Man with special needs to compete internationally in Taekwon-Do

PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) A local man is showing us how hard work pays off. He's been studying martial arts since he was just a little guy. Well he stuck with it, and now, he's heading to the Open World Championships, thanks to a lot of people who have his back.

"That's my dream to go the world championship," said 30-year old Eric Cohen. He spends several hours almost every day at Red Tiger Taekwon-Do in the Northeast. He’s been honing his skills for the past 26 years. He started when he was four year old.

Coach Chuck Foley says Eric is exceptional.

"He's achieved the level of 5th degree Black Belt which most people can only dream of," he said.

What makes that even more incredible, Coach Foley says, is that Eric has had a rough life. He’s special needs and he’s a cancer survivor. And in February he lost his mother to MS and cancer.

"Regardless of whatever mental and intellectual challenges he might have he applies himself a million percent," said Coach Foley.

That fierce passion and dedication has led Eric to the opportunity of a lifetime. In July he will travel to Brighton England to compete in the Open World Championships. For the first time there will be a special needs division.

"It's literally his first opportunity to step up to what he's seen other people do for 20,30 years so he's gearing himself towards this," said Coach Foley.

On the matts Eric shows why he’s been chosen to go.

"When he goes through the gym doors he puts on one of these uniforms and he's equal with everybody and ahead of many," said Coach Foley.

The competition is even more important because it’s a promise he made to his parents that he would go and compete.  He’s doing this event for his mom.

"She'd probably be happy for me," said Eric.
He will compete July 30th.  An organization called Gym Heroes fundraised to cover Eric’s trip. They help athletes with challenges achieve their goals.

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