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Taekwondo school with ties to the Olympics opens in Woodbury

Stephanie Wright, instructor for World TaeKwonDo Academy, runs the Woodbury studio at Tamarack Hills. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

WOODBURY - Stephanie Wright said it doesn't take much for the bully to target kids with low self-esteem.

But it also takes a little bit of martial arts training to give the shy some courage.

"We find that with confidence, it makes the bully stay away," she said.

The World TaeKwonDo Academy instructor now runs a local studio in Woodbury's Tamarack Hills complex.

She started being involved with the sport seven years ago, taking classes from friends who were instructors.

Then she got hooked.

Wright started helping out other instructors in St. Paul at recreation centers and community education classes.

She said when she first started assisting other teachers, she didn't think she would actually run her own school someday.

But everyone kept telling her she would be good at it.

"The opportunity kind of presented itself," she said of the Tamarack Hills location and she just snapped it up.

The local World TaeKwonDo Academy opened about six weeks ago. Wright said what sets it apart is it gives students the chance to compete in national and even international competitions.

In fact, the head of the organization, Grandmaster Eui Lee, is currently in London coaching the U.S. Taekwondo team at the 2012 Olympics.

"I get the benefits of his knowledge and experience and I can share that with other people that come in," Wright said.

A number of World TaeKwonDo Academy students and instructors have participated in various competitions nationwide, including Wright.

She said it's always a motivation for some of her students to know about the competitions because they know that it's something available for them through the school.

Wright teaches the 3- to 6-year-old "Little Dragon" age, as well as adults during evening classes.

One of the benefits of TaeKwonDo, she said, is the confidence it brings out in kids and the stronger communication skills they gain from it.

All classes have been prepping students for a competition the school is holding in September at Hamline University.

Wright encourages students, even if they don't compete, to check it out and test out some of the tricks they've learned in class.

She said students don't attend the school just to learn fighting skills, though.

"It's to give life skills and we use taekwondo as the tool to do that," Wright said.