May 7, 2022
By: Bill Conger
The highest-ranking female in Tae Kwon Do in America and the second highest in the world recently visited DeKalb County for the Tennessee State Championship of Tae Kwon Do. Grand Master Brenda Sell, a 9th degree Black Belt and President of the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association, America’s oldest TKD Association spoke to students and families at the DeKalb County Complex during the event that Middle Tennessee Tae Kwon Do in Smithville hosted.
“Our association is a family,” Brenda Sell said during an interview after her speech. “We have chartered schools all throughout the country and Middle Tennessee [Tae Kwon Do] is one of our charter schools. When they get to a certain size and there’s enough people to be able to have competition in the different rings and all, then they can petition to host a sanctioned event.”
M-T-K’s owner and instructors George and Amy Lloyd petitioned to host the state championships. Students from Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee competed April 30.
“Middle Tennessee Tae Kwon Do has inside their patch the word champion, and I have discovered that champions are not born; champions are made,” Sell explained. “And I think that’s important for everybody to understand. You can be a champion. Maybe not a champion in Tae Kwon Do but through the Tae Kwon Do training, you can definitely be a champion in life.’
Sell touts the many benefits of Tae Kwon Do including that it’s an individual sport.
“Everyone plays. There’s nobody sitting on the bench. There’s nobody well, I ‘m not good enough to be out there today. In Tae Kwon Do we work on building character with the students. We have a set curriculum. There’s six parts of every class, and the third part of the class is what we call forms or patterns. They have to memorize moves in a set order. By the time they reach black belt, they’ve memorized over 2,000 moves in a set order, and at every belt testing they’re graded on this. They’re graded on memorization; they’re graded on technique; they’re graded on balance; they’re graded on dances; they’re graded on enthusiasm, power; there’s a whole list of things they’re graded on. With each belt rank, we add more movements to that.”
Sell adds that the sport provides for a lot of self-reflection and a place for children to positively focus their energy.
“People with anger issues will come in and they have to develop patience because they’re not moving forward if they don’t be patient with themselves in the memorization and the progression of moving forward with training their body to move.”
“We’ve seen a lot of children who have ADD, ADHD come in and we keep them active, and they learn by watching and learn by doing, and that’s a very good learning mode for children with those disabilities. It’s wonderful to see them because they can channel that energy now, and they have a place to put it. We’ve seen their grades go from nearly failing up into the honor roll. We don’t require them to be high on the honor roll. We just require them to be improving.”
Sell, who has been training in Tae Kwon Do for 52 years, first began her journey in the sport at age 14
“I had moved to a new city. I didn’t know anybody. Somebody at the bus stop said how would you like to join Korean karate. It wasn’t even called Tae Kwon Do back then. There were primarily late teen men and young adult boys getting ready to go into the military. The draft was in place then. And very few females and no children.”
She says with a big family of six children, she never thought about a gender gap.
“We just all did everything together. We played together. We wrestled together. I really didn’t even notice that there weren’t a lot of women until it was pointed out to me because I was just having fun. My parents … said to all of us kids, ‘You can do anything you want to except quit. You’re not allowed to quit.’ That discipline of learning the commitment factor has been a driving force in my entire life. With Tae Kwon Do, I enjoyed it so much, I just never saw an end to it. I guess I’ll be kicking until the day I go meet the Lord,” she said, laughing.