TOWNSEND — “You have to be asked to be in the leadership program. The candidate has to write an essay on what distinguishes him from another. We teach them what it takes to be a leader both physically and mentally and take them to the next level. Keval Shah reflects that attitude of respectfulness and commitment to be in the program,” said instructor “Master Roy.”

Master Roy is a seventh-degree black belt instructor and owner of American Taekwondo Association in Amherst, N.H. He and his son, Robert, have been instructing third-grader Keval Shah, who attends Spaulding Memorial School, for the past two years in the martial arts. They believe Shah to be a hard worker, very respectful and an attentive student.

Shah and his mom, Ami, and dad, Apporva, became interested in martial arts from their neighbor Timothy McNabb, who is an instructor and owner of the Townsend Isshinryu Karate Club at the Townsend Congregational Church. Keval first studied with McNabb and learned the basic karate kicks and punches before joining ATA. McNabb found Shah to be very strong, he said, and thinks he has a lot of natural talent.

Being in the leadership program at ATA has brought a lot of enjoyment to Shah, the boy said. He attends classes five times a week. He currently has a blue belt. He loves the program, he said, is very committed and thankful to his parents for taking the time to drive him there every day and support him.

Shah was just awarded the 2011 New Hampshire State Championship Boys Color Belt for 7-year-olds under traditional weapons. Keval competed in more than 15 competitions over the past year. He placed first in each to be able to be awarded this honor.

The ATA program uses traditional Korean weapons like the Jahng Bong (the bo staff), the Ssahng Jeol Bong (nunchaku), the Gum Do (sword), The Sahn Knat (kama), and the Bahng Mahng Ee (escrima stick). These are weapons approved for training that Shah uses in his competitions. He proudly displayed all his weapons, 23 medals, and trophies recently.

Along with competing in martial arts, Shah also has an interest in math. He recently won four achievement awards in mathematics from the Kumon Math and Reading Center in Amherst, N.H.

Both parents are extremely proud of their son, they say. They understand it’s a family commitment and everyone needs to do their part to achieve success.