Ever since 12-year-old Tyler Hammack can remember, he has been fascinated with martial arts.
“I saw (the movie) ‘Karate Kid’ when I was little and thought, ‘I want to be like him when I grow up,’ ” said Tyler.
And if one thing is for certain, it is that when Hammack puts his mind to something, he can accomplish it.
Two years ago Tyler began training in the art of tae kwon do. Attending three classes two nights a week, Tyler quickly excelled and within 10 months found himself competing at the national level in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Because he is so disciplined, he was invited to attend special classes,” said Tyler’s dad, Mike Hammack. At various qualifying tournaments, Tyler Hammack found himself competing against much older and more advanced youths. But because of his training, he was able to meet the challenge.
The training and discipline paid off as Hammack placed third in the nation in Olympic sparring.
“He just took to it naturally,” said Mike Hammack, adding that Tyler has placed in the top three in every tournament except one.
Shortly after a national tournament last year, Tyler Hammack began taking classes in the art of Brazilian jujitsu – a martial art that advances the theory that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique.
Tyler Hammack traveled to Helena where he competed in a tournament in Brazilian jujitsu and came away with bronze and gold medals. He is one of only two people who have trained in Sandpoint to earn the gold medal in Brazilian jujitsu.
“It’s fun for me,” Tyler Hammack said. “I absolutely love the adrenaline.”
His plan is to try several types of martial arts. After a short break this summer, he planned to return to training and try a new type of martial art – Muay Thai – a form of kickboxing.
Word of Hammack’s talent has spread around the local martial arts community and according to Mike Hammack, several instructors have invited Tyler Hammack to join their classes.
“Ever since I started tae kwon do, I’ve wanted to go pro with my fighting,” Tyler Hammack said.
Traveling to tournaments can cost a lot of money and take time, but Mike Hammack said he just packs up his motor home and takes Tyler and at times Tyler’s younger brother, Drew, and a lot of reading material.
“Tyler will finish a 500-page book in one weekend,” said Mike Hammack.
An honor roll student attending Clark Fork Junior High this fall, Tyler Hammack’s tests last year showed he reads at college level.
“The first chapter books I liked were the Hardy Boys books,” said Tyler. “Those are what got me hooked on reading.”
While Tyler’s passion clearly is in the area of martial arts, he has also enjoyed learning new things while working with his dad this summer. Mike Hammack, who owns a construction business and a property management company, has brought Tyler along on many of his projects this summer and taught him everything from electrical wiring to the importance of paperwork.
“I now know how much work it takes to pour just one concrete slab,” said Tyler, who adds that his dad is a very patient teacher. “It’s fun for me even though it’s work, and I really like the physical part of it.”
“I get compliments all the time on what a great worker he is,” said MikeHammack.
Through his school work, learning the construction business and his training in the area of martial arts, Tyler said he has learned many good life lessons.
“It is important to work hard in life in order to have a good life,” he said. “And if you have the right discipline and like what you’re doing, you can go a long way with it.”