By Lexi S.
TAMPA — On Racetrack Road, behind the Publix/Lowe’s plaza, there is an orange and tan building with the word “TAEKWONDO” on the outside. From first glance, it looks like just another building. But when you enter, you will see a huge family of hardworking, dedicated people of all ages learning self-defense and having a good time. Behind this great training facility are Chief Masters Laura and David Kowkabany.
Chief Master Laura Kowkabany has been doing Taekwondo classes for 48 years. She started doing Taekwondo to gain confidence. “…it was more of a necessity for being bullied and wanting to empower myself, and not be afraid,” she says. Taekwondo gives you a sense of assurance in yourself, and that helps you feel better about standing up to bullies.
One of the people that helps her most in Taekwondo is Grandmaster Clark. He has been Chief Master’s instructor since she started Taekwondo, and she still goes and visits him now. “Grandmaster Clark is one that we always go to, for advice on different things in class, or new structure or whatever we’re trying to work on,” she states. Recently, both studio owners visited him, and they do this often. Though she has gone on to make her own Taekwondo studio, Chief Master still attends her master’s seminars and testings.
After they got married, Chief Masters Laura and David worked at a Taekwondo studio together. Eventually they knew that this was something they both loved and decided to open KFMA (Kowkabany’s Family Martial Arts) . Chief Master Laura usually teaches the kids classes, also known as Tiny Tigers (3-5-year olds) or Karate Kids (6-12-year olds).
“Man, the kids. One you see them grow from, like, maybe a shy little person, and they develop into this self-confident, stronger person. And every day is, every day is totally different. You never know what you’re going to get. So that’s kind of exciting to me.”
As mentioned above, Chief Master has been doing Taekwondo for 48 years. Though it seems to many like Taekwondo is just about the punching and kicking your friends, there are so many aspects to the art that makes it take years to master.
To test to earn a new belt, there is a minimum number of months, sometimes years, that it takes to even be eligible to test. At KFMA, you must wait 4 months between brown belt or red belt testings. But, earning your black belt takes a little longer.
“…after first degree, I had to wait two years before I could even test for second. Then after third, you had to wait three to four years. And then so on and so on… the longest would be going from seventh to eighth… seven years, before… I was even eligible to test,” she explains.
Taekwondo has been a great experience for Chief Master Laura Kowkabany. It has improved her life in many ways and helped her feel more confident and courageous.
“After starting Taekwondo, it just changed my entire life. I became more confident, learned life skills, learned how to work with other people that I probably never would have experienced outside of Taekwondo… it’s just enriched my life in so many different ways… God totally blessed me and knew what direction he wanted me to go in… which is why I’m still here today.”
Visit them at teamkowkabany.com