Young wāhine rake in medals at Taekwon-Do champs

By Jessica Tyson

New Zealand Taekwon-Do representatives Ashley Porter and Layne George are two of 400 people taking part in the national championships this weekend. Between the two of them, they’ve won five medals proving that wāhine can be some of the strongest fighters.

The Korean martial art is characterised by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks and fast kicking techniques.

Porter, 16, competed in the junior category and won three golds in sparring, specialty and power, as well as bronze in pattern. Meanwhile, George, 19, competed in the senior women’s category and won a bronze in sparring.

The teens say they enjoy being involved in a sport where women can learn to fight.

“It makes you confident as a woman because they say that women can't fight. It’s given me more confidence to be around women that are also doing it,” says George.

Ashley Porter and Layne Gorge. Source: File

Porter and George have participated in the sport for around eight years and have competed internationally in Ireland, Australia and Germany. 

“In the World Cup I got gold in sparring and patterns and I came second in specialty,” says Porter, of Ngāpuhi and Te Rarawa.

Both athletes are hoping to make a personal best at the upcoming world champs in Slovenia next year.

“I just want to keep developing my skills at this high level and hope to beat my personal best,” says Porter.

George also says she’s looking to gain more experience in Taekwon-Do and grade this year.

Layne Gorge. Source: File

Both competitors say, not only has the sport taught them how to fight, it’s taught them life skills.

“It’s given me the confidence to keep going and never give up,” says George.

“It’s taught me how to stay disciplined in everything I do, says Porter.

“I like to be role models to other little kids to grow up to be like us.”

The national tournament has been held every year since 1981 and this weekend was hosted by Counties Manukau, the defending champion team after winning the title for the past three years. They have the largest team entered with over 100 competitors. 

Event organiser Natasha Iotua says it's a great honour to host the tournament and that a lot of hours have gone into getting everything just right. 

"There's been a lot of work put into the nationals for the setup and from the athletes, young and old in their preparation. The excitement has been building for Counties Manukau for the first time ever, we welcome our Taekwon-Do family from around Aotearoa and across the ditch to the heart of our region, Pulman Arena in Papakura," says Ioutua.

"It's great to play host to so many competitors, officials and supporters coming together for the weekend which will be full of technique, power, coordination and collaboration."