Your money's no good here
OAKWOOD— When Courtney Fullmer was 4 years old, her parents took her younger brother, J.R., to begin karate lessons. Arriving at the door, the 3-year-old made it plain that he would not be going into the studio without his big sister.
Almost 14 years later, Courtney is a third-degree black belt, fresh off a state championship and ranked fourth in the nation by the American Taekwondo Association in weapons.
All because a brother didn’t want to part from his sister.
“We were really close and (he) wouldn’t go in the room without me,” Courtney said. “So we both went in together.”
While J.R. attained a second-degree black belt before ceasing competition, Courtney stayed at it, and at 17 now is one of the strongest competitors in her qualification.
“I just love competing and going out and meeting people with the same dedication that I have and get to meet them from all over the country,” she said.
Courtney competes with the bo staff, a 5-foot-6 piece of wood which comes to a point on each end and is a part of the South Korean martial arts discipline of Taekwondo.
“You can use it when you’re a third degree and it’s just always been my favorite,” she said.
After becoming the first ever black belt at her home studio at Oakwood’s Edge ATA in 2003, Courtney began competing in more events in various sites across the United States.
Her father. Chuck Fullmer, drove her to most of these.
“I would drive her to Dallas, to Little Rock, to Valdosta, to Perry,” Chuck said. “We flew to Las Vegas a couple of times, flew to Disney World for the national tournaments there.”
At these tournaments, the weapons competition consists of two parts. The first, traditional, is based on the individual competitor’s rank. Traditional consists of a form of movement, much like a choreographed dance, which must be completed correctly to attain the highest amount of points possible.
The second part is creative and must be completed in under two minutes. This portion, often set to music and featuring various tricks, is entirely of the competitors own invention.
Courtney and her father have attended these competitions almost every weekend in preparation of the world tournament championship, which will be held next week in Little Rock, Ark.
“Only the top 10 in the world get to compete and No. 1 will get world champion,” Courtney said. “So I would like to place.”
Also in an effort to prepare to become a world-ranked competitor, Courtney stopped participating in the sparring aspect of Taekwondo, which features the hands and feet, to strictly focus on her bo staff.
“I moved from sparring to weapons because I wanted to make top 10 in the world,” Courtney said. “And doing both was a distraction.”
To become a member of the top 10, Courtney will have to defeat others who are often as much as 12 years older than she is.
The competitions are divided by sex and age; Courtney falls into the female 17-29 class which consists only of second and third-degree black belts.
Having to compete against such older competition would be worrisome for anyone and Courtney freely admits to initially feeling a little intimidated.
“At the beginning I was a little scared,” she said. “But then I started placing and started winning and realized that I could do it.”
Not only was Courtney a bit scared when she began, she also had to deal with the criticism from other competitors.
“I’ve gotten some,” she said. “In Augusta, I was the youngest by four years and so they made that known.”
Her father also said that, on occasion, the judges would hold her age against her.
“Sometimes they wouldn’t score her correctly,” he said. “She would have second-degree black belts scoring her, and she’s a third degree. Once in a while she had to talk to a judge.”
But once the winning started, the judges nor the competition could stop Courtney.
“She could be tested for her fourth degree right now,” Chuck said. “But I think she’s focused on school and stuff like that, so she’ll back off a little bit.”
After recently graduating high school, Courtney is set to become a member of the cross country team at Huntington College in Alabama.
While in college, she plans to study athletic training with hopes of one day opening branches of martial studios.
“I think if I follow what my teachers have done, I can make a living,” she said. After learning how much she has accomplished at such a young age, it’s clear that Courtney Fullmer can do whatever she sets her mind to.