Secrets of success from a Taekwondo World Champion, personal trainer mum

Whether you see your future self on a podium or just in a better place than you are now, new Taekwondo World Champion Joanne Licastro’s story of transformation and triumph provides an inspiring mandate for achieving goals, not just in martial arts, but in life. And central to her success, she believes, was one key ingredient… 

As a 28-year-old, West Australian mum of two, Joanne Licastro walked into her first Taekwondo training session feeling nervous and with the simple aim of “not dying”.

Fast forward 15 years to now, and Jo is standing on a podium in an Eastern European country with Gold around her neck having been named a World Champion and the Australian National Anthem playing in her honour.

How does that happen?

Hard work, sweat and tears of course. No surprises there. But Jo says there’s one key ingredient she had to develop that has been absolutely critical to her success.

All the training in the world would have amounted to nothing if she didn’t have it.

Success for Jo

She says mastering this key ingredient was probably the toughest battle she endured throughout her entire journey but she slayed some dragons to get it and now wants to help others grab some too.

But first, where is your journey headed?

A story like Jo’s – especially if you are like me and in the early stages of your own journey as a Taekwondo late starter – might have you wondering just what you could be capable of with the same level of dedication.

Where exactly might this new path lead you to?

I know I’ve been surprised by what my body can do now, compared to those first terrifying sessions 18 months ago. Gee whizz that’s a satisfying feeling, am I right?

But what I really didn’t expect, is this new level of determination that’s literally just popped out of me, driving me continuously to do better.

This famous quote by Socrates springs to mind:

“It is a disgrace to grow old through sheer carelessness before seeing what manner of (wo)man you may become by developing your bodily strength and beauty to their highest limit.”

More about Jo

Not only is Jo a World Champion Taekwondo Mum, she’s a 5th Dan Black Belt and qualified personal trainer.

Success for JoLast month in Minsk, Belarus, she won a Gold Medal for Individual Patterns, Silver in a power test and Silver in sparring.

That’s about as far away as you can get from the “shy, timid, scared woman” who had suffered from depression that Jo describes herself as at the beginning of her taekwondo journey.

Even some of her family and friends thought this whole Taekwondo thing was just going to be a passing phase.

So back to that earlier question.

How does this happen? How did Jo do it?

And what you might also be wondering right now: “Could I do it too?”

In the true way of a martial artist, Jo is absolutely open to sharing her secrets. In fact, her Taekwondo training and achievements combined with her qualifications as a personal trainer make her uniquely qualified to help others.

But first, another question.

How much do you want it?

If, as a middle aged martial artist, you are absolutely committed to:

  • Seeing just what level of physical and mental strength you might be capable of;
  • Being one of those people who prove yet again, that age actually is just a number, not an excuse;

Then read on for Jo’s secret ingredient for success

Jo’s workout tips will condition your body and drive your Taekwondo skills to a whole new level.

Achieving Jo’s level of success hasn’t been easy. It’s taken 5 international competitions spanning 11 years to win Gold.

“It’s not easy and there are many hurdles and times when you want to give up, but next training session you get back in there,” she said.

And then there’s two hours of training, six times a week in-between running her hairdressing and personal training businesses while juggling family life.

But about here is where that key ingredient to Jo’s success comes in.

She says there came a point in her competition career where the rollercoaster of “self-doubt and feeling useless” passed and she just knew she had it in her.


Believing she could do it ensured Jo did not return to her home from Belarus last month without that Gold Medal.

“When you’re standing on the mats ready to compete be it local, state, national or international competition and wonder what the hell you are doing there, why do you put yourself through this time and time again?”, she said.

“Then you look deep inside and remember why you are there. Because you work hard, you tell yourself you got this, you have trained hard and put the hours in.

“You get on the mats and you take a deep breath and you do what you do. I have a tattoo on my arm with the word ‘believe’ on it to remind me to believe in myself.”

Without a shadow of a doubt, Jo has put the kind of hard work into reaching her goals that most of us would only think about fleetingly while lying on the couch waiting for that rush of blood to the head to pass.

But think about this: She too started from a place where many of us are right now!

Not the couch! On the floor, beginning as a Taekwondo late starter.

The Martial Arts Effect

Like me and like hundreds of people I have now connected with on this topic from around the world, Jo pushed herself out of her comfort zone by trying something new and experienced dramatic change in herself as a result.

I’ve talked about this in a previous article as something I like to call “The Martial Arts Effect”.

Jo said: “It changed me completely. As soon as I got my Black Belt which I achieved in three years.”

“I became a confident, strong and opinionated woman. I wanted to make my name known because I was bullied at school and in the workplace.”

And from that point on, fired by her new-found passion and fighting spirit, one step lead to another.

And another. One by one those dragons fell to the wayside.

“I learned from my (competition) experience … that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was,” she said.

“I was able to overcome my fears and believe in myself. Realise that I am not the weak person that I used to be.

“I am so proud of the person I have become and I honestly owe most of it to the courage, strength, and determination that Taekwondo has given me.”

Does reading that make you again wonder: “Could I do it too?”.

Jo’s key secret ingredient of BELIEF is something you can only develop by truly embracing your own unique journey.

But if you did answer “YES”, to the above question, Jo wants to share her combined Taekwondo and personal trainer expertise with a workout you can do at home in addition to your Taekwondo training that will condition your body for improved mastery.

Jo’s workout for you

Jo recommends a Tabata-style workout and says the app is available for download to your phone.

Tabata involves quick, intense bursts of exercise with a short rest between. It looks like this:

Exercise 1 – 20 seconds

Rest – 10 seconds

Exercise 2 – 20 seconds

Rest – 10 seconds

Intense cardio – 1 minute

Rest – 10 seconds

Repeat circuit 4 times.

For Exercises 1 and 2, Jo suggests selecting ones which target two different areas of the body such as legs and abdominals.

Her list below offers suggestions:



Squat jumps

Abdominal exercises for strength and direction change




High intensity cardio:

  • Short-burst running
  • Skipping
  • Boxing
  • Tabata

Weight training including weighted leg exercises.


Final words from Jo:

The journey through taekwondo is just that.  It’s a journey. It’s your individual journey. Taekwondo World Champion Jo Licastro.

What you put into it, you will get out of it. Believe in yourself and never give up. Follow the tenants and philosophy of TKD into your lives and journey.

It’s not easy or everyone would be a Black Belt but it sure is worth it.

The best feeling is being a role model to so many, especially young girls and mums.

My first young girl I was a role model to was Kelsie Williams. We had a dream when she was 7 years old that we would compete at worlds one day and we have just lived that dream in Belarus.

We both have the most amazing instructor in Master Jason Bradley and are truly grateful for all the time he puts and commits to our training. I have been with him since a white belt so he really can make World Champions.

Please consider sending Jo your own personal message of congratulations by commenting below. 🙂


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  1. Mel Reply

    Congratulations Jo! What an astonishing career you built on the strong foundation forged by cultivating your key ingredient “belief”.

    Thank you Kristy for letting us learn from Jo’s success. Inspirational and captivating words 🙂

    • Kristy Reply

      Beautiful words Mel. Thank you for the lovely feedback.

  2. Micheal Bernardi Reply

    Great read. Self belief is an incredible thing👍😀
    Awesome work Jo.

    • Kristy Reply

      Thanks Mick. Wonderful to have you drop by. Very true! 🙂

  3. Trudy allen Reply

    I “may” have shed a tear reading this awesome article. What a gorgeous tribute to jo and so amazing that now others will see what an inspiration she is to so many. I am forever grateful to her for being that person kelsie saw for the first time as a woman in a black belt and opened her entire world up to the amazing reality that girls too can be black belt martial artists. 💜👊

    • Kristy Reply

      Thank you sincerely for that beautiful feedback Trudy. I can absolutely appreciate how important it is for us as parents to know that our children have other adults in their lives who inspire them as role models. It sounds like Jo and Kelsie have a very special relationship. Taekwondo really is very wonderful. 🙂

  4. Katrien Reply

    Congratulations Jo for always being a great role model. Speaking the truth & believing in yourself is a wonderful thing. Kristy, thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful compilation of Jo’s hard work & drive to achieve her goals. It’s fantastic that you have both shared to provide inspiration to many other people.

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