Kicking his way to the top

Everett 16-year-old hopes to grab Northwest title belt in pankration

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Tommy Nguyen has a way about him.

"I’m a hard worker," Tommy said. "Everything I do, I want to do my best."

The 16-year-old third-degree tae kwon do black belt has dreams of one day becoming a doctor to give care to others. And maybe he’ll even operate his own martial arts center, he said.

Not long ago, Tommy started training in another fighting art called pankration.

Now, he’s preparing for one of his biggest and most important fights yet: the Pacific Northwest title belt.

Tommy’s fight will be one of 11 scheduled at the Everett Extreme Challenge at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4 at PBBA Martial Arts, 3109 McDougall Ave. in Everett. Various fights scheduled are in kickboxing, pankration and submission wrestling.

Tommy will face off against J.T. Taylor of Oregon for the title belt.

The two have met in the ring before. That time Tommy lost to his opponent. Tommy has some weight to lose for this fight. The 175-pounder has agreed to fight at 168 pounds, as has his opponent.

Both guys have their own style of fighting. Tommy’s a stand-up fighter, while J.T. likes to get to the ground for choke holds and arm and leg locks.

"The crowd can expect Tommy to land with strikes, punches, kicks and knees to try to dominate the fight on the feet," coach Charles Pearson said. "J.T. will likely be shooting in to take him (Tommy) on the ground."

Tommy said the freestyle fighting of pankration is what drew him in to the sport. Kicks, punches and wrestling moves are all allowed in the full-contact sport. Biting and pokes in the eye are forbidden.

Pearson knows Tommy has trained hard for Saturday’s fight.

"If he relaxes and does what he’s capable of, he’ll do awesome," said Pearson, who is also the director of PBBA Martial Arts center.

When Tommy was just 4 years old, he moved from Vietnam to America with his family. At 6 years old, he started tae kwon do classes in Everett.

Now, he teaches tae kwon do classes to kids and adults and has since he was 11. Not too long ago, he started practicing pankration-style fighting.

It was his participation in martial arts more than anything else that taught Tommy dedication, passion and the English language.

"When you’re 5 or 6, you’ve already adopted a language," he said of Vietnamese. "The first time I was testing (for a higher belt) I didn’t know I was testing because I didn’t know the language."

The fourth youngest of five children has earned perfect grades since sixth grade. He hopes to become Everett High School’s valedictorian his senior year.

He’s found a second home with instructors and students at PBBA Martial Arts, the center where he first began practicing years ago.

Tommy’s compassion and respect for others shows through even in the ring.

After knocking out an opponent in the third round of a kickboxing match not too long ago, the expression on Tommy’s face revealed his concern for the safety of his opponent. Once Tommy knew the guy would be OK, he raised his arm showing the victory.

Pearson has been pivotal in Tommy’s growth into a kind, mature teen-ager.

"It’s been really fun watching Tommy grow," Pearson said. "I remember when he was just 56 pounds."

Now, Pearson describes Tommy as a very energetic fellow.

"He’s very spirited."

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