Asian Sun Team prepares to National Competition

Published:

Staff report

They range from age 8 to 42.

They kick, they punch, they think and they learn.

It's like an Olympic training regimen, mixed with master's-degree-level physiology classes. It also includes some yoga and some physical therapy because this level of intense practice takes its toll.

Members of the Asian Sun Martial Arts Competition Team gather at the Hudson location four nights a week, preparing to compete at Taekwondo tournaments from Florida to California.

Around 15 team members are expected to travel to San Diego the weekend of July 4, hoping to win gold medals at USA Taekwondo's National Championships.

Asian Sun's coaching staff includes a veteran physical therapist and a nationally ranked competitor.

"The driving force behind going from the old way of training two days per week was how high the level of competition is these days," said Grandmaster Ryan Andrachik, the team's head coach. "Kids who are 10-year old have been to four or five Nationals. They train four days a week. So we had to adapt our training to stay competitive."

There is a 90-minute session is the weekly Flexibility and Fitness Class. In Olympic-style sparring competition, a kick or punch to the chest scores one point and a kick to head scores three points.

"The stretch class has made me the most flexible I have ever been," said Vincie Ripepi, a Hudson student and assistant coach. "I want to win gold and help our team be the best we can."

The core of this flexibility regimen is a cutting-edge approaching called M.A.T., which is short for Muscle Activation Techniques.

The approach is increasingly common in physical disciplines from NFL teams to rehab medicine.

When Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning sustained what looked like a career-ending injury, M.A.T. pioneer Greg Roskopf used the techniques to rehab Manning for a record-setting season.

Fitness and Flexibility classes are led by Raquel Cecil, who is a practicing registered nurse, certified personal trainer, Pilates instructor, Yogilates teacher and Ohio University graduate. With a dozen years of experience, she saw M.A.T. practiced at the highest levels when she interned with the Broncos, under Roskopf.

M.A.T. exercises combine the best of yoga, Pilates and biochemistry to create immediate, measurable results that increase from session to session.

Hudson resident Ryan Andrachik, an eight-degree black belt, has owned Asian Sun since 1994. His students have won countless medals.

In February, Andrachik's son, Vincie Ripepi, visited Colorado and tried out for the Olympic Taekwondo Team. In September, the United States Taekwondo Association ranked Ripepi No. 3 in the country in its welterweight division.

"The Olympic Training Center really opened my eyes," said Ryan Andrachik. "Athletes are getting yoga and stretching and strength and conditioning and special target-paddle classes -- in addition to group training. For the kids who are going to Nationals, we have to train at a level we've never seen before. Because the sport of Taekwondo is evolving."

This year, most Team members headed to Nationals have been to at least three national-level championships sponsored by the USAT or Amateur Athletic Union. This year alone, Asian Sun competitors have brought back 30 medals, from tournaments from Switzerland to Detroit.

"We teach them whatever works at the top," said Ripepi. "If it works for champion fighters, it will work at a local tournament. Every tournament I go to, I take something home from it."

Ripepi serves as the team's assistant coach and ace sparring partner. At age 18, he has 15 years of martial arts training.

This year, Asian Sun purchased eight expensive electronic sets made by Daedo, the leading competition gear company.

Over a lifetime of training, Andrachik has developed one foolproof method to overcome close calls, technical glitches and lopsided matches: Train hard and win big.

"The sport of Taekwondo is evolving," said Andrachik. "It's based on international competition, seeing what Europeans are doing, what South American teams are doing, what Canadian Teams are doing, what African teams are doing. For the kids who are going to Nationals, this is taking it to a whole new level."

Asian Sun team members include Jordan Heppe of Akron, Xander Oxford of Barberton, Tiger Du of Fairlawn, Alexia and Nadia Andrachik of Hudson, Vincent Ripepi of Hudson, Isabelle Collyer of Rootstown, Derrick Adkins and Ryan Bell of Streetsboro, Ryan Bell of Streetsboro and Jeff and Ryan Heerema of Tallmadge.

"They have helped me with my knee problems and made my kicks stronger," said Adkins, a 12-year-old black belt. "I'm kicking higher and I feel better. I'm more confident."

Asian Sun has nine schools, with locations in Aurora, Beachwood, Brecksville, Green, Hudson, Montrose, Stow, Tallmadge, and Wadsworth.

For more about Asian Sun Martial Arts, visit www.asiansun.net. For more information about Asian Sun's World Kickboxing Academy, visit www.worldkickboxingacademy.com.

For more information about individual competitors, including pictures and bios, contact Asian Sun at 330-650-6333 or email at info@asiansun.net.

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