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The Whitestone Taekwondo Club is like one big family – and a successful one at that.

About 15 athletes competed at the recent New Zealand United Taekwondo Association South Island tournament and won nine gold medals, 11 silver and five bronze.

It was one of the most successful outings for the club and, as it was hosted by Paul McGeown Taekwondo Club in Oamaru, giving Whitestone athletes more opportunities to compete, club secretary Vanessa Gough said.

“[We’re] really proud and pleased. It always makes the kids want to do it again,” she said.

Before the tournament, club members prepared with extra training and grading, using new equipment acquired through Waitaki District Council’s community groups grant funding.

And their hard work paid off.

“Some of the kids, you never know how they’re going to do … sometimes they just come out of their skin and they surprise you.

“They can be the shyest little kids and then they get on the mat and they just come to life.”

Gough, who teaches poomsae taekwondo patterns, loves being involved with the club and seeing her pupils grow through lessons.

“We like to think that we’ve got more of a family feeling about the club.

“It’s the relationships that you get from the kids, and the respect you get from other people.

“There’s been a lot of kids that you’ve seen over the years.”

Many athletes got into martial arts to learn discipline. Women tended to train for self-defence, men did it for skill, and parents took their children to change their behaviours, she said.

“For us I suppose it’s having some self-discipline and people get different ideas about it, but it’s being able to focus, and apply themselves, listen to what they’ve learnt and take instruction.

“They have to be in the right frame of mind.”

Club members are now focused on training for the upcoming Taekwondo Union of New Zealand South Island Invitational Championships, to be held in Christchurch next weekend.

About 10 Oamaru athletes would compete and it would be another good experience for them, she said.