The Ass-Kickin’, Award-Winnin’ West Seattle Mama

Tamela Thomas takes top honors at the Super Bowl of Tang Soo Do.

Unlike the World Series, in which North American baseball teams disingenuously claim to be the greatest on earth, the World Tang Soo Do Championships on July 11 and 12 in Orlando, Fla., were the real deal. To wit, frontrunners at this martial-arts competition hailed from the Netherlands, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, and...West Seattle. The local champ is Tamela Thomas, a 48-year-old (she's got it all over Dara Torres) mother of one who by day works as a manager at the Washington Athletic Club. By night, she and her 10-year-old son, Tug, venture to the Evergreen Tang Soo Do Academy on California Avenue, where they train under the tutelage of Master Steve Elmore (SW photog Li'l Scoop trains at the same studio). After overcoming severe migraines to finish first in forms and third in sparring at the May 24 Region 1 championships in Roseburg, Ore., Thomas completed a first-place sweep of the red belt (two below black, one up from brown) sparring, forms, and weapons competitions in Orlando, thus earning the distinction of Grand Champion in the senior (35+) women's division. According to Elmore, that's never happened—not at his studio, not in Seattle, and not even in the multistate region the Evergreen Academy competes in. Says Elmore of his prize-winning pupil: "After she won, she felt like she didn't deserve it. She showed great humility. She was already thinking about how she could do better, even though she won everything." While Thomas is thrilled with the recognition, she insists she didn't accomplish what she set out to in Florida. "It would have to be the tops as far as my athletic achievements, for sure. But my goal was to move like Master Elmore, like this powerful, nimble, graceful gazelle, which is what I see when he moves. I don't feel like I moved the way I wanted to. I still have a long way to go."

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