Christopher Tomlin: ITF Taekwondo Second Degree Black Belt

Teacher. Coach. Advisor. Amateur Instagram chef. These terms a Woodland student might use to describe Christopher Tomlin. Whether it be through taking one of his classes, participating in the Woodland Regional Student Government, selling things for DECA, or playing volleyball, most students know of his many hidden talents. Recently, Tomlin revealed a new fact about himself to his AP World History class: the history teacher is also a certified blackbelt. 

Tomlin first started getting into martial arts when he was around nine or ten. “My dad met this guy at a restaurant who had just opened a studio; the guy had done martial arts as a kid and found it pretty helpful. He offered my dad a pretty sweet discount if I joined, so I went to a few dry-run lessons, and I ended up sticking with it until I was like eighteen.”

Tomlin learned a form of martial arts known as ITF Taekwondo. He obtained his second degree blackbelt as well as a certification to referee across the United States. In 1994, he captained a junior team that went to Canada to compete in the Junior Olympics. Later, he flew to Boulder, Colorado to compete for the United States Olympics team. 

“So for every degree, you have to learn forms, which are like patterns of certain motions, and I was pretty good at that. I was the backup for the backup for the forms division,” Tomlin detailed. “In sparring, though, I got knocked out early on– I was not going anywhere for sparring.”

One of the challenges that Tomlin describes in obtaining his belts are the tests that he had to take in order to earn each degree. He had to memorize about 20 patterns, and the proctors could ask him to perform any two or three of the ones that he knew. In addition, there were also sparring and board-breaking components. The final portion of the test was an oral exam.

“You would get up there, and they’d ask you the tenets of Taekwondo and have you count to a certain number in Korean, and you would have to talk about the whole history of [the martial art]– it was horrible.”

Despite the fact that Tomlin no longer uses the physical components of Taekwondo, many of the mental skills that he was taught are still helpful to him today. 

“What I learned didn’t just apply to the martial art; it also applied to other aspects of life,” Tomlin said. “Perseverance was a large part; if you struggled with something, you didn’t just walk away from it. That’s something I’ve carried with me to this day.”