“The first reaction was, like, I can’t believe it. But after time passed on I was very happy,” said Arcaina, a light middleweight who began training when he was 6. “I worked real hard for it and I achieved my goal to make the USA Team.” His goals now are to win in Mexico, make the U.S. Olympic Team when he turns 18 and then “travel around the world to fight more,” he said.
Taekwondo is a 200-year-old Korean martial art that combines kicking above the waist with punching to the body but not the face. It’s the most popular martial art in terms of the number of participants, according to Wikipedia.
“What I like about it is that it’s competitive and it’s fun,” said Arcaina. “You can take your anger out on other people. It teaches you discipline, respect, integrity, perseverance.”
Martials arts are in Arcaina’s blood. His father, Lito, who has been a martial artist all of his life, focusing on karate and taekwondo, introduced him to the sport and has been training him ever since at home, at the In Shape gym and at Lito’s Sparta Taekwondo school in Walnut Creek. Ryan also trains with his uncle Henry Cruz at his Manila Taekwondo school in Union City. The grueling regimen includes weight training, kicking and punching paddle drills and running up and down the street while pulling an old tire tied to him with a rope.
The seven-day-a-week training has paid off. In addition to making the junior team to represent the United States in Mexico, Arcaina won the National Junior Taekwondo championship in his division in July of 2006. He will also be competing in the Philippines in August.
Asked to identify his strengths, he said, “Discipline – everything involves discipline. Being humble. I respect others. I do a lot to help people. I try to achieve my goals in life. Fast movement (in the ring). I am very motivated. People cheering me on makes me want to fight even more.”
Asked what his friends think of his fighting prowess, he said, “They think it’s pretty cool. They are kind of scared of me. They always have my back and tell everyone about me, how I know how to fight. It keeps me out of trouble.” His reputation has discouraged bullies from to wanting to test his ability. “They respect me; they don’t mess with me,” he said.