Nicola Russell, taking an elite pathway through Taekwondo

As part of our 40th anniversary celebrations we’re sharing the stories of our members. In this feature we hear from Nicola Russell from the Elite Martial Arts Academy in East Kilbride, Scotland about her Taekwondo journey.

Hi, my name is Nicola Russell. I’m now a Kukkiwon 2nd Dan and part of the GB Para Poomsae Squad where I compete in P50.

I earned my 1st Dan at Graham’s Academy of Martial Arts in Portsmouth in 2011 and until a couple of years ago my health meant I never thought I would even be able to train again let alone grade for 2nd Dan!

There was nearly eleven years between the two gradings and both meant so much to me. The first was “able bodied” and the second as a wheelchair user, but both pushed me beyond what I thought was possible.

I really want to thank everyone at Elite Martial Arts for welcoming me into the family. A huge thanks to them for seeing past the wheelchair and not doing a “watered down” grading, but instead expecting the same determination from me as any other candidate.

Sparring on the floor is very much more like grappling, but I am grateful they adapted and let me try and succeed. I managed to defend against two other black belts at the same time – as 2nd Dan is 2-on-1 fighting!

Both Poomsae and One Step/Self Defence are totally doable from a wheelchair, especially when people are willing to tip your chair backwards. Board breaking from the floor is also totally achievable.

My key piece of advice is to acknowledge your limits but be willing to push them.

I have been able to compete in a variety of competitions from virtual ones, to local, to National Poomsae Championships. Relearning Poomsae in my wheelchair has been hard, but rewarding, and I have learned many things I had never dreamed were possible.

I am grateful that Taekwondo is an inclusive sport. I am grateful for the support from Elite Martial Arts Academy and from the GB team.

I look forward to seeing Para Taekwondo grow even further! And I now have my sights set on becoming a Master one day!

Visit the Elite Martial Arts Academy website and Facebook Page for further information.

If you would like to share your taekwondo story please get in touch with Richard Gottfried, Marketing, Digital & Media Manager via marketing@britishtaekwondo.org or 07706 342156.