For close to 30 years, two residents have been teaching and travelling the world thanks to Taekwondo.
Masters Wayne and Susanne Mitchell run Kee’s Taekwondo and have been teaching the martial art since the ‘90s.
For Wayne, he moved to Yorkton in 1992 to start teaching, later meeting Susan where they would open up other training centres before moving to the there current location in 2000.
Taekwondo, which is a Korean martial art involving punching and kicking techniques, with an emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping, spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques, was an interest for both of them throughout their lives.
“I had always wanted to take it. As a kid, watching the kung fu movies and I had always wanted to do a martial art of some type, and it was just a period in my life where I had an opportunity to do it,” Wayne explained when talking about what got him interested in Taekwondo. “I was working on the railway at the time, and I wanted to open up my own Tae Kwon Do school; I was teaching in Saskatoon, but the opportunity came up to move here, and that’s what I did.”
For Susanne, it was her kids that led her to do Taekwondo.
“I always thought about doing it, but not until they started it doing. It was something we could do together as a family, and we enjoyed it,” she said. “Then my son started to get into the elite level and needed to travel nationally, and that’s when I decided to get into refereeing, and if you want to be a referee, you have to be a black belt. When I got older, I continued into the international level, and I could travel and maintain a level of fitness to be able to continue at that level was important.”
Their involvement in the sport has both of them travel the world. Wayne has acted as the team head, manager, coach, and trainer for Team Saskatchewan, and nationally, as Taekwondo Canada’s president, vice-president and secretary-general. He has served as a board member of the Saskatchewan Taekwondo Association and was inducted into the Yorkton Sports Hall of Fame. Internationally, he was a referee for the World Junior and Pan-Am Taekwondo Championships, coached the North American Indigenous Games, was team manager and the team head for the Pan-Am Junior Championships, and a Canadian delegate for the WTF General Assembly.
Susanne has been the Chair for Saskatchewan World Taekwondo Association Referee Committee since 2006, annually conducts provincial referee certification seminars and evaluates and mentors developing referees at all Saskatchewan Tae-kwondo Sanctioned events. In 2017, Susanne was appointed to the National Referee Committee as the Vice-Chair for Western Canada. Susanne has travelled the world refereeing and has received multiple awards, including best referee at the 2010 and 2013 Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Military Taekwondo Champion-ships; the 2014 1st Junior World Cadet Champion-ship in Azerbaijan; and the 2016 Pan American Open in Mexico. She also won SaskSport Female Offical of the Year in 2017.
Despite all of their accomplishments, the accomplishments and growth of their students are most important to them.
“It’s really tough to get somebody on the national team. There are only about ten people a year that make it on there, and over our time, we’ve had a little over 12 people on the national team and had Pam-Am medalists out of here,” Wayne said. “For our little community, we are quite proud of the people who can work that hard and come out of a little corner in Saskatchewan and stand there with the best.”
It’s also the life skills that their students learn that are just as important.
“There is very important values in Taekwondo like respect, being honest, leadership, always trying your hardest, having the indomitable spirit,” Susan said. “That alone is something that you want to encourage in what you are trying to pass onto your children, never mind having a small role in teaching other kids to be the best you at all times.”
Susanne has been these values help kids firsthand.
“My youngest son was labelled at school as a trouble maker; in the church, he was labelled the little Tasmanian devil. When he started Taekwondo, I saw the biggest change. The disciple and the respect in order to get the next belt. He had to behave at home, do his chores, do his homework, with the idea of getting his next belt.
“Practicing respect and the little things that we do here in class float over in every day,” she continued. “All the other things that we stress are lifeskills. We promote leadership in the kids; we promote confidence. Just the life skills that you take away which are disguised in the class are reflected into what they do in their everyday life.”
“I think it’s kind of a special offering that you don’t always get in every other setting. It augments good life tools for the kids. We watch the kids develop and be proud of what they’ve accomplished. That’s your reward.” Wayne added.
Both of them have no plans of slowing down at this point and are looking forward to continuing to teach, travel the world, and help grow Taekwondo.
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