Taekwondo a family affair for Oak Harbor couple

Kaya Lujan practices his kicks

Taekwondo, the Korean martial art that came to the United States in the 1960s, is a family affair at Woodward’s Taekwondo Academy in Oak Harbor. The school teaches both children and parents, and it’s run by a husband-and-wife team.

Jamie and Greg Woodward have run the academy for 19 years, and both teach classes there to this day. Greg, 43, started the business after taking up the sport because he was bullied growing up in Florida. Now he’s a master — a fifth-degree black belt — and teaches mainly other black belts as he continues to pursue higher levels of achievement such as senior master, chief master and grand master.

He also works part-time at the city jail.

Jamie, 44, is a fourth-degree black belt who teaches most of the other students. She too aspires to higher levels. Earning the next degree can take as many years as the degree’s name.

Though she was married to Greg when he started the school, Jamie got involved in taekwondo only later and after some initial indifference.

“I fell in love with it and stuck with it,” she said.

At the spacious, lofty school on the upper floor of a log building, courses are taught every weekday. The latest offering, at $55 per month, is “Rock That Body,” a weekly noon-hour class aimed at women that combines conventional dancing to music with kicks and punches. It will be taught by Woodward and instructors from Thrive Oak Harbor gym.

“This combination of exercise and self-defense is something I don’t see out there,” Woodward said.

Taekwondo — known by some as TKD — is 70 percent about using the legs and 30 percent using the hands, she said. It incorporates blocking and fast striking. It teaches the use of forms, or sets of movements, and incorporates elements of other martial arts, such as jiu-jitsu’s emphasis on protecting oneself while on the ground.

It places great emphasis on self-discipline, expressed through courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and “indomitable spirit,” Woodward said.

“I try to talk, especially to kids, about how if you want courtesy and respect, you have to show courtesy and respect yourself. I call my students ma’am or sir, and they call me ma’am.”

The instructors insist that young students behave nicely toward their parents, both in and out of class.

“If parents have a problem at home, they come and talk to me, and I talk to the kid and find out what’s going on,” she said. “This works out really well. If they talk back to their parents in class, I’ll drop ‘em for pushups.”

Aggression isn’t a welcome quality among students, she said. “Humble students are easier to teach, and if you stay humble and modest, you avoid having to use your martial arts. We teach that your voice is your best offense, and if you have no other choice, that’s when you use your art.”

Classes cost $50 a month for students four to six years old and $75-$85 a month for others, depending on the length of the commitment they make. Among the young students attending are those coming through Oak Harbor’s home-schooling program.

If students can’t afford to pay but are strongly motivated, the academy occasionally lets them work their way through classes by washing windows and mirrors, Woodward said.

“They don’t learn anything from getting something for nothing.”

The school is profitable, though “not where we’d like it to be,” she said, declining to reveal annual revenues. Enrollment, now at 100 students, is at a record high. Students’ ages range from four to 65, and an increasing proportion are women.

Jayden Betz, 9, of Oak Harbor has studied at the academy for five months, said his mother, Nicole.

“He absolutely loves it,” she said.

The Woodwards “are very thorough with Jayden and make sure he knows there are rules to be followed. You can see they enjoy being with the kids. It’s a wonderful program for him, and I wish we had done it sooner.”