Imugi Martial Arts students rise to taekwondo top after months of dedicated training

Imugi Martial Arts is celebrating the success four of its students have achieved this year.

Kelly O’Brien, an instructor at the Williamtown-based taekwondo academy, said Chase Thoburn, 16, Mia Gillespie, 14, Nicky Blanch, 17, and Daniel Blanch, 15, have shown “exemplary dedication and stamina” to train up to six times a week and move from white to blue belts in the past eight months.

“It’s not easy as a teenager to forgo your weekend social life, juggle school work and make such a massive commitment,” she said. 

The teens were noticed by Australian taekwondo coach Master Di Carn at a training camp earlier in the year and invited to train at her Sydney academy, Irontiger, with the aim for them to qualify for the Australian Taekwondo Championship in Victoria at the end of September. 

In addition to their weekly sessions at Imugi and further strength and conditioning work, each Saturday and Sunday since February the Port teens have travelled to Sydney to train with Carn. 

If they weren’t training, the teens were competing. But the work paid off.

Mia and Nicky have been undefeated all year. They claimed gold at the Gold Coast Open, NSW State Championship and Australian championship.

In the 12-14 years sparring, blue belt Mia claimed national gold. Nicky won gold in the seniors (17-99 years) blue belt sparring. 

Daniel achieved gold at the Gold Coast Open, silver at state and gold in the male 15-17 blue belt sparring.

Chase claimed bronze at the Gold Coast Open and the Australian championships in the male 15-17 blue belt sparring. 

He unable to compete at the state titles due to injury.

Tony Gillespie, Imugi’s chief instructor, said the four teens are a “massive credit to their parents” and “exceptional representatives of Imugi Martial Arts and the entire Port Stephens area”.

For Nicky, who is studying for the Higher School Certificate as well as working and training, the year has been challenging – but a welcome one.

“Stepping out my comfort zone and learning new things… has helped me feel more comfortable taking on new experiences,” she said.

Asked what he has learned about himself this year, Chase said: “I have learnt to stay relaxed during the fight, fight my fight regardless of what my opponent is doing”.

“Picking my shots and staying composed,” he added.

Daniel said the hardest thing about competition day for him is “stressing over all the worse case scenario’s that may present itself in the fight” the night before.

For Mia, adapting to a new style that was taught to the teens the past year was difficult.

“[It] meant putting aside a large percentage of my existing skills in order to refine the specifically required skills for this style,” she said.