It was his first international trip and he was moments away from representing the USA in the International Tang Soo Do competition, held Nov. 11 and 12 in the Netherlands.
"The competition was pretty much for Europeans only," said Moran, who owns Xtreme Edge Martial Arts in Lyndhurst.
"There were a lot of people from Germany, Wales, Poland, Sweden, and London. I was an American, a Latino, knowing no one.
"I felt like the underdog, the outcast. Coming from America to a whole different, country and my style of martial arts is Shodokan, Japanese, while the competition was the Korean style — that meant completely different techniques."
And so, before the competition started, Moran did just what he would do back home. He put his AirPods in, turned his music up, and began visualizing the performance he was about to give.
Once Moran stepped in the ring, his training and preparation kicked in, he said.
"In that moment, I put myself in the zone," Moran said. "With all those emotions, anxiety, the excitement, and being overwhelmed. It was that mindset — switching off those emotions and turning on the performance aspect, the muscle memory.
"I wanted that audience, who didn't know who I was, to feel the emotions, to feel that intensity and that power when I brought the performance to life. It was about giving them a show and letting them know, 'Hey I’m here. And this is who I am.'"
The confidence Moran gained after his first win carried him through the other two rounds.
Moran ended up taking first place in two of three components, Form and Weapons, and placing third in Sparring.
"Taking the first set the tone. People wanted to know who I was," he said. "I had a crowd around my ring for Weapons, and I had the audience's attention. I felt comfortable, and everything just came out flowing and just being in my element."
Going into his final division, Sparring, Moran felt better than ever. He avoided injury and stayed strong, but was ousted in the 18th round.
Moran began training in martial arts when he was 7 years old. His parents thought it would be a good outlet for his extra energy.
Turns out, he was good at it, too. By 12, Moran became a junior instructor and was ranking at the high level at regional tournaments at at 14, Moran got his black belt.
Pursuing martial arts as a career wasn't really a question for Moran, who dropped out of college after just a few months to continue to pour his efforts into his passion.
About a decade ago, Moran opened Elite Performance Martial Arts in Belleville, which closed during the pandemic.
"The pandemic either made you, or it broke you," Moran said.
In January 2022, Moran rebranded and opened Xtreme Edge on Stuyvesant Avenue in Lyndhurst, many of the families from Edge coming with him.
"Entering Lyndhurst as a new business owner and a Latino was a little nerve wracking and challenging, but also exciting," he said. "It opened me to new opportunities, to meet new people and families, and doing great things in the community."
Moran says the greatest reward for him is seeing the benefit that martial arts has had on his students. He says the discipline in the studio expands to other aspects of their lives.
"It changes their lives," he said. "Their marriages, eating habits, their focus. If you can do what you love and it’s fun, then you’ll have a happy life."
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