No one messes with Mason DiLeta anymore.
The Prince Rupert taekwondo star used to be mocked for his choice of sport, but that doesn’t happen these days.
“Not ever since I got my black belt,” he said with a smile.
DiLeta, who has been taking taekwondo at Prince Rupert Taekwondo and Martial Arts Centre since he was five-years-old, got his black belt when he was 10. That’s when things shifted into high gear for him.
“If you’re in taekwondo and you get your black belt, it’s the greatest feeling. Then you know you can actually express yourself in other classes,” he said at the Second Avenue studio one Monday evening.
Before then, people would tell DiLeta that taekwondo was lame and not a real sport. After all, it isn’t basketball or hockey, two of Rupert’s favourite sports.
But their words didn’t faze the now-14-year-old, who is in Grade 9 at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS).
For him, it’s a way of clearing his mind.
“It’s something I can just relax myself from, empty my mind and just focus on. That’s why I’m really passionate about taekwondo,” DiLeta said.
But his sport is different than traditional ones in that it requires total devotion. He said taekwondo demands a devotion of both mind and muscle.
Right now, DiLeta is a step below junior master — which he isn’t eligible to test for until Grade 12. But he’s well on his way to meet some of his future goals, which include keeping on with the sport for years to come.
“I want to open up my own school because there’s lots of kids that do not get to go to taekwondo and I want to make that a reality for them,” he said. “I don’t want kids to just sit around. Honestly, in these type of days, kids get really lazy.”
DiLeta wants his school to motivate kids to get out more and stay active. Where he opens up his school depends on where life takes him. It could be Prince Rupert, it could be Vancouver, it could be Tokyo — he doesn’t know yet, but he has his eye on his future.
Besides opening up his own school, DiLeta isn’t specific on any taekwondo goals he hopes to achieve. Of course, he needs to become a master still, but he is more focused on personal improvement.
“I want to achieve my personal best, what I actually want to strive for. I want to achieve the highest I can be, I want to be the best me I can,” he said.
Taekwondo has seeped into every aspect of DiLeta’s world. The martial art has taught him so much about life, like that it’s okay to be outgoing, among other things.
“You have to really respect everyone else because you can’t be just individually disciplined. You have to listen to other people and you actually have to obey your parents. As much as people don’t like to hear that, you actually have to do that,” he said.
Something DiLeta did struggle with about taekwondo in his early years of practicing was its repetitiveness. Before achieving his black belt, a lot of the kicks and moves were so similar. It was a big obstacle for him, because he didn’t want to keep doing the same thing.
“Master Paul (Bozman) variated the stuff that we did, so we did more fun stuff like chicken fights. That really kept me going,” DiLeta said.
Chicken fights are when two athletes go on one leg and have to try and push each other down.
Taekwondo isn’t the only sport DiLeta practices. He is also on the CHSS soccer team that went to provincials this season. The two sports go hand-in-hand.
“Taekwondo has definitely helped me with soccer because a lot of kids, when they play soccer, are naturally right-footed. In taekwondo, we practice with both feet so I was naturally left-footed. That helped me a lot,” DiLeta said.
The martial art has also helped him with his reaction time. Going to Burnaby with the soccer team for provincials was a good experience for him.
“It was really fun. It was intense, but not too intense. We were against older kids and we were a junior team so it was hard because I’m one of the smallest people there but it was really fun and it was a good experience,” he said.
But DiLeta’s focus is taekwondo. He encourages younger kids to join.
“We have lots of examples here for people to look up to. I know a couple kids at the younger classes look up to me and I kind of strive for them,” he said.
The Rupert teen knows he wouldn’t be where he is without the support of his parents and grandparents. That’s why he feels so strongly about respecting your parents.
“I remember times when I just felt like I didn’t want to go to taekwondo anymore. I didn’t want to be there but my grandma and my grandpa just pushed me to keep going and going because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”