Interview: Taekwondo changed my life

“Taekwondo has taught me to be resilient in defeat, humble in achievement and to channel my emotions to always be focused on my goals”

Julia Carelli, 32, is meteorologist, black belt in Taekwondo, and has been a volunteer in the Associação Jadir de Taekwondo (AJTKD) since 2015. When she started practicing Taekwondo at AJTKD she realized that the Association has a very serious job that goes beyond the lessons on the mat. In this interview, she speaks about the role of Taekwondo in empowering young girls and women.

What does Taekwondo mean for you?

I couldn’t have achieved so much if it wasn’t for this sport. Training has always helped me deal with all aspects of my life, especially during difficult times. In 2007, I took a break from training to focus on my studies, but when I lost my father this year, one of my first thoughts was that I needed to get back to training. I needed to control my emotions and be with my friends.

What was your motivation for collaborating with the Association?

The connection of sport with social and environmental issues made my respect for AJTKD grow every day and I wanted to be part of this group. I love feeling part of an institution that really cares about social welfare.

Fight for Women Project, 2020

Sport helps us to be more aware of our power, of what our limitations and strengths are. Taekwondo shows that we women are neither fragile nor submissive. We can fight on equal terms with anyone and we can always demand respect on and off the mat.

I’m a short person, I competed in light categories, -49 and -53kg, but I’ve always trained with men who were bigger and heavier than me, and I can say that I was never an easy target and was never inferior to them.

What’s your advice for young girls starting as Taekwondo athletes?

Never give up on any fight, never let anyone disrespect you and always respect everyone. Girls are not inferior to any boy, we can fight as equals.

Focus on your training, strengthen your weaknesses, always perfect your techniques, learn from defeats and never lower your head, on or off the mat.

Are there any anecdotes you remember from practicing Taekwondo?

We once had athletes from another association at AJTKD to train with us. One in particular felt superior to others for having more degrees. When it was my turn to fight him, he screamed on my face to intimidate me. On my first move, I kicked him in the head guard and he was embarrassed that a girl had hit him. I bet he never did that to any other girl again. My instructors have always taught me not to be intimidated by any man.

How has Taekwondo changed your life? 

I usually say that Taekwondo saved my life. After long years of depression, Taekwondo always gave me the joy to move forward. I will be forever grateful to my masters and training colleagues.

Julia currently lives in Germany and is working remotely with AJTKD giving lectures about environmental issues. She hopes that in the future the Association will reach and help more people around the world spreading the message that Taekwondo has always passed on to her, that we should respect other living beings and the environment in which we live.