Meet Dave, Jo, Eva and James – a Taekwondo family.

It’s excellent hearing stories from our members and the reasons why they do Taekwondo. In this feature we find out more about the Keeling family who are members of Phoenix Taekwondo in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Eva, Dave, James and Jo Keeling - Phoenix Taekwondo

Eva, Dave, James and Jo Keeling – Phoenix Taekwondo

Taekwondo is open to everyone, Taekwondo doesn’t care about age, background or physical fitness level and is so much more rewarding when enjoyed as a family! Here is a fantastic Taekwondo story from the family Keeling.

Dave, Jo, Eva and James are a 100% Phoenix Taekwondo family!

Eva Keeling

The first to start Taekwondo was Eva when she was only 5 years old (legend has it that “My Mum bribed me with Haribos and told me all of my friends would be there.”).

Eva hasn’t looked back since! After more than 10 years of Taekwondo, starting as one of Phoenix Taekwondo’s original Little Dragons in 2012, Eva has attained her 2nd Dan Black Belt, competed regularly at the GB National Championships and now has come full circle helping to coach the next generation of 5-7yrs in the Little Dragons classes.

Eva says she gets lots of things out of Taekwondo: exercise and a sporting commitment is the obvious thing, but also stress release from daily life, which is especially important in her GCSE exam years. Additionally Eva adds “I like seeing everybody when I go to training, I think Phoenix has a really great social aspect to it.”

On why she would recommend Taekwondo to others, Eva says “It is really fun, and you can choose what you want to get out of it, whether you want to compete, do gradings, or just want a new social activity or type of exercise.”

Eva’s favourite kick is a Step-Up Turning Kick “I don’t really have a reason for that, it’s just fun!”

Eva Keeling - Phoenix Taekwondo

Dave Keeling

Eva’s dad Dave was the next to join Phoenix Taekwondo in 2013, as one of the inaugural members of the Phoenix Adults’ Class.

He distinctly remembers watching Eva in the Little Dragons and he and a friend being told “You and you wear loose-fitting clothing next week” – asking to his friend “What just happened?”“I think we’ve just signed up for a Taekwondo class?!” (“To be fair it wasn’t very hard work to persuade us!”).

Dave likes practicing Taekwondo for the obvious stuff like physical fitness and flexibility, but also the feeling of achievement when successful at a grading or a new qualification and the great feeling of getting something right after putting in the work: a pattern, a kick combo, a one-step technique, practice and perseverance always pays off in the end.

Alongside these reasons are the camaraderie and friendships throughout the club, and the support everyone provides each other. Dave also points out that “I’ve never been the most flexible person in the club so keeping on at the stretching can be daunting – the trick is to remind yourself that the person you’re trying to be better than is not the best in the class, it’s the person you were in the previous class.”

One of Dave’s most memorable experiences was participating in a national instructors’ seminar several years ago and managing to get through all the high-grade patterns up to Chonkwon with Grand Masters Lennox and Guest was quite an experience (Dave was only 2nd Dan but went through performing up to the Black Belt Pattern required for 7th Dan!).

Dave Keeling - Phoenix Taekwondo

On why he would recommend Taekwondo to others, Dave says “Quite simply it brings out the best in everyone that practices it.”

When asked for his favourite kick Dave says, “I’m quite partial to a Step-Up Hook Kick, though it’s very much a work progress even now!”

Jo Keeling

Taekwondo mum, Jo joined the Phoenix Taekwondo family herself as soon as her younger son James was old enough to join the Phoenix Little Dragons classes.

Jo says, “Everyone else in the family was having a great time and I was determined not to sit on the sidelines.”

Jo loves the Poomsae (patterns) aspect of Taekwondo – she likes the technicality of them, but also that practicing can be really meditative – “Great when you need a bit of headspace in a busy week.”

Jo feels that every grade has felt like the best achievement when it happened, but probably 2nd Dan Black Belt stands out the most… or maybe becoming a Poomsae Judge… or being asked to sit on a grading panel…?

However, seeing the young people who she has helped to coach, achieving their goals is probably the best achievement of all! Jo also remembers how the ‘This Girl Can’ slogan turned into a bit of a societal cliché, however, “Taekwondo is something I really feel I ‘can’ do.”

“We also have a great sense of community at Phoenix Taekwondo and people who I train with have become great friends over the years.”

On why she would recommend Taekwondo to others, Jo says “Taekwondo is inclusive, rewarding and fun!”

Jo’s favourite kick is a Reverse Spinning Crescent Kick.

Jo Keeling Phoenix Taekwondo

James Keeling

Finally, we have James – the youngest member of the Keeling family. James started Taekwondo in 2014 and is now aiming for his Black Belt this year!

He started because his entire family was doing it at the time and thought it would be fun to try and perform some punches and kicks. James thinks mainly what you get from Taekwondo is the experience and the knowledge “You get to know that Taekwondo isn’t just about fighting, it’s about learning how to defend yourself in numerous ways that isn’t ‘retaliation,’ if that makes sense.”

James likes the experience of a sudden rush of pride when you do a technique correctly or for the first time, and he thinks that goes for patterns as well if you put enough practice and effort into learning them!

Personally, James finds stamina management to be one of the more challenging things about Taekwondo “You can be in a situation where you’ve just done a warm up and stretch, and then suddenly find yourself doing a series of techniques that can be really tricky because of the sheer amount of energy that is required to pull them off.”

James’ biggest achievement (so far) is probably receiving his Black-Stripe Belt, or perhaps double grading from Yellow-Stripe to Green-Stripe. He remembers working very hard for those gradings and receiving his belt made him feel incredibly proud for what he had done.

On why he would recommend Taekwondo to others, James says “If you want to get into martial arts, I think doing Taekwondo is a great place to start. We will welcome you with open arms!”

James’ favourite kick has got to be turning kick, back kick, all of the step-up kicks, and hook kick. (James’ Instructor Chris Pearson: “So basically everything then!”).

James Keeling Phoenix Taekwondo

Visit the Phoenix Taekwondo website to find out more about the club and how you can begin your own Taekwondo journey.

The Keeling family - James, Eva, Jo and Dave - Phoenix Taekwondo

The Keeling family – James, Eva, Jo and Dave – Phoenix Taekwondo

Photos: Submitted.

A version of this story first appeared in the Phoenix Taekwondo Club Newsletter, May 2023.

Phoenix Taekwondo

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