Newest Royalton black belt is only 14 years old

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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Testing Aug. 30, Autumn Lanners, Royalton, became the newest provisional black belt in town. The daughter of Bob Lanners and Laurie Poppen, Autumn has been taking classes since she was 9 years old.

Autumn Lanners, 14, Royalton, recently received her provisional black belt in taekwondo. She has been taking classes, twice a week, since she was 9, and recommends the sport for anyone.

“In fourth grade, I took a self-defense class and thought it was so cool, I wanted to continue,” she said. “I learned what to do if someone grabbed me. I learned ways to protect myself by watching Bryan Schoenberger, owner of the Taekwondo Studio in Little Falls. I also watched him break bricks and I really wanted to learn how to do that.”

Lanners said that when her classes in Little Falls began, she wasn’t taught how to break boards and bricks immediately.

“I learned Taekwondo was a long-term goal,” she said. “We were first taught manners and respect, for everyone. During the classes, everybody is treated with the same respect and we are all called ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am.’ Manners and respect are stressed at every class and at every level.”

To get to her provisional black belt, Lanners started at the same place as everyone does, with white. Through countless classes and many tests, she moved through orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, a purple trim, brown, red and then to where she is now.

“One of the rules is that a person must be at least 15 1/2 years old to receive a black belt,” Lanners said. “I have to wait.”

During the five years she has been practicing the art, Lanners said she has learned to focus her attention on the task at hand.

“I couldn’t break my first board and that got me upset,” she said. “Schoenberger told me to focus and that’s when I broke it.”

Poppen said her daughter is getting better with focusing. It usually only takes her two tries to break a board.

“During my test for the black belt, I was asked to break seven boards. I broke six. For the last one, I was blindfolded and I missed it,” she said.

Each board was broken with a different technique. One was done using a knife hand where the palm is face up and the board is hit with the outside of the hand. A second board is hit with a punch and a third board is hit with a cheating kick where Lanners is required to jump and kick, hitting the board with the ball of her foot.

The fourth board was broken with a two-heel break. To do that, Lanners needed to run, jump and hit the board with both heels.

A hook kick broke the fifth board. Lanners stood sideways to the board and kicked it with her heel. The sixth board broke when she did an ax kick by bringing her foot above the board then down onto it with her heel.

Another part of Lanners’s black belt test had instructor Tim Crocker giving her a bear hug from behind. She was expected to break his hold and escape in one minute. When the minute was up, she had him on the ground and was about to bite him.

“I was told I was dead, but I really did not want to bite him,” she said.

No points are given for any of the belt tests. It’s either pass or fail. The tests consist of different factions for each student.

One of the tests Schoenberger asked Lanners to do was recite her white belt pattern (a combination of kicks, punches and blocks) backwards. Another was target practice where she was expected to block punches.

“I was also asked to write seven essays before I was tested,” she said. “They included my thoughts on why I wanted to be a black belt, what my long term and short term goals were and what taekwondo means to me.”

Lanners said she has learned not to give up, not until success, in anything she does.

“I will eventually succeed if I keep trying,” she said.

Lanners recommends taekwondo to anyone. She said it’s an interesting, all-year sport, a great learning experience and gives her a good physical workout.

For more information about taekwondo classes, call Little Falls Taekwondo at (320) 632-6556 or go to