Today we’re hearing from Kellie Thomas, or Master Thomas, the address her students use. Kellie is a 5th degree black belt, TaeKnow Do instructor and owner of TaeKwon Do KICKS. Her journey to from TaeKwon Do beginner to master has taken many interesting twists and turns. Read on to hear about the journey that’s brought her fulfillment, confidence, a new career and how TaeKwon Do can improve the health, wellness and attitudes in your family!
If you’re looking for an activity that keeps your family fit, focused and connected, drop into one of Master Thomas’ classes; the first class is always free.
Get your family KICKS at TaeKwon Do KICKS
guest post: written by Kellie Thomas
When I started TaeKwon Do back in 1981 as an 11 year old girl, it was a much different art. My brother and I were often the only children in class that was made up of mostly teenagers to 30 year old men. None the less, I was hooked. I struggled with very low self-esteem and low self-confidence, which continued through college and beyond, but this was the first time I felt like I was good at something. TaeKwon Do has so many different facets that one area is bound to “speak” to you. Growing up on a small dairy farm, unfortunately my training in TaeKwon Do was spotty and eventually had to give it up for a number of reasons. However I was lucky enough to discover that UVM had a TaeKwon Do group and began my training once again. I received my 1st degree black belt in 1992 and continued to train until life interrupted again and I moved to Addison County for a job. Then I got married, had a couple of kids and assumed TaeKwon Do was over for me. How wrong I was.
my number one priority as an instructor is to increase the confidence and self-worth for all my students and all the classes I teach
I was asked to teach a couple TaeKwon Do classes for PE at my daughter’s school. Two young men became intrigued and they (with their mothers) convinced me to start teaching again 8 years after I had given up the art. Flash forward 9 years; I am a 5th degree black belt and teaching TaeKwon Do full time averaging between 20 – 25 classes a week seeing about 170 students each week ranging from toddlers to grandparents. I often tell people that TaeKwon Do saved my life; it gave me the self-confidence and self-worth I needed during my darkest hours. That is why my number one priority as an instructor is to increase the confidence and self-worth for all my students and all the classes I teach. And to let them know they matter, are important and are now a member of my TaeKwon Do family.
We saw the benefits for our two children right away. For our three year old we have seen improvement in her coordination and gross motor skills. Our five year old can be shy and meek at times. Tae kwon do has given her confidence and a chance to become more aggressive and assertive. By training with our children, my wife and I guarantee ourselves two solid workouts a week, while still getting to spend time with our family. We are learning this new skill and culture together, and that brings us closer. -Scott
My school is very unique that all my classes are taught family style, which means students of all ages train together. As a mother I knew how complicated it could be to have to bring children to different class times for basically the same activity, especially if then the parent had an interest too. So siblings of different ages can train together as can parents and grandparents with their children. Sounds like chaos but somehow it works for us.
a new journey – toddler + preschool classes
My newest adventure is teaching children as young as 18 months. Pulling from my own experiences as a mother who had to work with occupational therapist for my own daughter, as a parent participant in different toddler and preschool classes with my children (dance, gymnastics, Gymboree, Music Together and anything else I could take them to), and as a TaeKwon Do instructor starting back in 1991; I aim to create a fun, controlled and learning class. There are two different levels of goals for kids 18 months – 3 years and those 3 years old and older.
For the younger toddler group, the areas I look at and work to strengthen are listening skills, controlling one’s body, balancing the left and right side, learning to jump, balance on one foot, alternate between right and left side, front and back legs, foot and hand drills, hand and eye coordination, learning to be comfortable with forward, backward and sideways motion and more. This sounds like a lot and it is, but the kids aren’t even really aware of what they are learning and/or ultimately doing. To them we are just singing Wheels on The Bus while playing with scarfs that we learn movement with (big arm circles, arm stretches, trunk sways, knee bends, and catch). Or just climbing up a big stack of shields and jumping off – they have no idea they are working on problem solving, upper and lower body strength, balance as they stand on top of a shaky stack and body control as they jump down aiming to land on a colored dot. Of course since this is a TaeKwon Do Class they are also “learning” how to do front, downward and sidekicks, punches, blocks and memorizing physical patterns. Their favorite thing is of course the parachute, which we really are learning cooperation helpfulness and has they learn that in order to have their turn at riding in the parachute they also have to participate in giving their classmates rides by taking a handle and walking around in a circle so everyone can have fun.
Since I start kids as young as 3 in my regular Family Style classes, their class is very similar to a normal TaeKwon Do class complete with warm ups that include jumping jacks (to learn we do Star – Soldier), push-ups (preschool version), leg lifts, superman, stretches, and they learn to count in Korean. This group works more on learning the different kicks and moving across the floor with the techniques to encourage balance and body control. We also will “mix up” the kicks and hand techniques more like problem solving – if the target is held this way, what technique do you do. They also get to do the obstacle course focusing still on balance, body control, following directions, waiting their turn and of course having fun.
“Weston (2 ½) looks forward to going to TKD each week. Each class has a perfect balance of exercise, fun and hard work. Not only has he learned his kicks and punches, but he had learned a second language, how to take turns and how to be a good teammate. TKD KICKS is an excellent experience for toddlers. Each evening before bed, Weston loves to practice his kicks. I highly recommend Master Thomas’ class for all children.” – Karri
Some of the things I have learned doing these classes is how much they are capable of learning, how quickly a child becomes left or right dominant, how different children process different tasks (some are natural jumpers, some have a hard time figuring out how to get their feet off the ground), how getting their bodies moving seems to also help their verbal skills (some non-talkers from the beginning are telling great stories now) and how quick they are to adapt and learn new things. I am currently teaching these classes at VT Sun, which is open to the public and in April will be offering classes in Vergennes as well. I am open to the possibility of working directly with daycare centers to add something like this in their weekly activities as I do believe it would be a great benefit to all.
another journey forward – teaching self defense through i-STRIKE
i-STRIKE stands for – I am Self-confident, Tough, Resourceful, Intuitive, Kind and Extraordinary.
In a world that is often cruel and negative we often find ourselves sucked into that darkness and forgetting that we are all those things listed above and so much more. Many times in teaching self-defense classes, especially to women I have to remind them that they are worth saving and protecting. That’s why in my classes I not just teach the techniques needed to defend one’s self but also strive to increase their self-confidence and worth so they remember who they are fighting for. You can have all the skills but need the drive and willingness to fight back too.
These classes are specifically designed to teach either kids, women, men or a combination and address how each group is attacked and what are the best, most effective and safest techniques in different situations. Kids are attacked differently than men and women and women are attacked differently than men and kids. And of course men are attacked differently still. Understanding these differences allows us to focus how best to fight back.
i-STRIKE teaches simple effective techniques using the strongest parts of our bodies to the most vulnerable parts of the assailants and designed to be used by all ages & capabilities. In addition to learning effective physical techniques your voice will become louder and more affirmative in setting verbal and physical boundaries & you’ll learn to trust your intuition. No previous martial arts experience needed.
These classes are being offer in many different ways. Either as i-STRIKE Basic Hourly Classes that are offered both in Middlebury and Vergennes weekly and are open to all ages – men and women. This class is designed to work on the very basic skills of self-defense and the repetition of this course allows the student to get these skills into muscle memory. We pick one or two common grabs – i.e. wrist grabs, chokes, bear hugs, punches, etc – to work on each night and go over them again and again. These are on a drop in basis. This also serves as a good class after taking one of the workshops to help remember the skills learned. These are $10/class or $15 for 2 (either 2 people or 2 classes).
An i-STRIKE Basic Workshop – which is a 4 hour long course still working on the more common types of attacks and is open to men & women of all ages. These are generally offered on the weekends or weeknights and can be broken into 2 sessions. There is no male instructor in these classes. You work together as partners. These are offered periodically throughout the county and can be done for private groups such as family, church, school or businesses.
Or the i-STRIKE Women’s Workshops, which are also 4 hour classes and covers more sexual assault situations with the help a fully padded male instructor to allow women to practice their learned techniques full force and to add realism. These are also offered periodically throughout the county and can be done for private groups.
Both Workshops are $30/person but can also be used as a school or sport fundraiser where I donate 50% back.
I often think of this Winnie the Pooh quote when teaching this class “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you know“. Something important to remember always.
“We started our Tae Kwon Do journey when our now 9-year-old was just 5. Today my husband and I and five of our children participate, the 2 1/2-year-old in Kellie’s special, daytime toddler classes. We value this martial art and specifically TKD KICKS, Master Thomas and our classmates for the many gifts and challenges provided to us. We feel stronger, more confident, more fit and more connected to our larger community. We feel empowered to help ourselves and others. Sometimes it is hard because the most worthwhile things in life can require hard work, but we are trying to meet those challenges together and manage to have a lot of fun in the process. I have recently begun attending Master Thomas’ women’s self-defense classes, in addition to regular Tae Kwon Do, and have had my eyes opened to a new world of confidence and skill. I would encourage anyone who is curious to check out one of Kellie’s classes. There is really something for everyone and you won’t know what it’s like until you try. The environment is very supportive and I find I am often mentored by some pretty amazing kids who love having a chance to share their skills with an adult learner, and I also love the opportunities I get to share my new skills with others.” – Alex
This post is sponsored content. While MiniBury, LLC did receive compensation for this blog post, all our opinions are our own, not our employers. When choosing sponsored content, we always keep our readers in mind and choose content that aligns closely with our mission to improve the lives of Addison County women, children and families. If you or your group would like to partner with MiniBury, please contact us.