Horizon West resident and Ocoee Victory martial arts student Noah Sidabutar became a three-time world taekwondo champion after competing in the Tournament of Champions on July 13 in Phoenix, Arizona.
“It’s great,” he said. “A lot of my friends, they sit at home and play video games, and it’s really great to know that I’m not sitting at home being lazy during the summer but instead I’m I practice and it will help me prepare for a good future.
Last year, Noah participated in the Tournament of Champions with his family. This year was strictly a “business trip” – he only went with his mother, Juliann Sidabutar.
As a member of the demo team, Noah arrived at the convention center a day early to practice with the demo team and brush up on his pre-competition routine.
“It’s better if you go last at the world championships,” he said. “Because the judges, if you’re last, they keep you fresh in their memory when deciding who’s going to win.”
A competitor in the American Taekwondo Association Martial Arts Organization, Noah has competed in several tournaments this year that have earned him top tier spots ahead of competition at the ATA World Championships.
For Creative Form and Xtreme Form, Noah was ranked #2, so he moved up to second to last. For Xtreme Weapon he was third in the world but due to a tie he went fourth to last.
Before taekwondo, 12-year-old Noah tried a myriad of sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer and swimming. But, nothing resonated with him like the martial art form, which he discovered at the age of 7 as a student at Victory Martial Arts in Altamonte Springs and then Ocoee.
“I liked it from the first lesson; I was pretty good, so I kept going,” he said.
Noah is not the first in his family to practice martial arts. His father, Immanuel Sidabutar, practiced Indonesian taekwondo while still living in Indonesia, before moving to the United States in 2002.
At first, taekwondo was just a hobby for Noah. However, he picked up two second-place finishes – one in creative form and the other in traditional form – in his first tournament. In his second tournament, Noah won his first gold medal.
“(That’s when) I said, ‘I really want to do this,'” he said.
It took Noah three years to get his black belt. In June 2021, he earned his second degree black belt.
“You have to go through two years of study programs,” Juliann Sidabutar said. “Then you also have to do four mid-term tests.”
Noah said mid runs are always harder than the actual belt test. The belt test is structured to suit each taekwondo student, but the mid-courses are tailored to school standards and student abilities.
According to his mother, Noah’s World Championship title did not come without sacrifice and dedication.
“Three years ago he couldn’t even win a district title,” Juliann Sidabutar said. “And then we started going to several ATA national tournaments, and he couldn’t even get a gold medal. … And we said, ‘Keep going, keep grinding, we’ve got your back.’ ”
When COVID-19 hit, Noah’s family became a huge support system. They helped him cover the whole living room with mats. His parents signed him up for classes at Orlando Parkour in Longwood, so he could practice his stunts.
“It took a lot of time (invested), a lot of money, a lot of energy, a lot of sacrifice,” her mother said. “His sisters also sacrificed a lot (by) just waiting for the tournaments.”
Both Juliann and Immanuel Sidabutar are on staff at People of Faith Lutheran Church.
Two weeks before the worlds, Noah needed a bigger space to practice, so his parents helped him move into church and put the music on the speakers.
“My dad (also) helped me train,” Noah said. “He woke me up at about 6:45 a.m. (am) and said, ‘Cycle 6 miles’, so I cycled 6 miles. Then he said, ‘Go run a mile,’ so I ran a mile.
For the future, the Sidabutars are looking to expand into the world of martial arts. They are currently gathering information on the North American Sports Karate Association, to help Noah in his quest for new opportunities that may arise in the future.
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