BRATTLEBORO -- Martial arts experts from the far corners of New England will make their way to the Vermont State Nationals, an annual tournament hosted by Rouleau-Holley's Tae Kwon Do, this Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m., at the Bellows Falls Union High School gym, in Westminster.

Rouleau-Holley's is a local martial arts school with dojos located in Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, and Keene, N.H., and is operated by practitioners Denise Rouleau and Deborah Holley. This is the 27th year Rouleau-Holley's has hosted the tournament, and this year 27 schools are scheduled to compete.

The reason they gather? Ask a master.

"A lot of people think that the martial arts--if they've never learned anything about them--encourages violence, but it is totally the opposite," said Rouleau. "In fact, it discourages fighting."

The tournament kicks off with team demonstrations by students from regional academies that will feature katas and weapons forms. Six schools are signed up.

"Then we break into eight rings of non-stop action," said Rouleau, who will be introducing a new demo team through her school.

Immediately following the demos will be a memorial presentation in honor of Army Pfc. Kyle Gilbert, a Brattleboro resident who lost his life in Baghdad in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Gilbert was a student of Rouleau-Holley's, became a nationally-ranked black belt, and was the recipient of over 300 awards and trophies throughout his martial arts career.

Rouleau said she recalls the long but enjoyable road trips she would take with Gilbert, when they'd go off to wherever their next tournament would take them. "We had some memorable trips," she said. "He was our school's black belt."

The presentation will be coupled with a raffle, and half of the monies raised will go directly towards a scholarship setup in Gilbert's name that offers area students who can't afford certain costs associated with their study, the ability to do so.

George Amaru, a third-degree black belt and Rouleau-Holley's instructor, has been a points judge at the tournament since 2006.

"Being an open tournament, it's nice to see the different styles," said Amaru. "It is also nice to see friends you grew up with, on the circuit. It also increases an interest in other styles, which forces you to look at yourself and what else is out there. It's really fascinating."

David Aquino can be reached at daquino@reformer.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.