Tina Johnson with Jacqui Ryan of Shim Jang Tae kwon do on Coolangatta Beach.
Tina Johnson with Jacqui Ryan of Shim Jang Tae kwon do on Coolangatta Beach. John Gass

Taking self-defence to the highest levels

AT 54 years of age, pocket-rocket Tina Johnson can snap a 2.5cm-thick timber board in half with a single thrust of her leg and humiliate a hefty man with a powerful block or punch.

"I'm five foot two and quite easily can take down a six foot male if I had to," the Currumbin Valley resident said, without a hint of boasting.

Tina has been studying the art of taekwondo since 1980.

Years of dedication have seen her reach the level of 5th Dan black belt and she has also become the first female master instructor in Shim Jang tae kwon do.

She teaches a class of around 20 male and female students aged from six years at Palm Beach.

Tina Johnson of Shim Jang Taekwondo on Coolangatta beach
Tina Johnson of Shim Jang Taekwondo on Coolangatta beach John Gass

She is also a visiting instructor at classes held at Kingscliff, Pottsville Murwillumbah, Banora Point and Terranora.

Tina credits her passion for taekwondo from being a single female and the murder of a family friend.

When Tina was aged between 15 and 18 in the late 1970s, there was a serial rapist stalking the Tweed.

A friend of the family became one of his victims. The friend was trying to protect his girlfriend from the attacker when he was shot dead in a Tweed park.

"It was pretty devastating because he'd actually been at our house that night," recalls Tina.

"He told us he'd met a new girl and they were going to Twin Towns and he never came back."

The whole family was deeply shaken by the tragedy, so much so that her late dad, John Johnson, suggested his daughter take up a form of self-defence.

"We looked into it and found that taekwondo is pretty much the art of self-defence," says Tina.

"I started at a class at Miami and I think I was the only girl training in that class for many years and I just loved it.

"What I like about it is it's a sport that teaches you self-defence, and fitness-wise it's good for you but it's also the kind of sport that mums, dads and kids can all train together.

"Fitness-wise its stretching, it's good for your bones; it's a discipline which is one of the biggest things for young kids. They're taught respect and discipline."

She said regardless of your age, the martial art can produce awesome strength and power.

"You can have a nine-year-old break the board and have a 60-year-old break the same board," she said.

"It's difficult but it's all about the technique."

Tina says she also witnesses her students grow in all-round confidence.

I feel a lot more confident if I am anywhere by myself. I just know I'd do something. I am sure it would come naturally.

She cites Elanora mum of two Melinda McLaughlin as an example.

"When she first started she was timid and withdrawn," says Tina.

"She's really come out of her shell.

"She's gone from not wanting to get up and demonstrate moves to teaching the class."

Melinda, whose two children also studied shim jang, agreed that studying the martial art had given her a feeling of accomplishment as well as skills to handle herself in dangerous situations.

"I feel a lot more confident if I'm anywhere by myself," the 48-year-old said.

"I just know I'd do something (if I was ever attacked).

"I'm sure it would come naturally.

"Hopefully I'll never have to find out."

Ironically, Tina's day job couldn't be more of a contrast from the butt-kicking she hands out at her night classes.

She's a nurse working in John Flynn Private Hospital's orthopedic department.

She chuckles while acknowledging the broken bones she patches up at work, she's capable of breaking after hours.

What is it?

Tae kwon do evolved around 1300 years ago during the Silla Dynasty in South Korea.

It was officially named in 1955 and has since grown to become a popular art or sport practised throughout the world under many different style names.

The Shim Jang tae kwon do style was founded in Australia by Banora Point-based master Les Hicks and began its development in the late 1970s.

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