6 Taekwondo Tips from Australia’s most-qualified female instructor

Get comfy because you are about to receive 6 truly spectacular tips for Taekwondo training offered selflessly – with humility and without hesitation – by a World Champion several times over AND one of Australia’s most highly-ranked, highly-qualified and MOST decorated women in the sport…

Given the chance to chat with her one-on-one, what would you be burning to ask?

Taekwondo tips from Grand Master Carmela Hartnett

When I had the honour recently of speaking with WTF 8th Dan Black Belt Grand Master Carmela Hartnett, in my usual fashion, I peppered the poor woman with as many questions as I could fire off in the time allowed.

Pop, pop, pop. Take a breath. Pop, pop, pop.

I had a lot more too since I’m certain she’s one of the most fascinating women I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing.

But I tried to show at least some restraint, fearing she might soon wonder what on earth she had gotten herself into.

Amazingly though, she didn’t seem one bit bothered. How lovely!

In fact, very early into our discussion it became patently obvious to me that Grand Master Carmela embodies everything a life dedicated to martial arts could promise.

She was so patient AND so completely open about her experience!

There was a genuine willingness to share what she has learned, joy and passion for her teaching after decades of doing so and yet so quietly spoken about all that she has achieved.

During our conversation she offered some seriously valuable insights and advice for those who practice Taekwondo – which will be just as relevant too for any of the martial arts.

And once you’ve had time to absorb them, you simply MUST email them, post them and share them, even shout them from the top of a mountain so as many martial artists as possible can benefit from this one amazing Q&A with GM Carmela.


But first, her LONG list of achievements! Taekwondo tips from Grand Master Carmela Hartnett

  • More than 90 medals from international competitions across sparring and poomsae
  • First Australian female to receive an 8th Dan Dan Kukkiwon Black Belt
  • Kukkiwon Master Instructor certificate
  • Named in Australia’s Taekwondo Team of the Century in 2000
  • Inducted into Australian National Athlete Hall of Fame in 2005
  • Coach junior Australian team and trainer Australian female team Sparring
  • Coach of Australian poomsae team twice
  • 2 x TI World Champion in poomsae
  • International Martial Arts Council World Champion
  • 3 x WTF World Championship medal winner
  • 5 x Commonwealth Taekwondo Champion
  • 14 x Australian National Champion Sparring
  • 30 x Australian National Champion Poomsae


And here’s a fun FACT…

One of the biggest and brightest names in Australian Taekwondo history is Lauren Burns who at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games won Australia’s first and only Olympic Gold Medal.

GM Carmela actually fought Lauren twice in competition selection matches.

GM Carmela was coming toward the end of her sparring career in her early 30s and Lauren’s star was just starting to rise.

Quietly and without gusto, GM Carmela admits it was she who claimed the first win!

The cheeky little Victorian came out on top the second time round though and the rest, as they say, is history.



GM Carmela teaches 25 Taekwondo classes every week for students aged from 4 up to adults in their 70s.

There are approximately 500 students in the school she runs with Husband, former Olympic Team Head Coach and 9th Dan Black Belt Grand Master Ross Hartnett.

On top of that she will train herself up to five times a week leading up to a competition plus pilates sessions – a relatively new addition to her fitness routine.


The Taekwondo Tips

Here’s what will strike you first about GM Carmela’s advice. It’s not rocket science.

In fact, you’ve probably heard or read similar observations before.

But here’s the thing! Add the weight of achievement and experience to this advice that Grand Master Carmela brings to the table and its significance soars to a whole other level.

Do yourself a favour. Read. Absorb. Apply. Repeat.


#1 Time on the court

There’s no short cut. Sorry!

You thought expert advice of this calibre was going to contain some kind of silver bullet right? Some sneaky piece of wizardry that you could apply to your techniques or training that would somehow shortcut the process to mastery.

(At least, I don’t mind admitting that’s what I was secretly hoping for!)

Nope. That’s because there isn’t one.

GM Carmela puts it out there like this: “You have to spend the time on the court.”

There simply is no way for a beginner to suddenly be able to perform skills with the same level of power and/or finesse as someone who has been practicing it for decades. None.

Truly understanding that however, will provide a giant step forward in the way you approach your training.


#2 Technique first, then speed and power Taekwondo tips from Grand Master Carmela Hartnett

Basic Techniques always come first says GM Carmela. This is the foundation of everything. If your basics are correct then everything else will flow on from this.

When you’re spending that time on the court, focus on getting your technique accurate before attempting to improve the speed and power.

GM Carmela says, in fact, speed and power will to a degree, be a by-product of getting your technique correct.

To help with this process, she encourages you to film yourself both in competition and general training.

GM Carmela says you’ll spot problems with your technique that you didn’t even realise were there.


#3 Poomsae provides foundation

You’ve no doubt seen them before. A charged-up new student who storms into Taekwondo training focused almost completely on the combat aspects of the art.

Perfecting poomsae/patterns/forms, in their view, is just for the intellectuals.

But talk to GM Carmela and even those of us who do enjoy practicing patterns, gain a far deeper understanding of their value to the overall picture.

She says poomsae provides you with a foundation. And amazingly, GM Carmela says poomsae players develop a particularly strong core which is especially useful in injury prevention.

Who knew?

Poomsae, according to GM Carmela, will also help develop coordination for improved sparring in beginners.

That’s because you’re teaching your body to move in a sequence of skills rather than just – for instance – performing the same kick up and down the court.

After the beginner stage though, GM Carmela says the differentiation in poomsae and sparring diverges quite significantly.


#4 Work on Breathing

It’s hard to imagine that someone who has won 90 national and international competition medals could still find areas to improve upon.

But in preparation for her next poomsae competition, GM Carmela says she is working to improve her breathing.

Apparently when performing poomsae, it’s not uncommon to hold your breath for almost the entire routine.

But GM Carmela says perfecting the sharpness of the moves, involves knowing when to relax your body and then tense at the correct moment, the hypothetical moment of impact.

Controlled breathing provides significant assistance in achieving the correct rhythm.


#5 Listen to your body

GM Carmela says this has become so important as she has got older. Realistically, she is a shining light for the benefits of a life-long commitment to exercise and fitness generally.

While she no longer spars at competition level, she still does so for fun. Plus she spends hours every day in physically demanding instruction roles as well as undertaking her own training.

GM Carmela says the key to being able to continue being as physical as she likes to be in her “dream job” is to recognise when her body is experiencing unusual stiffness, pain or even just general lethargy.

She pulls back when her body tells her it needs a break. Some days she can kick really high, other days not so high. And she’s ok with that.

In addition, due to some issues with her lower back, GM Carmela began including pilates into her weekly training schedule.

The alternative form of exercise has improved both her core and upper body strength by allowing identification and development of smaller muscle groups that hadn’t previously been targeted.

If an elite athlete like GM Carmela can find muscles she hasn’t used much before, imagine what untapped potential the rest of us might be able to unearth??!!

I’m certain I discovered muscles I never knew existed after my very first few Taekwondo training sessions. Ouchey! I wonder what else is in there?


#6 Have fun

On one level it seems kind of obvious but then again, I for one know it is very easy to get trapped in a negative cycle of being frustrated by slow progress, comparing yourself to others or just worrying whether you’ll ever nail that fancy new kick.

So this little pearl of wisdom from GM Carmela is worth remembering at every stage of the journey.

Afterall, if you’re not ultimately enjoying the experience, you’ll probably eventually quit.

Listening to GM Carmela talk about Taekwondo helps you to understand how she has managed to reach the epic career highs she has achieved.

She literally loves everything about it. The fitness, the self defence, the community, the stress relief, the teaching.  All. Of. It.

“You could spend five years getting fit at the gym but will you come out at the end having learned a valuable life skill like self defence?”

“I see the effect martial arts has on people all the time.

“I see teenagers interacting and training with older people and little ones too.

“Where else in society – other than families – would you see that kind of thing happening?”


There you have it. 6 incredible Tips on Taekwondo from Australia’s most qualified female instructor – someone who as a teenager, walked into the very first training session she had planned to participate in but sat on the sidelines instead because she was too shy.

If you’ve taken that brave first step into Taekwondo (or any form of martial arts training) where might it lead you?


You might also enjoy these articles by The Mortal Mouse:


  1. Melanie Reply

    Dear Kristy

    Thank you for passing on Grand Master Carmela Hartnett’s wisdom. What an outstanding and truly impressive woman she is to accumulate such significant qualifications and skillful achievements. WOW!
    I am determined to “Read. Absorb. Apply. Repeat” the 6 Taekwondo Tips of Australia’s most qualified female instructor shared by the very talented Mortal Mouse, thank you both!

    • Kristy Reply

      Thank you Melanie for your kind thoughts! I’m truly grateful to GM Carmela for her willingness in allowing me to pick her brains like this. She is a wealth of information and I do hope her wisdom provides insight and encouragement for as many martial artists as possible. 🙂

  2. Tony Paganella Reply

    Thanks for your thoughtful and inspiring article.
    Tony Paganella 4th Dan Instructor -East Gippsland Victoria http://www.egtkd.com.au

    • Kristy Reply

      Hi Tony! Thank you so much dropping by. I visited your club’s website and see that you bring a range of qualifications to your instruction. How wonderful! 🙂

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