East Tennessee teen dubbed best-in-the-nation Tae Kwan Do competitor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A Knoxville teen is getting a once in a lifetime honor in the world of martial arts.

She’s only 13, and is the top Tae Kwon Do competitor in the United States.

Five days a week, you’ll find Kelsey Beeler at Chung-Do Black belt Academy in Karns training in a spot she developed a love for at a very young age.

Kelsey says, "Me and my dad would watch karate cartoons and Jackie Chan movies and Bruce Lee stuff, and I always thought that was the neatest stuff."

So, at age four, she picked kicks and punches over pointes and plies.

"There were two places -- a martial arts school and ballet school. And the Tae Kwon Do was really exciting and more fun, so I decided to do that."

Now, nine years of dedication later, Kelsey has been ranked top in the nation – beating out the typical master of this sport: men, and those much older and higher ranked.

Senior instructor Bernie Fritts says, "I get to the list and I’m looking for an old student, Jesse Rodriguez from Florida, he is 20-something, incredible, does flips in the air, and his name was 2nd and I'm like ‘well who is…?’ And I looked, and my jaw hit the floor."

So how does that work? How can a second degree black belt that is 13 years old beat out others higher ranked with more experience?


She wins.

Bernie says, "90 points for first and she has a rack of first place metals longer than my arm right now."

She’s 120 points ahead of number two, but it’s the competition closest to her she just may have to watch out for.

That competition is 10-year-old Myia Beeler, Kelsey’s little sister.

Myia says, "I Didn't even think I was ranked. I was very surprised."

It’s a combo that is sure to garner national attention for years to come, and Bernie says, "I'm honored just to be their instructor."

Five of Fritts’ students are in the top 50.

The Beeler sisters have a 5-year-old brother who started martial arts last week.

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