Shy and filled with a lot of thoughts on life, already at the age of 7 Hanna had a feeling that at some point, she would have to be able to protect herself. So to ease that feeling, her parents signed her up for Taekwondo – And so this story of yet another inspiring Taekwondo journey begins. Meet Hanna Podbielski.
“My taekwondo journey started at age 7. I was an extremely shy child and I would barely speak to anyone I didn’t know. Everything in the world scared me and, even as a kid, I knew that there wouldn’t always be people to protect me from harm. Although I did not explicitly state those feelings, my enrollment in taekwondo started to ease that anxiety. In October of 2007, my parents signed me up for taekwondo classes at our local YMCA. It was a huge step for me, and one I could never accomplish without my brother by my side. Although I greatly enjoyed the classes, I never knew how significant taekwondo would become to my life.”
Every start of something new can be difficult, and in Hanna’s story Taekwondo was most of all just a hobby, and her brother stayed and so did she. Her motivation and passion for Taekwondo, first really arrived when she earned her black belt.
“Honestly, as a colored belt, I didn’t love taekwondo – it was just a hobby for me. I remember thinking to myself, “As long as my brother is in taekwondo, I have to be in it too so that I can keep up with him.” I had no true passion for taekwondo until I earned my black belt. Up until then, I had grown weary of repeating poomsae and kicks over and over to no extent. It just wasn’t exciting to me, so I mainly used taekwondo as a time-killer rather than something I wanted to do. However, after I reached black belt, sparring piqued my interest. I saw all of the older black belts competing and being fierce in the ring and it made me realize I wanted that fire. What really sparked my desire was when our team came home with medals from the USA National tournament. As soon as I saw one, I knew I needed it. From there on out, almost all of my focus was on sparring and I absolutely fell in love with it and my motivation became stronger than I could have ever imagined.”
Talent can bring us in many directions, but mix this with passion. And you will soon have an idea of which way you should choose, for Hanna there is no doubt.
“No doubt about it, sparring is my favorite part about Taekwondo. I had tried to focus on poomsae, but despite being good at it, I felt empty inside. Although I acted as though I loved poomsae, I didn’t. It was too repetitive, too boring. My focus just wasn’t there. However, as soon as I began to seriously train in sparring, I immediately took to fighting. There is something about being in that ring and knowing that at any minute the match could change that makes it so thrilling. Every inch of me feels alive when I fight like there’s nothing I can’t accomplish. I thrive off of each intense second that I’m kicking and dodging my opponent’s kicks. Basically, I’ve never felt more complete than when someone’s trying to knock me out.”
Hanna has up till her biggest achievement struggled with several things, being born with scoliosis and deformed hips. This is surely no easy task, but that doesn’t stop her at all.
“My biggest achievement is definitely earning second place at AAU/USA Nationals in 2017, ranking me second in an entire organization that spreads across the USA. Principally, this seemed almost impossible for me. Having been born with deformed hips and scoliosis, I was plagued with a series of injuries leading up to the national tournament. These nuisances pushed me past my breaking point as I was in a constant battle between training and healing. As stated before though, a national medal had always been the goal of my training and I just couldn’t give up. Defying my injuries, I had finally seen the accomplishment of that goal last summer. Although it wasn’t the medal that meant so much to me, it was what I proved when I won that medal. Throughout my whole sparring career, I’ve had family and friends and complete strangers tell me that I’m crazy for doing this and for wanting to compete at a national level. Even today, I constantly hear how it’s impossible for me to achieve the things that I want to. So, when I earned that silver medal, I had proved everyone wrong who said I never had a shot. They didn’t realize the passion that burned inside of me and that my dreams were far greater than anything negative they could say about me. Like I said, even today there are still doubts about my ability, but I can always turn to that silver medal and say, “I did it.” “
When you reach a goal, a new one typically arrives. The same goes for Hanna, and goals and dreams are set. And we have a feeling, that she is ready to fight her way towards them.
“For me, goals never stop. I always have something that I’m working towards. Right now, my main goal is to become the AAU/USA national champion. I was just short of it last year, so I want to win very bad this year. Not only that but if I do become the national champion, I will make the AAU/USA national team, meaning that I would have the opportunity to compete internationally all while representing the USA, which has also been a big dream of mine. Additionally, another goal I have is to attend the US Open tournament next year. The US Open is an international tournament in which I could earn ranking points to position myself a world-ranked fighter. Other than that, I hope to maintain a healthy lifestyle and inspire those around me to never give up on their dreams despite what other people tell them.”
One thing is sure, Taekwondo is for all. Which is exactly what Hanna’s advice is about:
“Always believe in yourself. Taekwondo is an art and a sport that can be adapted for all ages and all purposes. There’s no reason to be afraid or to feel like there is something holding you back. Whether you’re young or old, taekwondo is perfect. Whether you’re looking for a sport or an art, taekwondo is perfect. Whether you’re looking for self-defense or just a way to stay in shape, Taekwondo. Is. Perfect. Believe in your ability to achieve great things and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Have faith in yourself and have fun with it!”
Name: Hanna Podbielski
Belt: 3rd dan black belt
Role: National athlete and instructor