Encinitas 11-year-old wins Taekwondo world title


Encinitas’ youngest Taekwondo star, 11-year-old Gavin Robinson, recently got his most important win in a career that is already chock full of impressive victories. On July 1, Gavin defeated an opponent from Peru, 5-0, to capture the 9-10 age-group world championship in first-degree sparring.

That triumph, which came at the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) Tournament of Champions in Little Rock, Arkansas, was the conclusion of Gavin’s stellar 10-year-old season (he turned 11 in June). In the past year, the talented pre-teen went 56-2, won a national tournament last fall and took second — losing 1-0 in an overtime championship bout — in a national tourney in the spring.

Ranked sixth coming into the Tournament of Champions — the top 10 Americans and 14 international champs earned invites — Gavin outscored his four opponents by a total of 18-1.

“I saw how hard he worked all year long and knew he could do it,” said Gavin’s father Ritch Robinson. “But to see him actually get it done, when he was undermanned and out-gunned by some of these kids who were six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than he is, it was honestly the proudest day of my life.”

Dad and mom Victoria have had plenty to be proud of with Gavin winning the Southwest Regional Championship three of the past four years. The family travels all around the country for tournaments as Gavin has competed in Florida, New Jersey, Chicago and Texas, among other places.

One day after his world championship, Gavin remained in Arkansas to start his 11-year-old season, taking third in a second degree 11-12s sparring tournament.

Gavin trains in the Songham style of Taekwondo with Senior Master Ken Church, who has martial arts schools in both Encinitas and Carmel Valley.

When Church was inducted into the ATA Hall of Fame in 2012, he was the youngest inductee ever. Church is a seventh-degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and has won world championships in both weapons and sparring. He coached the World Demo Team for seven years before earning the title of Master in 2005, and Senior Master in 2011.

Church also holds a second-degree Black Belt in Hapkido, a Black Belt in Krav Maga (Israeli defense) and won the 2011 world title at the No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu World Championships.

“We got really, really lucky to find Ken. (Gavin has) learned focus and to believe in yourself that you can overcome all obstacles,” said Ritch Robinson, who added that his past Taekwondo training, in his teens and early 20s, had a big positive influence on him, which is why he put Gavin in classes when he was just 5 years old, in October of 2010.

By June of 2011, Robinson said, “I knew (Gavin) was something special, everyone could see it.”

When he’s not winning world championships, Gavin lives in Olivenhain and goes to Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary. The family moved from Rancho Santa Fe, where grandparents Lew and Linda Dowdy still live and where Gavin attended the Village Church preschool.