13 year old Vitaliy Tveritin became the youngest Mount Shasta Martial Arts Program participant to earn a black belt in May, 2014.

Six years of training paid off for Vitaliy Tveritin, 13, when he took his black belt exam at UC Berkeley in early May.

He waited weeks before receiving his black belt May 30 during the Siskiyou Arts Bus Open House at the Mount Shasta library.

Vitaliy had to demonstrate advanced skills for strikes, kicks, forms, board breaks, sparring, and self-defense. He faced US national collegiate champion and the world university bronze-medalist Yessica Wiryawan in full-contact sparring, according to Mount Shasta Martial Arts Program executive director Chuck Buhs, who is a sixth degree black belt.

Several high-ranking black belts sat on the grading panel including seventh degree black belt Dr. Russell Ahn, the director of UCMAP, and other fifth and fourth degree black belts, according to Buhs.

“Vitaliy stepped up and did an outstanding job,” said Buhs. “This was an intimidating situation because the pressure to be at his best was pretty intense. However, he managed to keep his anxiety in-check. Several of the black belts later told me how impressed they were with Vitaliy’s composure and maturity and were surprised to learn he is as young as he is. When a group like this notices both his skills and poise, it speaks volumes about Vitaliy’s strength of character.”

Vitaliy is just the fourth – and youngest – MSMAP student to earn a black belt since the program started in 2001.

In information provided by Buhs, Vitaliy states, “This was a huge commitment, a real honor, and a very big responsibility. I learned I must be really focused. This took so much support from my family, instructor, and teammates. I really appreciate that!”

His mother Olga is quoted saying, “This was definitely a challenge for him. Vitaliy learned a lot especially about how planning ahead is necessary to accomplish something this big. It’s such a big relief that it’s done.”

Buhs points out, “Volunteerism and community service are essential parts of what our program is all about. By volunteering at events that benefit the Senior Meal Program run by City Park such as our annual holiday food drive in December and celebration of Korean Thanksgiving in the fall, Vitaliy puts his training into practice both as a leader and contributing member of our community.”

Vitaliy, a 4.0 student, is quoted in the release saying he learned through his taekwondo classes that “everyone should help each other no matter how wealthy or how strong they are. There are always people around us who need help. By sharing our goodwill, all of the MSMAP participants learn how people should help each other and be generous to others. When someone needs help, no matter what the cause is, they shouldn’t just carelessly walk away like nothing happened but step up and act.”

Vitaliy’s goodwill extends into the classroom, according to Buhs.

Dave Schmidt, a Language Arts and History teacher at Sisson Elementary School, observed Vitaliy’s leadership skills in action when partnered with a struggling student.

“Besides the hard work and commitment to achievement, Vitaliy goes out of his way to be a positive member of our classroom,” Schmidt states in the release. “Vitaliy handled this challenge with grace and without complaint – just as he does on all challenges – and was successful in helping his partner have the best grade of the year.”

Buhs said Schmidt’s sentiments were echoed by Sisson School principal Kale Riccomini.

“Vitaliy is a very focused and motivated young man,” Riccomini states in the release. “Whatever the task he always gives 100% until the task is completed. The one trait that I’ve always admired in Vitaliy is how polite and courteous he is to his peers and adults.”

Buhs points out that he and Vitaliy agree the best part of his exam was his board breaks.

“This kid did some really cool things,” said Buhs. “He did a flying back kick where he had to run, jump in the air, and kick with his back facing the board. It was awesome!”

“I felt a surge of power after the breaks,” added Vitaliy. “I had a mental block about breaking real wooden boards, but my martial spirit pushed me through. All I was thinking about was making toothpicks.”