2 FilAms bring home Taekwondo golds

Taekwondo titans Charleston John Silla (left) and James Santos  

While Taekwondo is a sport rooted in Korea, it is branching out to different parts of the world and producing great athletes.

Two Filipino Americans from New York City won gold medals at the July 3-9 AAU Taekwondo competition in Las Vegas. Charleston John Silla and James Santos earned the title of AAU 2022 National Champions in their divisions.

James also earned a gold in Team Poomsae and received the title of 2023 AAU National Team Member. Charleston also received a silver medal in the Male Sport Team Forms.

AAU — or Amateur Athletic Union — describes itself as a multi-sport organization that promotes amateur sports and physical fitness programs. It was founded in 1888 and has 700,000 members in the U.S. It has 34 sports programs, including beach volleyball, soccer and wrestling.

Gold medal winners James and Charleston serve their community by teaching at Champions Martial Arts (CMA) in Forest Hills. Charleston is the head Taekwondo instructor at the school, and James is a staff member. Much of their work ethic comes from the principles of the discipline and from their coaches Master Oh and Master Lee. Master Oh posts inspirational quotes on their Facebook pages that serve to inspire them. One such quote is from the late Kobe Bryant who stated: “Show up every single day and do the work.”

In Vegas, Charleston at far left and James 4th from left holding his medal.

James began taking Taekwondo lessons at the age of 4 and is now in the process of earning his 3rd Degree Black Belt. His   competitions started at the local level in New York and New Jersey. James is also part of the Poomsae Team, which is also known as the forms part of Taekwondo. He won his second gold medal in his team competition, earning him a coveted spot as a member of the 2023 AAU National Team.

He is 16 years old, the son of a Filipino father, Don, and a Korean American mother Sandie. His paternal grandmother worked in the United Nations as a secretary. His Filipino ancestry, on his grandfather’s side, is associated with the Lorenzana Food brand known for its dips, gravy and fish sauce. His grandparents migrated to the United States in the ‘60s, and are now retired. He attends the Bronx High School of Science.

Taekwondo runs in Charleston’s family. His brother Charles Michael is also an instructor at CMA in Kew Gardens and holds the title of Master. On July 5th and 6th, 2022, Charleston became the 2022 AAU WT Traditional Forms National Champion, Sport Team Form Silver Medalist, and Sport WT Forms Top 6 Finalist.

Charleston, 23, was born and raised in Queens. His parents Charlie Silla and Annalynn Silla came from the Philippines to the U.S. in 1991 where they launched their nursing careers. Charleston began to study Taekwondo   at age of 5 inspired by his older brother Charles. Charleston   also sought inspiration from his favorite martial arts actors such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li.

He has actively been training for 18 years and has a 4th Degree Black Belt. He currently trains with Master Oh at Bayside CMA and teaches in his school, Champions Martial Arts Forest Hills. His dream of becoming a Taekwondo master and opening his own school has turned into reality.

© The FilAm 2022

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