Senior earns martial arts world title

Competes for highest taekwondo achievement

Maddie Gee, News Editor, Multimedia Editor

From the age of 7, Trinity Pender-Harla ‘23 has practiced, attended and trained in martial arts with dedication to her goal of a black belt, she said. Since her successful attempt at earning one in 2016, she made the decision to train for the world title: a process consisting of numerous weekend tournaments gaining points to place in the World’s Top 10 division. 

“My parents really put me in [classes] just to learn some basic self-defense,” Pender-Harla said. “As I got to meet new people at my taekwondo school and tournaments, it really pushed my passion for it.”

Hundreds of competitors spar during each tournament country-wide across various events. Pender-Harla specializes in eight events, with six being in the individual category. One of her events — forms and weapons — demonstrates a 90-second form scored by judges on a one-to-nine scale. The numerical scores determined by the three judges dictates the  place.

American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Instructor Keith Shoup describes Pender-Harla as an athlete.

“She is extremely dedicated to improving herself, and accepts that she can [always] get better,” Shoup said. “Some people will only practice to a certain point, and she understands that there’s always a margin to improve, even if it’s one percent.”

Pender-Harla received a World-Title award on July 14, 2022, for her victory in team-combat sparring, yet plans to compete again, now aiming for an individual world title. Years down the line, she also hopes to teach through her own schools while having mastership at sixth-degree black belt, she said. Shoup and Pender-Harla both promote beginning self-defense classes at any age, though preferably at a younger age. 

“We constantly get requests from parents wanting their [college-bound] daughter to learn how to protect themselves,” Shoup said. “I tell them: ‘You can’t fully develop skills in eight classes. Ideally, you would’ve brought them here four years ago, but get them started now and we can help you find another location somewhere near the college to continue training. It’s better to start now than to never start.’”

Pender-Harla has also appreciated the opportunity to review moves in her self-defense class at LT that emulated her taekwondo lessons. Overall, she reflects on her growth starting at the basic white-belt compared to current black-belt level. 

“Being able to say that you are a third-degree blackbelt and a world champion, but [that] you also have a key of being confident in defending yourself whenever you may need to be is truly amazing,” she said.