Renee Bramhall isn't a “mean” person, and at first glance she isn’t very intimidating at 5 foot, 1 inch, but none of that matters when it comes to taekwondo.
The sport is meant to be a peaceful martial art that focuses on avoiding conflict and being prepared to defend yourself if a situation escalates. Still, some might ask how and why this 47-year-old got started. Until three years ago, Bramhall was more comfortable on a treadmill or elliptical machine.
When her boys, Chris, 10, and Steve, 11, showed an interest in taekwondo, Bramhall signed up, too. They had observed Swanson’s taekwondo students practicing in the Cooper YMCA gym while there for swimming lessons. “I got into it to support the boys,” said Bramhall.
In turn, her boys keep her committed and going. All three have achieved brown belt rank. Bramhall’s husband refers to the trio as the three ninjas.
“She’s one of those people who have a positive outlook on life and who is always encouraging her boys to try harder,” said instructor Jason Swanson. Renee and both of her boys have attended additional activities such as an optional Friday night sparring class and tournaments.
At the two tournaments in which she’s competed, Bramhall took first in sparring for brown belts in her age group and a first and third place for her form. “It takes a little bit of extra courage to do that, to test their skills against others outside of class,” Swanson said.
Bramhall said she gets a lot out of the art, including exercise, practice in self-control and discipline. She added that learning self-control is good for kids and parents alike.
Swanson shared that he has seen Bramhall develop some additional patience, in part because she knows herself how difficult the techniques are that she and her boys are learning.
For Bramhall, the atmosphere at Swanson’s is just right. “Everybody is really friendly,” she explained. “They’re always supportive. They’re right beside you, encouraging you with the techniques.”
For example, Bramhall said, if she is sparring, an instructor might stop the fight and suggest a specific move. “They want you to get better,” she stressed.