Special Needs Taekwondo about to make history

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: West Coast

For the very first time, the International Taekwon Do Federation, will have a Special Needs division at next year's world championships in England. A team of six young men will be making the trip to represent New Zealand. 

All the competitors had to earn their spot on the team by placing at the at the Special Needs Taekwondo Champs held in Hawke's Bay.

"We actually see potential in them, we don't shut them in the corner and think they can't do it," explains lead instructor Ben Evans.

Four of the six competitors train with Evans at the Hawke's Bay International Taekwondo Federation four days a week.

Among them is black belt Johann Landkroon, who has Down Syndrome, earning his belt after seven years of studying and training.

He says that he is really looking forward to heading to England to take part in the World Championships.

Training in the ancient martial art has given the competitors a boost in confidence, "I like doing patterns, self defence, meeting new people and going to difference places," says competitor Tupuna Rangi.

Something that his fellow competitor Aidan Pellett agrees with "I reckon they're doing really good, they're awesome, they're a great bunch to work with."

Their division will see them judged on accuracy of movement patterns rather than physical combat. 

"The progression of the students just blows me away how they can remember these moves," says Evans.

The trip doesn't come cheap, with a cost of around $10,000 per person, the team are working hard to raise the funds to get them to the four day competition next year in July.