As a 10-year-old, Stacey had to choose between the sport she loved and staying safe. As an adult, it has restored her power… My taekwondo journey, my love of taekwondo started as a kid. I was 5 when I put on my first uniform and stepped out onto the floor. I had an instant love for the sport but for me this was also where family violence started for me. My father made self defence practice at home an excuse to intimidate and hurt. Competitions became excuses and cover ups for bruises. I loved training and competitions and I wanted to reach what I thought back then was the ultimate goal and get my Black Belt. But by the age of 10 I quit. I thought if I stopped training the violence would end. Looking back at it, what 10-year-old should have to choose between the sport they loved and staying safe?

Inspired by a champion

In 2000 I got the taekwondo buzz again. I watched Lauren Burns, a female a black belt, compete at the 2000 Olympics and win gold for Australia. I tracked down my old club and picked up where I left off. I wanted to compete again but most of all I wanted to achieve the rank of Black Belt. The pattern of violence and intimidation continued. I feared learning new self defence techniques. I lost confidence in my abilities and I fell into the trap of believing that women couldn’t or shouldn’t become Black Belts and leaders. In 2002 I did achieve my Black Belt but I felt unworthy of it and stopped training. In my late teens I began a relationship with someone who was abusive physically and mentally, but this relationship was no different to what I witnessed, what I lived with all my life. I believed it’s a man’s world and this was how adult relationships worked in the real world.

Saving myself

For six years I put up with the daily abuse until I became a mum for the first time. This gave me the strength to leave. Saving myself for the sake of my child. While becoming a mum gave me the strength to be by myself and probably saved my life, coming back to taekwondo has given me the tools to empower myself, to become my own person, to take on new challenges and push harder to achieve my goals. In 2020 I took my son to his first taekwondo lesson, he had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and I knew this was something that could help him regulate and gain confidence in himself.

The road back to training

I sat watching from the side lines for six months knowing that I wanted to be back out on the floor. What was stopping me was still feeling unworthy of my Black Belt or even wearing my uniform. I felt if I couldn’t protect myself at home, what did I learn and train for, for all those years? I had heard about the Pink Belt Project but listening to the way my son’s instructor talked about the Pink Belt Project and the way he ran his club gave me the last push to approach him and get back on the floor. Since coming back I’ve become stronger, more confident and determined to achieve the things I want to achieve.
Recently I was able to do self defence with contact, something I never thought I would be able to do. I’ve been able to turn training into a place of learning and growth instead of fear and stress, this i wouldn’t of been able to do with out the club I’m at and the Pink Belt Project.
I now know I am worthy of my Black Belt, something I worked hard to achieve. I’ve learned no amount of training can prepare you for the emotional and physical toll domestic violence takes on a person, but it can empower you to heal and find your self confidence and self worth again. *Stacey’s name has been changed to protect her identity.