History was made at the ITF Taekwon-Do World Champs which was held at the Brighton Event Center on the 30th July 2016.

There was a first to ever happen Special Needs Taekwon-Do division with a total of 4 countries (Argentina, New Zealand, USA and UK) who took part.

The event first began with an opening demonstration from the New Zealand team directed by Ben Evans. Members of the team were:

Johann Landkroon – 1st Degree

Tupuna Rangi – 1st Degree

Aaron Garnham Pitcher – 1st Degree

Aidan McCance – 1st Kup

Nesta Rei – 1st Kup

 

There was an extremely vibrant start to the demonstration from the entire stadium with cheering and clapping as the team walked towards the center ring. Johann Landkroon, (24), with downsyndrome, lead the team in to perform a series of various aspects of Taekwon-Do.

The team began with performing team Dan Gun Tul which showed great spirit and technique. After completing the team pattern, Johann commanded the team to march back and he performed  Kwang Gae Tul. After his performance he demonstrated a downward strike break on a rebreakable board. Again, the stadium roared with joy when they saw his spirit and determination. Shortly after the team returned back and they all performed Yul Gok Tul. The stadium continued to be silent. Choong Moo Tul as a team was definitely an eye opener for the many who witnessed the boys pull it off. The domino effect, pausing and most importantly the team work really created excitement and an excellent atmosphere in the stadium among all of those from different countries.

The demonstration consisted of various breaking techniques such as front punch, jumping front snap kick, jumping reverse turning kick, palm strike, front snap kick and a jumping back kick. All breaks were successful from the athletes above who were part of the demo team.

The demonstration finished with Johann marching his team forwards and bowing everyone out shouting “Lets go New Zealand” with his hands in the air. His father Harry Landkroon accompanied Ben Evans with the New Zealand flag as they walked side ways. Everyone in the stadium stood up clapping and cheering. The Netherlands team were chanting “New Zea – land! New Zea – land!”

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President of the International Taekwon-Do Federation Grand Master Choi Jung Hwa told the group he would like to come to New Zealand and thanked them for all the work they have done for the sport.

“This shows that everything is possible. Everybody is special.

“We love you so very, very much, and we hope you continue to be good ambassadors of taekwondo to the world and also our friends out there.

“I hope to see more of this. I would like to go to New Zealand and give a seminar for yourselves if you want. Keep up the good work.”

The division began with Black belt Patterns then color belt. Various competitors from the 4 Nations competed and earned a Gold, Silver and Bronze.

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Results for 18-25 Black Belt Patterns:

1st: Tupuna Rangi (NZL)

2nd: Johann Landkroon (NZL)

3rd: Aaron Garnham Pitcher (NZL)

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Results for 25-35 Black Belt Patterns

1st: Julian (last name to be added) (ARGENTINA)

2nd: Jessie Harbison (USA)

3rd: Eric Cohen (USA)

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Results for 15-18 Mixed Boys and Girls Red and Black Belt

1st: Angel (UK)

2nd: Julian Heffernan (UK)

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Results for Boys 1st Kup division (mixed ages)

1st: Aidan McCance (NZL)

2nd: Nesta Rei (NZL)

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Results for Mixed Abilities

1st: Eric Cohen (USA)

2nd: Julian (ARGENTINA)

3rd: Johann Landkroon (NZL)

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Highlights for various people from various countries:

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Jasmine Choi (President CHOI Jung Hwa Daughter): I know I’ve said this to you many times but in very proud of you. When the special needs students performed at the world championships they shined because you were their teacher. That’s all your hard work,passion and willing to want to help them feel like you and I which they wholeheartedly deserve. I’m extremely happy that you were able to make history with the help of ITF! Keep pushing hard!❤️ My father and I support you to the fullest.

My father is very passionate about Special Needs students and supports your hard work. 💙 So proud of you Ben Evans for taking the time & patience to train these amazing Special Needs students. I think everyone in the stadium was feeling emotional in a good way when we watched those angels perform,you could have heard a pin drop on the floor❤️ It made my heart melt seeing those smiles on their faces and to see how included they felt was priceless. This has nothing to do with feeling sorry for Special Needs students it’s about including them because they are human like you and I. They competed against each other in the ITF World Champions performing patterns and if they did lose they learned how it feels to lose because this is the whole point is not to make them feel different. They performed patterns without making a mistake and it is not easy memorizing patterns as you get higher in ranking. No sparring because it’s too high risk if they were to get injured,safety comes first always. Looking back at these photos puts a smile on my face and I’m honoured to have been a part of this history in the making☺️❤️

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Michael Cormack:  Loved the Special Needs presentation! I loved it! (More review further to be added in due course)

Master Edimir Kawakubo: congratulations, the event was amazing, most of us, umpires was crying hahahaha

Tammy from Australia: The event was awesome brought tears to people’s eyes. I spoke to a UK umpire spoke nothing but admiration and I spoke about our special needs stating the only difference between the two is their disability is visible others are not.
Great to see this in ITF it is just the beginning of something special.

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Vicki Harbison (Parent of competitor Jessie from USA):

All the guys stood out for me in different ways. Sadly I can’t remember everyone’s names ( I suck at names) but Johann, Nesta, Tupuna, Aaron (the boys whose grandmother was there) Eric and Jillian were special

Angel being there was perfect because girls with autism are often over looked. For me as Jesse’s mom, finally having something like the division at that level of competition was a dream come true. It was a validation of my son as a Martial Artist. The not knowing what was going on with the division is understandable due to the newness of the division. If we had known about the self defense skit ahead of time or that color belts were also invited, we could have come up with something for Jesse to do and I could have invited a couple of my students that would of happily come as well.

 

More quotes from those who witnessed the historic event to come.

Overall it was an extremely impressive event. The event had the full attention of the entire stadium. There was a young man from USA called Mr. Eric Cohen. Through his 26 years of Taekwon-Do he always asked his instructor when he could go to the world champs and if there would be a special needs division (as there was never any divisions at a world stage for him). This opportunity made Eric extremely happy. An opportunity of a lifetime. This opportunity had allowed his dream to come true after all of those years watching his friends attend world championships.

Our Argentinian competitor Julian was amazing! Everyone in the stadium loved watching his Mixed Abilities event.

One of the only female special needs competitors Angel from the UKITF performed remarkably well under high pressure. One USA Parent Vicki said “Angel being there was perfect because girls with autism are often over looked.” Sally (Angels caregiver) said Angel was so pleased to meet Ben Evans and the special needs team competitors. Angel had a huge smile winning a gold medal. She competed against a special needs black belt called Julian from UK. Julian from UK instructor Mr. Chris Heffernan won a silver in patterns. He performed his best as the rest of the special needs who all earned their medal.

President CHOI said after the demonstration “You’ve made history”

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Overall an extremely successful event and we cannot wait to attend the further opportunities which will be put in front of us! The next World Champs opportunity will be July 2018 in Argentina!!

 

It was a great event and allowed Ben Evans to make contact with lots of countries who were interested in jumping on board for the Special Needs Taekwon-Do. Many purchased the Special Needs Taekwon-Do Book 2016 recent update which was proving to be very successful and an excellent resource to help Instructors learn and understand how to teach special needs of all abilities! If you are interested in getting a copy, you can do so by visiting http://www.specialneedstaekwondobook.com

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