Martial artists in Fort St. James put their discipline and focus to the test earlier this month as the Fort St. James Family Taekwondo club brought home 10 of medals from the 2014 B.C. Taekwondo Championship Cup.
The championship took place over the Thanksgiving weekend on Sunday, Oct. 12 at the Simon Fraser University campus in Burnaby, B.C.
Vera Poole, headmaster of the Fort St. James club, took a small group of her students to the competition and despite being up against 210 other martial artists, Fort St. James club members consistently placed in the top three category each time they competed.
“We went down with five member and 10 medals came back, meaning that each of our members placed in the top three,” said Poole.
Bringing only five members to a provincial competition is much lower than a club would regularly bring saying that their team typically has around 15 to 18 competitors.
Competitors took part in sparring matches between other clubs from throughout the province as well as a category known as patterns, which involves martial artists performing certain techniques required to advance in belt as well as they before judges.
This is not the first time the Fort St. James club has had success, the team took home 32 medals during the 2014 provincial Taekwondo championships in Prince George. They’ve also begun hosting their own tournaments, the first of which took place last may between the Fort St. James Family Taekwondo Club and the Prince George Family Taekwondo Club. The Fort St. James club won the charity tournament and the two teams managed to raise $2200 for juvenile diabetes research for their efforts.
Poole believes her students success comes from the fact that they have a family orientation,
“We’re family oriented, too. I think that’s another reason we’re so successful is that we have families exercising together,” Poole said. “When we go on trips like this, everyone goes – it’s everybody together. Again you have that family dynamic of everyone supporting everyone. It’s a very positive and encouraging thing.”
Similarly, Pool said the dedication of her students has led to the success of her students saying,
“There is a core group of around ten to 12 that are consistent year after year and they are what makes the club so successful, their dedication and support.”
Poole’s students range from yellow belts (the second lowest colour ranking in the belt system) right up to black belts and from seven years old to Taekwondo practitioners in their 60’s.
“That’s the nice thing about Taekwondo, it’s for any age level,” said Poole. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how rich, all that matters is that belt around your waist.”
Cheyenne Vandrish, 16 and a first Dan blackbelt who has been with club for nearly seven years, competed in the games and said the experience was incredible.
“It’s such a small group from such a small community and to go down to Vancouver and Burnaby and place so well is pretty incredible.”
Vandrish said that Taekwondo has been life changing for her allowing her to blossom from a shy person into a confident and happy teenager.
“Before [Taekwondo] I was very shy and I didn’t have many friends,” said Vandrish. “After Taekwondo, if someone bullied me I’d pretty much tell them to go away – it was able to help me build confidence and gain more friends because I wasn’t scared of what they thought anymore. It’s helped me gain self confidence.”
Poole says this is indicative of the sport,
“It’s the nature of Taekwondo, it builds confidence and self esteem.”
It’s success stories like Vandrishes that fuels Poole’s love of the sport,
“Nothing gives me a greater thrill than to have somebody come to me and tell me that they’re here because they’re being bullied at school or abused and they want it to stop.” Poole added that students see results almost immediately.
“They spend three months in martial arts and you look at them and they walk with their head up and shoulders back; they look you in the eye. They have gained confidence and found self,” said Poole.
The Fort St. James Family Taekwondo club is currently in the process of finalizing a business plan to open a new dojo downtown in the location that previously housed the Red Fox Bistro.
Currently the club trains part time at David Hoy elementary but will switch to full time when they relocate.