By John Lauritsen

WOODBURY, Minn. (WCCO) — Overcoming the odds is nothing new to a 10-year-old boy from Woodbury.

Jack Carlson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 1 years old. Doctors learned he had also suffered a stroke before he was born, which caused brain damage.

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But it didn’t stop him from achieving a dream.

At Master Kim’s World Class Tae Kwon Do, students are taught to lead by example. Of the 500 students there, no one has set a better example than Jack Carlson.

“When I started out in Tae Kwon Do, I couldn’t even stand on my left leg for even a second. And now I can stand on my left leg for like 10 seconds,” Jack said.

After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, he went through years of therapy.

“When Jack was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Melissa and I talked and our goal was never to have him treated different than anybody else,” said Mike Carlson, Jack’s dad.

So when he asked to join Tae Kwon Do, his parents said yes, and then they watched as their son transformed in ways they could never imagine.

“It’s very fun to see him grow and see him become confident in himself,” said mom Melissa Carlson.

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For three years, Jack worked hard — determined to become a black belt.

Even as a student, without knowing it, Jack was teaching others a lesson about determination. A couple weeks ago, he went through the testing and earned his black belt.

“I almost cried. As soon as he finished that I was like, ‘Wow that’s the black belt,” Master Jung Hwan Kim said.

“It was pretty emotional, although he told me I was not allowed to cry,” Melissa said.

Melissa said she cried a little when Jack wasn’t looking.

“When you start out you’re like, ‘I can’t do this.’ But when you get to black belt you are like, ‘I finally did it,’” Jack said.

Jack’s goal is to be a 9th degree black belt someday.

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Because of Tae Kwon Do, he doesn’t do therapy anymore because he doesn’t need it – he’s gained flexibility, muscle and confidence.

John Lauritsen