12 April 2024

Perseverance behind 9th Dan honour for Carmela Hartnett

Oh Do Kwan Australia Head Instructor, Grandmaster Carmela Hartnett, has enjoyed an illustrious career across Taekwondo disciplines as both athlete and instructor.

From 1984 she was National/National Selection Black Belt Champion every year until 1996. She has been National Champion in Poomsae in 30 separate years between 1990-2023. And at the international level, she has won 194 medals around the world – 23 for sparring, seven for breaking, and 164 for Poomsae – including four International Martial Arts Council World Championships, two Taekwondo International World Championships, and one World Taekwondo Challenge Championship, as well as three World Taekwondo Championship medals.

Yet arguably Hartnett’s greatest achievement took place in February. She became Australia’s first Female Kukkiwon 9th Dan – the highest practical rank in Taekwondo – after grading at the World Taekwondo HQ Kukkiwon in South Korea.

Following a mandatory nine-year period since passing 8th Dan, 9th Dan Kukkiwon grading involves a compulsory four-hour training session and a theoretical component comprising a 4,000-word thesis. In preparation for her 9th Dan Kukkiwon, Carmela’s trainer, Oh Do Kwan Grandmaster Ross Hartnett – a former Kyorugi/Poomsae National Champion and National team member (Kyorugi), as well as the 2000 Olympic Head Coach – arranged for her to complete an extensive club grading with his Grandmaster Yong Dai Cho. It appears the meticulous preparation was ultimately worth every effort.

There are only a handful of female Kukkiwon 9th Dans in the world, making Hartnett’s achievement an even greater honour for herself, her club, and her family. And it’s no ordinary family. GM Ross Hartnett, who also happens to be Carmela’s husband, started the Oh Do Kwan Australia club over 44 years ago, while her son Graeme (7th Dan Kukkiwon), brothers Dominic (5th Dan) and Adrian (2nd Dan), and sisters Connie and Claudia (1st Dans) are all former National Champions.

“I am honoured to have passed and I consider this a milestone in my life,” Hartnett reveals. “Additionally, it is such an honour to be Australia’s first female Kukkiwon 9th Dan, not just for me but for my club and for all females who do Taekwondo. I would love more females to follow in my footsteps, not only in competition, coaching and martial art, but to keep improving themselves generally so as to experience success in all aspects of life. I hope there are many more female 9th Dans to come in the future. With persistence 9th Dan is achievable to as many females as males, the basic skill factors are the same for both.”

Video courtesy of Kukkiwon Instagram 

On the same day as Hartnett’s success, two other female athletes from Taekwondo Oh Do Kwan, GM Anita Tippet (Ross’ student) and GM Jenny Crutchett (Carmela’s student from white belt, who now trains primarily with Ross), sat and passed their 8th Dans. “I am so proud of them both,” Hartnett says. 

The road to success

Residing in Perth, Western Australia, Hartnett started Taekwondo as a teenager. “I was always interested in martial arts and when my brothers joined the local Taekwondo club, I went down to have a look,” she recalls. “I was too shy to join in, so I watched the first class. I went home excited to join the next class and from that day on I fell in love with Taekwondo.”

Hartnett progressed through the belt levels and entered her first sparring competition in 1982, winning her division and enjoying the experience so much that she felt compelled to keep competing. She was part of the first Australian Women’s Taekwondo team in Kyorugi, representing Australia at the first Women’s Asian Championships in 1986 where she won a Bronze Medal. Her last international competition as part of the National Kyorugi team was the 1996 Asian Championships, where she again claimed bronze.

“The experience of international competition made me hungry to try more as I enjoyed the challenge of competing overseas,” Hartnett recalls.

She competed in Poomsae at the international level from 1991, winning her first international medal at an ITF based World Championship in England. In 1992 she became the first Australian to win a Gold medal at the US Open.

After retiring from Kyorugi in 1996, Hartnett went into coaching, an experience she has always relished. She coached the National Junior Team at several World and Asian Championships, and was a coach at the first ever World Junior Kyorugi Championships.

“I love seeing how students progress through their own Taekwondo journey and improve both physically and mentally. I am very proud of my students when they continue to challenge themselves and overcome obstacles. It is pleasing when they achieve outside Taekwondo and credit that success to their Taekwondo training,” Hartnett says.

Rewards for effort

Hartnett is a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and perseverance. Her dedication and positive mindset helped her win the Bantamweight National Black Belt title in sparring only two months after giving birth to her son Graeme.

“Ross has a simple philosophy of training smart while being self-aware. He tailored my technique and tactics to my condition so I was able to compete at near my best and win the title. It wasn’t easy, but nor was it super hard due to our club having a culture of conditioning the body and mind to meet the challenge at hand,” she reveals.

In over 40 years of practising Taekwondo, the latter stage of pregnancy is the only time Hartnett has ever stopped training an average of five days per week.

“I love training, physical exercise makes me feel so happy, not just at the time but for the rest of my day. I also love teaching Taekwondo, it is the best job in the world. My motivation is how Taekwondo makes me feel, both mentally and physically,” she says.

“Taekwondo is also my passion, once you find something you’re passionate about it is quite easy to stay committed. It also helps that the training regime is varied and that I continue to learn new things and ideas from my instructor/husband.”

And what about her advice for the next generation of Taekwondo athletes and instructors?

“I always tell students to be the best person they can be, keep going, keep improving, and enjoy your Taekwondo journey,” Hartnett says. “People join martial arts for a myriad of reasons like fitness, confidence and self-defence. If you improve in the area that was your primary reason for joining then you are a winner, and if you can improve in one area then it is likely you can achieve in others.

“For instructors and coaches, never lose sight of students’ needs and aspirations. Don’t just teach them to kick and punch, try to make them the best person they can be.”

In addition to the honour of reaching 9th Dan Kukkiwon, Hartnett is a Kukkiwon 1st Class Master and 1st Class International Dan Examiner. She currently teaches six days per week and is training four days per week, and increases her training days as it gets closer to major events to compete and qualify for National teams to contest World Poomsae Championships, while at the same time teaching classes. Wherever her Taekwondo journey takes her next, GM Carmela Hartnett’s holistic approach to martial arts and life will ensure she always lands on her feet.

All images owned and supplied by Oh Do Kwan Australia.

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