Saffron Walden eight-year-old gets her black belt in Tae Kwon-Do

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 November 2016

Left  to right: Adam,  Sophie, and  James.

Left to right: Adam, Sophie, and James.

Archant

A remarkable eight-year-old in Saffron Walden has just got her martial arts black belt, the youngest ever child to get the rank in the Bishops Stortford and Epping Tae Kwon-Do club.

Her mum, Deborah Johnson, also believes she is the youngest girl to ever get the martial arts class in the country.

Sophie Johnson took the test alongside her two brothers, James, 11, and Adam, 13, in a gruelling examination that is renowned for its difficulty – many adults fail.

The trio had to learn a hundreds of fighting moves – known as patterns - in the fighting style that is known for its powerful kicks, and they are now all very strong for their ages, especially Sophie who can do one-handed press-ups.

Korean phrases, discipline, sparring, and self-defence poses were also needed to pass the test.

It is judged by six people from the Tae Kwon-Do Association of Great Britiain (TABT), who are looking for adult-level precision and accuracy in all grading areas.

Mum Deborah, a dentist, said: “I learnt everything with them, and it was hard, blooming hard. We have all been doing Korean for years, and that’s the hardest bit of the whole thing. It’s not an easy thing to do.”

The family all started at the same time around five years ago, when they lived in Cheshire and Sophie was around three and a half, because Deborah wanted them to focus on a skill and learn perseverance rather than fickleness.

She said: “I didn’t want them to flit between things like some children do, because I wanted them to do something that is good for them and they can be part of.

“My job as a parent is to help them achieve what they want to achieve, not to force them to do anything they don’t want to, and I’ve done that.

“It’s a wonderful skill to have, especially for a little girl, to have self defence. It really helped with their behaviour because they learnt control and discipline, and for strong children especially that’s really important.

“I am in awe of them, I am really proud of them because they have achieved amazing things, the amount of stuff they had to learn for it was incredible.”

The family moved to Saffron Walden less than a year ago – now the two older boys go to Saffron Walden County High School and Sophie goes to Katherine Semar Junior School.

James and Sophie will compete at the British Championships in Derby on November 20.

It will be Sophie’s first time competing at this level, but not James’s, who won gold two yeas ago at the Tae Kwon-Do North West Championship.

In four years time the three siblings can try for their Dans, the next step up from black belts.

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