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Learning the Taekwondo basics with Bromley's self-professed most powerful couple

PUBLISHED: 15:39 24 January 2013 | UPDATED: 15:39 24 January 2013

Student Antonio Monrell, 14

Student Antonio Monrell, 14

Archant

It's not often that you walk into a room of housewives and children who could plant a flying kick firmly in your face.

Lisa Dennis with a selection of her competition medals.Lisa Dennis with a selection of her competition medals.

Strolling confidently into Beckenham Methodist Church hall in Bevington Road, the skip in my step waned as I was faced by a 40-strong group of taekwondo students waiting to teach me a lesson.

Instructor Lisa Dennis, a 2011 world champion, had been tasked with teaching me the basic moves in order to punch and kick my way through my first lesson.

Her club, Virtue Taekwondo, has been running since 1999 when the former milk lady and postal worker took the plunge and started teaching.

The 38-year-old discovered her passion for the sport almost 25 years ago when her sister encouraged her to tag along for a class.

Reporter Joshua Fowler successfully breaks a board under the guidance of Lisa and Chris.Reporter Joshua Fowler successfully breaks a board under the guidance of Lisa and Chris.

Ditching a love for basketball, Lisa was “hooked” and today teaches more than 400 students across Beckenham, Petts Wood, Bromley and Orpington.

While her proteges may only see her as their teacher, Lisa is actually a major force on the international competition scene.

She said: “I break boards, bricks and breeze blocks. Not many women do that because it requires such explosive power.

“I decided to go for England trials in 2001 not thinking anything of it of, but that’s when I got my first power breaking spot.”

Lisa achieved her first international gold at the 2003 European Championships in Croatia and added a World Championship gold in New Zealand two years ago.

Still competing, she’s now also focused on getting her pupils to a similar level and encouraging them to compete.

She added: “One of our students won bronze at the World Cup in Brighton recently, so that was a spectacular moment for me.

“The World Championships are for the elite competitors, so to have one of my students compete there and win would be the ultimate achievement.”

Even champions get nervous, she admits: “Teaching is a really scary thing to do. For my first ever session there were about 40 people and I just remember wanting to hide, I had been training for 10 years but I was so scared because they were all beginners.”

Tentatively attempting flying kicks and trying to keep a 10-year-old black belt at bay during sparring, it became apparent to me that the students were being kind and displaying a tenet of taekwondo courtesy.

Pushing and pulling my arms and legs into the correct positions, Lisa meticulously corrected my form until I found myself bicycle-kicking pads held way above my head.

Sweat building and energy levels flagging, my training culminated in a nerve- wrecking attempt to kick a solid wooden board in half under the gaze of a world champion – no pressure.

Lisa said: “For me it’s great to promote the morals that go along with the sport. The five tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.”

Partner Chris Pitman, 42, has been training for a year and has already started instructing alongside Lisa.

The pair aim to take on a world record this year, attempting to smash 2,000 tiles in 60 seconds in a bid to become the “world’s most powerful couple”.

Lisa said: “It will be crazy because using both arms requires so much effort and a woman doing it is unheard of.”

Virtue Taekwondo is offering a month of free classes in February for new members of all ages. For more information, visit www.vituetaekwondo.co.uk.

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