One mom’s journey from couch to kick boxing

Argentinian immigrant Carolina Little discovered Tae Kwon Do six years ago, and her enthusiasm has her starting up classes for women.

It’s Tuesday night at Baek’s Tae Kwon Do.

Music is blaring and women are practicing their kick-boxing moves in front of a mirrored wall.

Punch. Kick. Punch. Kick.

Carolina Little seems the most proficient, and the other women are looking to her for guidance.

She smiles as she instructs, and it is obvious to the onlooker that she loves where she is and what she’s going.

Funny thing is, if you’d told her 10 years ago that this was in her future, she’d have thought you were nuts.



Carolina loves her kids a lot.

Seventeen years ago, she didn’t have any. Carolina and her husband, Stafford lived in the Argentinian capital city of Buenos Aires, a bustling city of 2.5 million.

She had a successful career as a radio and television broadcaster and her husband worked in the oil industry.

Sixteen years ago, Agustin changed everything. Her first child came into the world, and Carolina did what many moms do. She put her career on the back-burner and stayed home to care for the kids.

After Agustin came Joaquin and Julian, three sons that became her world.

Carolina dove head first into the full-time mom thing — making breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Dropping kids off and picking them up from school. Cleaning the house and buying the groceries.

“Not thinking any more about myself,” she laughed.

In her downtime (don’t laugh mommies), she watched TV.

What were Ross and Rachel up to today? Had Meredith Grey and Dr. McDreamy finally hooked up?

The family moved to Canada in 2002, first to Calgary and later to Edmonton — a big change on the surface, but really, Carolina was just doing the same things on a different continent.

Still preparing meals and taking kids here and there.

Still catching reruns of Friends, Grey’s Anatomy and Hawaii 5-0.

Still taking little time for herself.

One day six years ago, completely out of the blue, Joaquin said he wanted to try Tae Kwon Do.

“His best friend was doing it, so he wanted to,” she said. “We were living in Edmonton then, about a month away from moving to Chilliwack. When we got to Chilliwack, we went to have supper at Jackson’s (Steak House), and this Tae Kwon Do place was right next door.”

The family finished their meal, then walked next door to Baek’s Tae Kwon Do Academy.

Inside, they watched a class of kids go through their paces under the watchful eye of master Woon Kook Baek.

Carolina signed up Agustin and Joaquin the next morning.

She brought them to classes three times a week, and, with two-year-old Julian sitting in a stroller by her side, she watched.

She helped Agustin and Joaquin hone their technique, and grinned proudly as they got their first, second, third and fourth belts. No parent was more supportive, and Woon Kook Baek noticed.

“He kept asking, ‘What about you? Would you like to try?’” Carolina recalled.

What he didn’t know is that she loathed exercise, and went well out of her way to avoid it.

“I was completely allergic to exercise, never going to the gym or anything like that,” she explained. “But he kept asking and eventually agreed to take one class. And I got in there with the kicking and the punching and the releasing of the stress, and I fell in love with it.”

While Stafford stayed home with Julian, Carolina started going to Tae Kwon Do classes with Agustin and Joaquin.

One class turned into two, then 20, then 100. Carolina got her green belt. Then her purple.

Along the way, she started helping Woon Kook Baek run the place.

The outgoing mom was the perfect counterpoint to the quiet teacher, the Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid type who had little interest in the business side of business.

He was content to teach, and Carolina was well suited to handle the things he couldn’t.

When someone had a question or problem, it was her they started going to.

“I was helping more and more, and by the time my third son started Tae Kwon Do, we were here all of the time,” she said. “It was like our second home, and sometimes my kids would have to wait for me because I was working.”

Carolina was the de-facto business manager, doing it all voluntarily.

“But he wanted to give something back to me, and he knew I always wanted to do a class for ladies,” she said. “So he gave me the use of the gym for free.”

Carolina talked to her friends, and, without any advertising, got 18 out to her first class in May.

Sara Kouwenhoven was among them.

“I’m like her, where I got into this rut and I was just sitting on a couch,” Sara said. “I needed motivation to get off my butt and actually do something for myself, and this sounded like a good idea.”

Sara’s daughter took Tae Kwon Do in Coquitlam, so she had some idea what she was in for.

“But that first class, almost killed me,” she laughed. “There’s lots of cardio, punching and kicking. Lots of sweating.”

But lots of socializing too, which was key.

Carolina knew she needed a tailored approach to her class.

A little less structure and focus on the technical aspects of Tae Kwon Do.

More focus on cardio and kick boxing.

A lot more talking and laughing.

Something women would want to come to.

“That’s what struck me at that first class was how social it was,” Sara said. “And that made me want to come back.”

Nearly two months later the formula has been proven to work.

Of the 18 who attended that first class, 10 have stuck with it.

Sara, a woman who, by her own admission, hated exercise with a passion, finds herself itching to get to the gym Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

“It’s good to be here and do it, but if you don’t want to be here and do it, then you’re just going through the motions and you’re not getting any benefit,” Sara said. “I’m like Carolina where I never worked out much before this. But now, Tuesday mornings I’m excited to get to class. I cannot wait to see my friends, get a workout and release some stress.”

Carolina and Sarah agree, there are lots of women who know they should do something to improve their health. But it’s got to be a want-to and not a have-to situation.

“The nicest thing about this is, the class is a nice size,” Sara said. “I’ve tried other classes before where you’re jostling for space with 30 other women. And I know how intimidating it can be to go work out at a gym.”

“I think it’s so much fun coming to a place like this, and if I miss any of my classes for any reason, I’m grouchy,” Carolina added. “That’s what I want for the women in my class. I want them to look forward to coming here and I want them to have fun while they’re here. I want this place to have the same affect on their lives that it’s had on mine.”

To get more info, contact Carolina at 604-824-0660.

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