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Draper Journal

Draper teen now a six-time world champion in martial arts

Sep 14, 2018 02:08PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Draper’s Ethan Fineshriber stands on the podium at the American Taekwondo Association World Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas after he won a world title this summer. (Photo courtesy Mara Fineshriber)

by Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

Winning a world title is an incredible accomplishment at any age and under any circumstances. To accomplish the feat with an unknown injury — which was discovered later to be pieces of glass stuck in his foot — is downright remarkable. And yet, that’s exactly what Draper’s Ethan Fineshriber did recently at the American Taekwondo Association World Championships in Little Rock, Arkansas. The young teen, who is also on the autism spectrum, finished first in Extreme Weapons and Creative Weapons, marking his fifth and sixth world titles. He won four world championships two years ago. At the 2018 ATA event, he also placed second in Extreme Forms and third in Creative Forms. 

“It felt amazing because I know how hard I’ve worked,” Ethan said. “It’s been two years since I had last won a world title and it was something I really had a big goal to achieve this year.” 

The son of Mara Fineshriber of Draper and Scott Fineshriber of Cottonwood Heights was recognized on his 14th birthday at the Draper City Council meeting Aug. 21 for his achievements. 

“These boys are all tremendously talented and with so many varying factors, really any number of boys could win on any given day,” Mara said. “Ethan had been working extremely hard all year long for this.”

This past year, Ethan battled some injuries and had to adjust his preparations and performances. “I was overtaken with emotion and cried right there in the ring since I knew firsthand all we had both put into getting to that point this year and I was intensely proud of him,” Mara said. 

Kim Bantum, who has worked with Ethan for the past five years, said, “I am so proud of Ethan’s titles this year as it was such a struggle with his injuries. He pushed and worked harder than ever before and I couldn’t be more proud of him and being his instructor.” 

During warmups for his final day in the Extreme Weapons competition, Ethan stepped on two pieces of glass that cut into his foot. He wasn’t quite sure what he had done to his foot, but he didn’t think he could continue in the competition. 

“I told Ethan that he had worked his tushy off to get to this one moment and he needed to at least go out there and try,” Mara said. “He then went out there and, on the fly, changed some of the elements of the form to decrease the impact to the area of his affected foot and pulled off move after move with an increasing confidence, and ended his form in a very well executed manner.” 

Second-place winner Arnav Srinivasan, a 14-year-old from Chicago, displayed tremendous sportsmanship when he realized Ethan couldn’t walk out to the medal ceremony and stand on the podium to accept his world title. Instead of standing there to receive his own second-place medal, he remained by Ethan and carried him over to the podium.

“What a truly spectacular kid who put his friend first,” Mara said. “This is a competitor that has beaten him before and he just showed complete class.” 

Draper’s Ethan Fineshriber, who has been involved in martial arts for seven years, won his fifth and sixth world titles this past summer. (Photo courtesy Mara Fineshriber)

 Mara said she is “beyond proud” of Ethan’s accomplishments. “With being on the autism spectrum, the nature of how things feel on his body are oftentimes all-consuming,” she said. “So, glass in his foot while performing at the highest level is beyond my mind that he was capable of doing. It blows me away, really.” 

At the age of 3, Ethan was diagnosed with autism and spent time in therapy to learn communication skills. He struggled to make connections with others and spent much of his time alone.

“I knew he needed to get some exercise and also get some practice using the tools he had learned in therapy to become a more social person,” Mara Fineshriber said. 

Ethan has been in martial arts since he was 7 years old. He declined to choose a sport between some options his mother gave him, so she selected martial arts for him. 

“He had an affinity for it from the very beginning and I think the positive reinforcement he received from his teachers and the other students really spurred him on to want to learn more,” Mara Fineshriber said. “He was super excited for his next class and then he was all about the goal of earning his black belt. So, it took off from there.” 

Bantum noted that because of Ethan’s autism, he struggled with change early on. “He has worked through that and does not have a problem with it anymore,” she said. “He has grown and matured so much and is now more open and willing to give change a try. I am very proud of how much he has grown over the years.” 

Ethan overcame nervousness and fear to rise through the ranks and earn his black belt, along with hundreds of medals, including 12 national titles — following a desire to participate in extreme martial arts after watching a YouTube video of actor Taylor Lautner competing in the sport. One of Ethan’s teachers encouraged him to compete on the world-class level. 

In 2016, he won his first world title at the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) World Expo. That same year, he also claimed World Championships in Extreme Forms and Musical Forms in the National Belt League and Extreme Forms in The League. 

Bantum teaches at Quest Martial Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada, so Ethan does much of his training at home in his basement with his mother, according to Bantum. “Ethan is very disciplined in his training and his mom is his rock,” Bantum said. “His loyalty to me and his extended family at Quest is beyond measure. We are so proud of him and his accomplishments.” 

Ethan is now a brand ambassador for the ATA and is sponsored by Hyper Martial Arts. He has also been asked to perform internationally — for Super Kids in Germany and Fantastic Baby in China — as well as on YouTube’s Ninja Kidz TV as Green Ranger. These opportunities have led him to pursuing an acting career. He now has his own YouTube channel with nearly 100,000 subscribers. 

Martial arts gives Ethan much more than just titles and self-confidence. “It’s taught me how to socialize with other people and how to be respectful,” he said. “All of those things have been a big deal for me because I now have friends and vlog about my life on my YouTube channel and I get interviewed or have to do auditions for acting jobs. I know martial arts is a big part of why I can do those things. I didn’t used to have hardly any friends before that.” 

Ethan and his mother credit other coaches Mike Tobin at Tobin’s Elite Academy, Mike Welch and Joe Bein at Team Infinity, Jackson Rudolph at Bo Staff Coach, and Tim Plaid for their involvement and efforts in Ethan’s growth and development in martial arts. 

“It’s hard to verbally quantify all that martial arts has done for Ethan,” Mara said. “It’s helped him come out of his shell. He now has a network of friends from all over the country that are like his brothers and he sincerely looks forward to seeing them at tournaments. It has helped him learn that life isn’t fair and that you have to work hard for a goal to be realized and often it can take a very long time before you see the fruits of your labor. He sees the world around him and that it is greater than himself and his desires and spends time and effort to help others in many ways. This never would have happened without martial arts.” 

More information about Ethan Fineshriber’s journey and accomplishments can be found on his YouTube channel and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter social media accounts.