Seventeen-year-old Jessica Liebmann during the taekwondo nationals in Calgary last month. She brought home the gold medal in both pattern and sparring, bringing her to a total of six national titles since 2014. Submitted photo

Jessica Liebmann added two more taekwondo titles to her name in November, bringing her first place finishes on the national level to six.

“Taekwondo… it’s a family,” said Liebmann, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student attending Pugwash District High School. “You meet so many people there from around the world, and you never really lose touch with them. You re-connect with them – you travel together to tournaments and spending time with them, it just feels like a family.”
Liebmann, who currently holds a black stripe, started in taekwondo six years ago. Her father used to do taekwondo in Germany and started working with her brother. It was almost a year later when Liebmann and her mother decided to try it, and Liebmann was hooked.

“It’s a good place to go, where you don’t have to focus on anything else,” said the Malagash resident, who practices with Jim Ripley out of JC’s TaeKwon-Do in Amherst. “If I’m stressed, it’s a good stress reliever as well.”

Since 2014, Liebmann has been capturing medals and titles in both pattern and sparring at the Maritime level, eastern level, and national level.

Her first national gold was in sparring in 2014. The following year, Liebmann captured gold in pattern in the North American and Canadian National Championships. Her fourth national title came in sparring in 2016, and just last month she won two more national titles in sparring and pattern.

Pattern, she said, is the movements of taekwondo – punches, kids, and blocks, for example – put together in a sequence. Each athlete has the same pattern and has to show the fundamental movements. Sparring is just as it sounds, sparring against a competitor and putting your practice to work.

“A lot of taekwondo is very mental,” said Liebmann. “It’s about 20 per cent physical and 80 per cent mental. If you’re not in the right mindset, you’re not going to do well. I really believe it’s important to be in a good mental mindset when competing.”
She said her father helps her get in that mindset about two months before a competition, telling her to picture herself with her hand raised as the winner.

“I always picture myself like that, picturing I’m already bringing home the gold. It really does help me. It gives me positive energy,” she said.

In the down season, Liebmann practices about twice a week, however when she’s prepping for a competition, that’s doubled.

“Most of the time I’ll do double classes for extra training,” she said. “I enjoy it there (at JC’s). Jim is an amazing instructor and teaches in a way the students can understand.”

For Liebmann, the next level in taekwondo would be a black belt. She said there are numerous degrees when it comes to black belts based on age, and only one ninth degree black belt holder in Canada – Pierre Laquerre.

“To get to the ninth degree is dedication at its finest,” she said. “I’ll have to see where life takes me. I would like to become a master someday. Grand Master Laquerre is an idol of mine.”

Currently the vice-president of student council at school, Liebmann is also the head of the school’s WE Day committee. She loves travelling and spending time with friends.

She wants to become a neurosurgeon upon graduating high school.

“I’m aiming for my black belt soon,” she noted. “Hopefully next year, possibly in March. I will have to see with the competitions and schooling next year.

“Taekwondo’s been a good balance for my life. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s always a place you can go.”