‘Very quiet child’ suddenly roars!

Ethan Robinson, left, of Albertville spars with his instructor, Matt Lee of World Taekwondo of Rogers. Ethan, 13, is the national champion in his weight class and will compete at the World Championships in Azerbaijan this summer. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom)

Ethan Robinson, left, of Albertville spars with his instructor, Matt Lee of World Taekwondo of Rogers. Ethan, 13, is the national champion in his weight class and will compete at the World Championships in Azerbaijan this summer. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom)

World Taekwondo of Rogers instructor Matt Lee, left, is seen with Ethan Robinson and his father, Carliss Robinson. The flag behind them will take on special meaning this summer when national champion Ethan represents the US at the World Championships. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom)

World Taekwondo of Rogers instructor Matt Lee, left, is seen with Ethan Robinson and his father, Carliss Robinson. The flag behind them will take on special meaning this summer when national champion Ethan represents the US at the World Championships. (Sun staff photo by Aaron Brom)

Albertville teen a national taekwondo champ

Talk to Ethan Robinson and you’ll never see a milder-mannered, softer-spoken 13-year-old.

See him on the taekwondo mat and you’ll never see a more aggressive, pain-inflicting fighter. Those killer-instinct skills led the Albertville youth to the national championship in his weight class. And those skills will soon be tested on the world stage as Ethan heads to the central Asian country of Azerbaijan this summer to represent the US in the World Championships.

“He was a very quiet child,” Carliss Robinson said of his son. “I wanted to make sure he had good communication skills and self esteem, and I know what martial arts did for me.”

So his dad got his already sports enthused son to try out the sport, and World Taekwondo of Rogers instructor Master Matt Lee said Ethan started just like every one else … afraid and crying from pain.

“He learned to deal with the stress and it’s hard to teach that,” Lee said of his student of three years. “Either you have it between the ears or you don’t. And Ethan did. He took advice of strategy and really implemented it.”

Now, Lee says it’s Ethan who is inflicting the pain. “All a sudden he started kicking kids in the face and was making them cry,” Lee said. “For me, he had desire. You want to win, but at the same time you’re inflicting pain.”

Kicking kids in the face might sound like a mean thing, but for these padded and helmeted athletes, such moves are encouraged and get big points from judges.

Like Ethan, Master Lee is a former national champion, as well. Despite Lee’s elite skills, he said he “has to think now” when sparring with Ethan, a credit to Ethan’s increased agility.

“You will get your butt kicked,” Lee said of the sport. “Once you get hurt and get over it, now you know how to apply the strategy. We just beat it out of him, and slowly he started beating other kids.”

So how does this seemingly shy teenager transform into a tiger on the mat?

“I listen to music to get ready, and I remember who I am and where I came from,” Ethan said. “I knew I was more than just an average fighter.”

Ethan is a first-degree black belt, one of the top classes in his sport. He will become a second-degree black belt in June before heading to the World Championships.

He’s originally from Maple Grove and still goes to school nearby at Osseo Junior High School. Besides taekwondo, Ethan has participated in wrestling, tennis, football and track. He intends to remain involved in track, maybe in high school, too. But the ultimate goal is every athlete’s lifetime achievement: to represent their country at the Olympics, where taekwondo is an Olympic sport.

For Ethan, that means having to wait awhile, until the 2020 competition. So for now he’ll concentrate on the World Championships, where he is the number one ranked American in his class.

“I can’t wait for my first trip out of the country,” Ethan said. “Even if it’s the hardest tournament in the world, I look forward to fighting competitors from other countries. I set one goal at a time.”

If Ethan has his way, that goal will be someday be colored in Olympic gold.

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