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Grow a strength you didn’t know you had – Jessica Cowell


Dear Chief Instructor John O’Brien,

I came to first taekwondo not long after finding myself as the victim of a violent and public assault with a deadly weapon, instead of fight or flight I found a third option and froze, as a
fairly athletic and competitive female this was the first time I had viewed myself as physically or emotionally weak or vulnerable in anyway. I had always been involved in copious amounts of competitive team sports, I enjoyed being good at what I did helping my team to a win and pushing my body to its limits for a medal or trophy or whatever the prize was. I perceived myself as strong physically and mentally, but after being assaulted my perceptions of myself and this so called strength I thought I had was shattered, I was scared. It wasn’t long before an ad for first taekwondo caught my eye and I was attending my first training session, the instructors were beyond kind and supportive as I struggled to find my balance, learn to concentrate and started to challenge myself. My life had become quite complicated but each week I would put my uniform on and attend training and everything else going on in my world would melt away, it was my solace, nothing outside of that class mattered.

I won’t sugar coat it, learning the art of Taekwondo has not come easy to me as a team sport player, with very little coordination and the memory of a goldfish I definitely wanted to throw the towel in a million times or more and take up something easier like power walking, dodgeball or competitive eating. But my instructors and peers had quickly become like a family they gave me the support and drive to push myself at each and every training. A year of training and grading’s came and went so quickly, looking back I realised I had gained physical strength, determination, respect, focus, friends, and some coordination well kind of at least more than I started with anyway.

I could give you a list of all the things I have learned while training at first taekwondo but actions speak louder than words. So here goes It was recently that I was working a night shift as a nurse in the emergency department, I was caring for a difficult high risk patient and in the early hours of the morning this patient tried to physically assault me, I had always thought if I were put in this situation I would freeze as I had done before but I was wrong something took over maybe it was muscle memory from all the self-defence we had learned or something else either way In that moment I was able to fight not freeze and protect myself from serious harm walking away with but a single bruise. In that moment I realised that First Taekwondo was about more than mastering patterns, fitness or discipline for me, First Taekwondo was a family that you hate to love and love to hate, they will push you to be the best version of yourself in every way, they will challenge you to face your fears, push you physically and mentally, each you discipline, support you and help you to find and grow a strength you didn’t know you had.

Kind regards
Jessica Cowell