Taekwondo is alive and kicking in Hinesburg. With hopes to be back inside St. Jude’s this fall, students from TaeKwonDo KICKS can be found taking class behind Lantman’s Market in the playing fields at Lyman Meadows Park.

After two months of virtual classes via Zoom, Master Kellie Thomas – a 6th degree black belt and KICKS owner and lead instructor – has been training her students in this makeshift open-air dojang through rain and 90-degree temperatures, cancelling only for thunderstorms.

“I have learned that if you really want to do something there is always a way. I have been teaching for 20-plus years and never thought I could instruct what is basically a contact sport virtually through zoom or teach outdoors,” Thomas said.

David Blanshine, of Charlotte, has been training with Thomas for about two years, having just earned his 3rd degree black belt after a 20-year hiatus in training. While the open-air classes can be challenging due to the changeable weather, he appreciates the opportunity to be outside.

“Even though we work to stay an appropriate distance from each other, seeing our friends from class on a regular basis is a piece of the old normal – which is carried into the current normal,” Blanshine said.

While students continue to earn new belts, some even making it to the level of black belt, they have also caught up on some unfinished business.

In March, when COVID-19 closed schools, Thomas said her students were prepping to break boards as part of a fundraiser for local fire and rescue squads.

Finally, last week, the pledge-earning board-breaking began.

Students raised more than $5,000 for fire and rescue departments in Vergennes, Shoreham, Bridport and Middlebury, including $750 to Hinesburg Fire and Rescue to help purchase an AED machine for the Hinesburg community.

Thomas said classes will continue outside for the time being.

“I have had to become more creative and think outside the box, but with the help and support of my Taekwondo family, have found a way to make it work and my students have come along for the ride. We were able to discuss our fears and concerns about this new style of teaching and figure out how to move forward together,” Thomas said.

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