4 July 2023

Fay Shacklock: A legendary champion for Taekwondo and her community

Grandmaster Fay Shacklock is affectionately known as the Dawn Fraser of Taekwondo in Australia – and it’s easy to see why.

Shacklock has been Australia’s most dominant power-breaking champion, holding an incredible 27-year winning streak in the discipline, and winning a string of state and national championships as well as gold at the Pan Pacific Master’s Games.

But the 8th Dan Black Belt is just as well known for her dedication to assisting youth and older adults in her hometown of Forster, New South Wales, through Taekwondo-based activity programs.

“Taekwondo has become my way of life and has given me the ability to care for so many people I love,” Shacklock says.

“Many doors have opened for me [through Taekwondo] and I have never lost the love I have for it.”

Shacklock’s Martial Arts journey began at the age of 10, when a neighbour with a Black Belt in Judo gave her a number of lessons. She went on to learn Hapkido in her 20s, until her Instructor moved interstate.

To continue sharpening her skills in self-defence, Shacklock made the switch to Taekwondo under Master Chong Soo Kim – and she’s never looked back.

“The yearn to be a Martial Artist never left me and in the 80s, I found Master Chong Soo Kim, who was a former Korean Army Champion,” Shacklock explains.

“I spent 16 years training in Taekwondo under him for five to six days a week.”

Shacklock’s time under Master Kim was sadly cut short when he passed away. The Korean had been such an important influence in her life and she felt the loss deeply.

“I hit a crossroads at that stage, but I decided to continue to honour his name and his belief in me as a champion,” Shacklock recalls.

Since then, she’s continued to train intensively, dedicating herself to Taekwondo and racking up elite Black Belt certifications for many years. She says Grandmaster Russell Macarthur (Russell Macarthur Taekwondo and Hapkido) was another important mentor along the way.

Shacklock’s legendary run in power-breaking began in 1991, when she was crowned Australia’s first National power-breaking champion.

Now a 10-time Queensland State Champion, she’s chalked up some incredible records, including breaking 13 tiles at the 1998 Master’s Games – more than any of the men broke at the same event.

Shacklock also opened her own club, Fay Shacklock’s Taekwondo, to pass her knowledge on to students of all ages and backgrounds in her community.

“Programs are of utmost importance to all ages and abilities, not just for membership value, but for the profile of the sport. I have always embraced and acknowledged other students and competitors, and have earned a lot of respect by being consistent and fair.”

While smashing through tiles with a blend of power, precision and speed is incredibly satisfying, Shacklock believes the greatest gift Taekwondo provides is a pathway through health struggles and hard times.

Shacklock has been committed to using her passion and skills as a Taekwondo Instructor to facilitate wellbeing and social change programs for many years.

“I have introduced many groups to Taekwondo… [through] anti-bullying programs, ‘Street beat’ programs and classes for domestic violence survivors. Many of these have reinvigorated their lives from despair, to go on to become state, national and international champions.”

One of Shacklock’s most successful programs is ‘Ninja Nannies’, an inclusive seniors program that utilises Taekwondo movements to help the elderly improve their balance, strength and endurance.

The modified Martial Arts program has been running for fifteen years and has not only increased participants’ health and wellbeing, but given them a fun environment where they can establish social connections to avoid loneliness and isolation.

“I introduced a fall prevention program into the Great Lakes, then added self-defence, breaking boards and sparring with pool noodles. I have taught hundreds of Ninja Nannies in my area and some have been with me for fifteen years. Some are in their 40s and my oldest student is 98 years old.”

Ninja Nannies has resonated with the community so much that it’s been honoured in song by Johnny Walker.

Shacklock’s humanitarian work has earned numerous prestigious honours, including induction into the International Taekwondo Hall of Fame in Las Vegas in 2013. She was also appointed as the Hall of Fame’s Director for Australia.

Shacklock also has the distinction of becoming the first woman to be elected as an Australian Taekwondo National Executive Council member and National Vice President. Furthermore, she was Australian Taekwondo’s Inaugural Ambassador in 2017.

When she looks back on everything she’s achieved to date, Shacklock’s so thankful for the special individuals who have inspired and guided her along the way.

“There are too many wonderful and loyal friends to mention. Master Kim as my Master, and GM Russell Macarthur as a mentor, sit high on my list, and my brother taught me to be brave.”

While she’s had a long and illustrious career in Taekwondo, Shacklock has no intentions of slowing down any time soon.

She carries herself as a true Martial Artist and strives for improvement from herself and her students every day.

“I encourage students, whatever age and capability, to follow their dreams. You are never too old, and it is never too late. l love what I do, but more than that, I love who I do it with.

“I will continue to take Taekwondo to as many age groups and ability levels as I possibly can.”

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