Carmel Taekwondo team building on summer success


After a successful showing at a national event in Las Vegas this summer, the athletes on Carmel’s High Performance Martial Arts Taekwondo team are preparing for the next competition.

At the Las Vegas event, two members of the team brought home medals: Alberto Staffolani earned a gold medal, while Max Hammond received a bronze. The event was attended by more than 7,000 athletes from around the country.

“To compete at that level takes a serious amount of dedication and hard work,” said coach Andrew White, owner of High Performance Martial Arts. “Although winning big competitions is fun and the ultimate goal of our team, I am most proud of their commitment and desire to make small improvements every day at practice.”

Staffolani, a senior at North Central High School, started taekwondo in March 2021, first in the recreational classes and then joining the Elite Sparring team this past May.

“I was interested in martial arts for a while due to the many values it teaches such as discipline, respect, self-control, integrity and focus,” he said. “I was also always a big fan of martial arts movies such as ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Enter the Dragon,’ which also sparked an interest.”

Staffolani said the competition was a rewarding experience.

“It was truly an honor to be able to compete at that level, and I recognized the hard work that it took to get into that position,” Staffolani said. “I was very nervous, but I was confident in my abilities as a fighter. It was an incredible moment to experience, reaching such a level at Nationals and proceeding to win gold was a moment I’ll never forget.”

Hammond, a sophomore at Westfield High School, has been involved in taekwondo for 11 years. He said participating in martial arts has taught him discipline and improved his mental toughness.

“Taekwondo has also taught me that when I really commit to something, I can overcome any obstacle. My biggest obstacle has been nerves before and during my first match of a tournament,” he said. “It felt good to win a medal at Nationals again and earn an invitation to the AAU National Team Trials.”

White, who has been involved in the sport for 29 years and has a 5th degree black belt (he is eligible to test for his 6th degree in 2023), said the team is already training and “pushing themselves” to bring home more medals at the 2023 national competition.

“To compete at that level takes a serious amount of dedication and hard work. Our athletes train year-round, seven days a week,” White said. “Some of our athletes have been training with us for over 10 years. I no longer see those people as just athletes or clients. They have become my family.”

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