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UTA student takes home third straight title

Friday, February 15, 2019 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Adalis “AJ” Munoz, a University of Texas at Arlington junior, won her third consecutive title at the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships late last year in Taipei, Taiwan.

The world championships are held every two years and Munoz won the 18-and-older freestyle division in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

AJ Munoz

AJ Munoz

Munoz has maintained her world-champion status despite balancing a busy schedule as a full-time student at UTA and helping run her family’s dojang at Texas Forge Taekwondo in Fort Worth. The family opened a private training dojang in 2015 and opened to the public in August 2017.

See a video of Munoz here.

The 22-year-old is pursuing dual degrees at UTA: a bachelor of arts in psychology and a bachelor of science in exercise science.

“To maintain that level of competitiveness is definitely a challenge, especially balancing a full-time academic load,” Munoz said. “The biggest challenge is maintaining the organization and that drive. It does get difficult to get up at 5 in the morning to train and then going asleep at midnight. If I had it my way I would just train. My parents have to constantly remind me to stay focused.”

Munoz sometimes trains on campus at UTA before or in between her classes. She’s also starting a taekwondo club at UTA that is set to launch soon.

Munoz competed in three divisions at the 2018 world championships: freestyle individual, recognized individual and freestyle pair with partner Michael Pascua. She said she became the first American to represent the United States in a world division in both individual disciplines.

In 2017, Munoz also represented UTA at the World University Games in Taipei. She finished with a bronze medal.

Just to compete in the world championships and University Games is an honor considering each country can only send one entry per division in both competitions. Athletes first have to qualify at state tournaments and then be selected from the field at national championships. Munoz said she has eight national championship titles since she started competing in 2013.

Munoz started taekwondo when she was 10. She began training in Fort Bragg, N.C., where her father, Joe, was stationed in the Army. Munoz first trained under legendary Grandmaster Myong Sok Namkung Mayes, who became the first female in the world to reach the highest black belt taekwondo level as a 9th degree Dan.

Munoz also credits the help of taekwondo coach Barbara Brand, a three-time world championship bronze medalist. She met Brand at the world championships in 2014 and started training with her not long afterward.

But Munoz’s primary taekwondo coach in Texas has been her father. Joe Munoz spent 25 years in the Army before retiring. He’s owned Texas Forge Taekwondo (www.texasforgetkd.com) since October 2015. Joe, his wife, Del, and both of his daughters – Munoz and 15-year-old Zoie – train in taekwondo. Joe said they are all black belts, certified referees and Level I coaches.

Joe said he first had his family start martial arts as a way to learn self-defense together.

“And it turned into a passion for my daughter,” Joe said of Munoz, a fourth-degree master black belt. “My daughter outranks us all by one rank and she’s about to possibly get promoted again this year. She still has to do the dishes and take out the trash, though.”