An 8-year-old boy who stepped in to save his brother from injury after two dogs got loose in his neighborhood was awarded an honorary black belt for his act of courage.

When Sasha Pchelenkov, 8, saw his mother trying to get a large dog off of his 2-year-old brother, Misha Moore, he immediately jumped into action. The boy ran into the fray, attempting to rescue his sibling. As a result, Sasha was attacked, but his little brother was unscathed.

“He was screaming, ‘Leave my brother!’” Tatiana Moore, the boys' mother said after the attack. “And he grabbed the dog and tried to pull the dog back.

“I did not expect this from [Sasha] because he’s afraid of dogs,” she said. “I thought he would run inside, which would have been OK with me, but I did not expect him to jump on the dog. But he did it, without thinking of his fears.”

“In martial arts, we celebrate all of the black belt attributes, and courage is one of them,” said Ann Marie Coglianese, owner of Region American Taekwondo Association in Highland. “Courage is acting in spite of fear, and Sasha just acted, despite being afraid. We wanted to celebrate Sasha and celebrate the fact that Misha is safe.”

Coglianese hosted a Celebrate Sasha gathering Aug. 22 at the martial arts school. The school's students, instructors, friends and family of Sasha gathered to commend him for his bravery.

"I cried when we turned the corner and saw everyone lined up outside for Sasha," Tatiana Moore said. 

The school presented Sasha with a certificate and an honorary black belt of courage. He has been attending taekwondo classes for two years and earned the green belt.

"It felt awesome," Sasha said of receiving the black belt.

He said one day he wants to earn the highest ranking in taekwondo.

“Sasha is the kindest person; he's so genuine,” Coglianese said. “It's never about creating a warrior, it's about the black belt spirit, and Sasha has a fantastic spirit.”

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