Michael and Glenna Smith have had the honour of watching a generation of West Kelowna grow up and have their own children over their 20 years running Westside Tae Kwon Do.
“We watch them grow up and they watch us grow old,” joked Michael Smith, Taekwondo master instructor and president of the B.C. Taekwondo Association.
Smith, now a 5th degree black belt, first fell in love with martial arts when he was 15 years old in Ontario. After moving to the Westside, Smith, alongside his wife, Glenna who runs the administration side of the business began their school in a rented school gym.
“We plastered hand made signs and rented a school gym, we had four or six people come out the first night. From there it kept getting bigger and bigger, I was teaching four nights a week. Then we finally took the plunge and decided to go professional. We’ve never looked back since,” said Smith.
Westside Tae Kwon Do was founded in 1998 and it’s the kids that continue to fuel the Smith’s passion.
“It was really great in one way to watch them grow up and be successful. But all the sudden you realize I have been doing this for a long time, we must be getting old or something. They make us believe our lives have been well spent. It’s very gratifying in that way,” said Smith. “The impact we have had on a lot of kids, some you would swear would have ended up in a federal institution, now we have watched them grow up and do great.”
Smith says that Taekwondo is beneficial to children because it teaches them discipline and respect. The patience that is learned in the school carries out to all other aspects of their lives. The sport also can help children come out of their shell and become more confident in themselves.
“The respect they learn really quickly, it’s a formal setting. There are times (in class) where you need to hold very still and listen and there are others where you need to spring into action. They are also surrounded by lesser and higher ranks than them.”
Now 63 years-old, Smith hopes that the next 20 years of the school will be lead by an instructor that trained there when they were a child to carry on the tradition.
“I am going to keep doing it as long as I still am able and still enjoying it. I have no timeline set, one day in my dreams a senior student would take over. That would put the frosting on the cake for us, that’s a dream we have always had.”
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