The big-hitting Canfields could be Preston’s toughest family.
Although they might not look like stereotypical fighters, 11-year-old Emily, 10-year-old Grace and their mum Jeanette can pack a punch, having all qualified as black belts in Taekwondo.
The girls, of Cleveleys Avenue, Fulwood, started off learning karate, but when they transferred to the Korean martial art of Taekwondo, mum Jeanette was roped in, too, because Grace was under five.
The 43-year-old teacher, at Brownedge St Mary’s High School, said: “As a mum of two girls, I wanted them to be able to look after themselves. When I was young I could wander anywhere and not be afraid, but things have changed a bit now. So with the girls doing this I am confident that if anything were to happen they would be able to get out of the situation, although the first rule of Taekwondo is to run away and only practice in the Dojang. And it was always something I fancied having a go at as well. It was a confidence thing with me, but the girls encouraged me and we’ve stuck together and really enjoyed it.”
Along with other pupils at Preston TaeKwondo club, the trio worked their way up through all the coloured grades before being put through their paces for their black belts. As part of the exam they had to demonstrate sequences of movements and answer questions about the history of the sport.
Jeanette said: “It’s a hard thing to do for an adult, let alone a child, and for children as young as Emily and Grace to achieve, it is something quite exceptional.
“It’s a buzz for us all to be black belts and, as well as keeping us fit, there’s a lot of transferrable skills to learn, such as listening, respecting other people, and they also get to teach things to other members of the group.”
Emily, who attends Our Lady’s Catholic High School, said: “People never believe me when I tell them I’m a black belt. At school they only believed me when they saw pictures of me sparring.”
She added: “I like doing punches, my favourite pattern is Hwa-Rang which has blocks and turning kicks and a bit of everything.”
Grace, a pupil at Broughton Primary School, prefers the blocks and punches of the pattern Do San.
It’s a hard thing to do for an adult, let alone a child, and for children as young as Emily and Grace to achieve, it is something quite exceptional.Jeanette Canfield
She said: “It’s a fun thing to do. We have a lot of friends there and smile all the time.”
The family are now training up to four times a week to become 2nd Dan black belts, with the two girls sparring in competitions – sometimes against one another – and Jeanette taking part as a judge.
Jeanette said: “As a parent watching your two children sparring, knowing that even with protective gear on they could get hurt, it’s not a comfortable feeling.
“But it’s teaching the girls to be resilient and they are protective towards one another.”
Karen Kehoe-Tracey, of Preston TaeKwondo, said: “We are extremely proud of all the children and adults who took the grading. We are a community-based group and welcome any one who is willing to try.”