding goals!

By Keith Stillwell for Leadership NOW - October 2012



As a toddler watching and cheering for his big sister doing martial arts, Jimmy Clarke, now age 9, simply couldn’t wait to get in on the action. So he didn’t!  According to his instructor, Mr. Alex Puzza, 4th Degree Black Belt and owner of Proven Martial Arts in Wappingers Falls, NY, even before Jimmy could enroll as a Tiny Tiger, he was frequently out on the mats playfully following along, meanwhile developing strength, coordination, and basic martial arts skills. Nearly four years into official ATA training, Jimmy is a 1st Degree Black Belt (soon testing for 2nd Degree), a veteran competitor, and a regular feature at the dojahng. There he learns new rank material, refines the attributes of his techniques, and cheerfully helps his juniors, much like his sister, Victoria, now 14, a 3rd Degree Black Belt and Leadership member.

“Jimmy is everybody’s ‘little buddy’ at the (Taekwondo) school,” says Mr. Puzza. “I call him ‘Jimbo Slice’ (like the UFC fighter and MMA champ ‘Kimbo Slice’), and he kind of likes that. He’s an enthusiastic and energetic kid, a good martial artist, but he’s also diligent about homework. He does really well in school. We are really proud of his leadership and victories in the President’s Challenge too!”

In the fall of 2010, Jimmy’s schoolteacher and classmates at Noxon Road Elementary took the President’s Challenge together, earning Presidential Active Lifestyle Awards (PALA). When complete, Jimmy promptly enlisted in the Presidential Champions (untimed) challenge and won his bronze award, the next level being silver – and he was off to the races!  The bold choice to continue in the program – plus an incredible 6,827 activity hours (and counting) with persistent record-keeping – has brought Mr. Clarke some honorable distinctions. First, of course, he was recognized by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition through an attractive certificate denoting his accomplishment, and he was permitted to purchase the platinum medallion. For all time his name will appear on the President’s Challenge website celebrating the 2012 platinum winners (near the bottom, as he surpassed the required one million points mark in February). Second, Mr. Clarke has the unique honor of being the first ATA member (enrolled in the “ATA Leadership NOW” Group of challengers) known to have earned the esteemed Presidential Champions platinum award since ATA began advocating the program in November 2010. And clearly more great things await Mr. Clarke in the ATA, in the President’s Challenge, and wherever he chooses to learn and lead.

“He definitely has a bright future ahead of him,” says Mr. Puzza. “I respect people who finish what they start, especially when they aim high like Jimmy does.”


One million points (comparable to “burned calories” derived by a program formula) are required to earn the coveted platinum award, and remarkably, Mr. Clarke has to date registered nearly double that amount – precisely 1,865,802 at press time on 10/15/12. Challengers who win platinum more than once have the privilege of seeing their names on a shorter and even more esteemed list of fitness champions displayed on the President’s Challenge website. The “ATA Leadership NOW” group (of ATA members taking the challenge online) currently has 1,138 members, scores of PALA, bronze, silver, and gold winners, but only five platinum winners. Grand Master In Ho Lee, 9th Degree Black Belt, Dae Sah Boo Nim of WTTU/ATA/STF, earnestly desires to join them at the top. Aiming to combat obesity in America by showcasing ATA Martial Arts as a healthy, accessible, sustainable, and truly enjoyable lifestyle choice, Grand Master Lee encourages all fellow martial artists to join him in the President’s Challenge. He joined in August 2011 and is rapidly closing in on his first platinum award.

Although his early enrollment in the Challenge gave Mr. Clarke a sizeable head start on most ATA members, competition is fierce near the top. He has struggled to hold or reclaim the lead from at least one other high achiever. Keeping up means staying active, which Jimmy’s father says just comes naturally to his son.

“He is constantly moving, doing things, but making good use of his time, even if it’s play time,” says Mr. Jim Clarke. “He does Taekwondo and takes it very seriously. But even playing Xbox and Kinect with his friends, he gets a lot of exercise every single day.” 

“During Taekwondo class, I have a lot of fun while learning to protect and defend myself,” Mr. Jimmy Clarke says. “I have to say that my favorite part of Taekwondo is working with weapons. Every new form I learn is both challenging and rewarding!”

Avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle (along with a balanced diet) is important to preventing or escaping obesity, and Songahm Taekwondo is a physical workout with mental benefits that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy. As a group, WTTU/ATA/STF members’ performance in the President’s Challenge could compel others to find out “what it’s all about” – eventually leading to a longer, healthier, happier life for them and those whom they influence and support. That is precisely how ATA is changing the world, one Black Belt at a time!

Besides the fun and physical fitness that comes from martial arts training, Mr. Jimmy Clarke is well aware that he is preparing himself to reach noble long term goals, an uncommon perception for many boys his age. “My goal is to earn my 2nd Degree Black Belt. I want to be a police officer like my Dad when I grow up, and maybe a defensive tactics instructor in the police academy,” he says. “My role model is my instructor, Mr. Puzza. I have looked up to him ever since I met him. He is strong and very caring, and always makes class exciting.”

ATA salutes Mr. Jimmy Clarke and its other President’s Challenge platinum winners, along with winners of gold, silver, bronze, and PALA awards! To get started in this free, fun, fantastic fitness challenge, sign up yourself and a family member through ATA’s portal page at Remember to record (log-in) your workouts and other activities at least weekly. Soon you’ll be adding your name to ATA’s President’s Challenge Winners List (self-reported, HQ-verified) at