Fitness and Self Defence

Kasia Leahy

Branch Instructor

Canberra ACT Region

Chisholm Dojang

How long have you been training in Taekwondo? And what got you started?

I started in 2014 as an adult looking to do exercise. A friend of mine had recommended I bring the kids along for years, so I thought I would give it a go first. I enjoyed it so much, that my whole family has joined me.

Highlights of your Taekwondo success?

  • Joining United Taekwondo in 2014
  • Being promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt in 2017
  • Being promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt Instructor in 2018
  • Being promoted to 2nd Degree Instructor in 2022

Describe your first black belt grading, and what it took to get you there?

For me, the preparation leading up to the grading was just as important as the grading itself. I spent 9 months preparing for the grading and was attending 5 classes per week. I pushed my body and mind to its limit as I wanted to be my best on the day.

I was lucky a few other students were grading on the same day, so I was not alone in front of Master Paul. There was another adult going for 1st Dan Black Belt with me, and two children going for junior black belt. I remember telling the kids I did not want to do my patterns over and over in front of Master Paul, and if we only had to do the pattern once I would buy them a box of chocolates each.

I remember I was so nervous on the day, I had butterflies in my stomach the whole time. I had to perform 2 patterns. I ignored everything around me and just focused on each move of my pattern, somehow staying in time with the other applicants. Luckily, we only had to do each pattern once, so the children got their chocolates. I had to complete 4 board breaks. I was really nervous about my jumping back kick and turning kick, but I got them both on the first try. The side kick and spinning heel took me a few attempts. I also had to spar other black belts. I just kept telling myself “don’t stop” “keep going” to help me get through. I was absolutely exhausted by the end, but I was incredibly proud of myself.

How often do you train? In Taekwondo? Gym? etc

I attend two taekwondo classes per week and the gym 3-4 times per week. In 2021, I was unhappy with myself, so I made the decision to lose weight in an effort to improve my fitness level. Over 6 months I lost 50kg and improved my fitness level dramatically, despite recovering from knee surgery and a hamstring injury.

Favourite Taekwondo move or moves?

  • Turning Kick
  • Stepping Turning Jumping Turning Kick
  • Stepping Jumping Spinning Heel Kick
  • Jumping Front Leg Side Kick
  • Axe Kick
  • All Patterns

What are your personal goals in Taekwondo?

Initially, I was a belt chaser just trying to get the next promotion.  Since 2021 my mindset has significantly changed and I am focused on health and fitness. My goal is to improve my fitness level to improve my technique, speed and power.

Has Taekwondo benefited home life? If so, in what way?

Being more active makes me more active at home with maintaining the house and looking after my children (special needs). I have more motivation and have been more proactive. While being more active, my body is not strained by extended periods of immobility, which can happen when you watch TV all night or play computer games (after a full day of work on the computer).

Taekwondo has been a huge part of my fitness and weight loss goals. I look at myself and I am proud of what I have achieved. Attending taekwondo classes for me can be a stress reliever. When I have had a bad day at work or the kids have worn me down, taking 1 hour for myself has turned the whole day/week around and set a positive mood. This has allowed me to handle the stresses in my life more easily. I am able to remain calm, focus on the outcome and the steps required to overcome challenges.

Your favourite saying and what this means?

“True strength is in the soul and spirit, not the muscles”

“Just because you struggle, does not mean you fail. Every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there”

“The challenges are what makes life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”

These three sayings mean a lot to me. While training for my 2nd Degree Black Belt, I injured my knee and had surgery. The following 12 months where incredibly hard and I wanted to give up. Training after surgery had its own challenges both physically and mentally. I was self-conscious about my physical performance in front of others and depressed as other students were progressing and I was not. In the following 12 months, I decided to change the way I think and focus on myself and my path. In addition I was managing another significantly injury. But this time, I was not going to let that stop me from achieving my goal. Just because my journey is different, does not make it better or worse than someone else’s.

Best advice you can give someone training and wishing to start training in Taekwondo?

I would consider the location and time that best suits you. Attend several different classes as each instructor has a different style, so you need to find the one that suits you best. Talk to the students and ask them questions to see what their experience was when they started. You will see most people will feel the same. At first you might feel nervous or even feel a little silly wearing the uniform, but as you learn and grow you will gain confidence and feel proud.

Be patient. What you put in, is what you get out.

What other activities apart from Taekwondo do you enjoy?

I enjoy cross stitch, paint by numbers, and diamond art. As I work full time, my spare time is mostly taken up with looking after my children, managing the housework, taekwondo and the gym.

Favourite movie(s) and why?

Star Trek: I grew up watching a lot of science fiction movies with my family. I still like the concept of space travel. Even though they use the same characters, they came up with a large variety of different situations for each episode. So I never felt like was watching the same thing over and over again.

Favourite food?

I like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian, and Italian. However, I find there is nothing better than a healthy home cooked meal.

With regards to Taekwondo where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

In 5 years, I would like to be a 3rd degree black belt with two dojangs. I also want to become a personal trainer to better help my students’ fitness goals. I plan to continue my healthy eating and fitness goals.

In 10 years, I would like to be a 4th degree black belt. I want to expand my personal training support within United Taekwondo. This might be through updates in the newsletter, seminars or group personal training sessions.

United Taekwondo is a division of United Taekwondo Pty Ltd. For more information, contact unitedtaekwondo@optusnet.com.au