What she puts into it and what she gets out of it is much more than the ability to defend, disarm and destroy her opponent if she chooses. Hoffman admits that her favorite part of martial arts is the artistry of its ever-changing movements, rotations, flying kicks and techniques that flow like a dance yet can crouch like a tiger and suddenly pounce with dynamic energy and skill. Her specialty is TaeKwonDo, a martial art originating in Korea that combines combat and self-defense techniques with exercise and sport.
“I started taking a cardio kickboxing class at Rick Pope’s TaeKwonDo Academy in 2003,” Hoffman said. “A family friend, Margaret Ridge, who is a level four 3rd degree black belt, taught the class and introduced a lot of the Taekwondo basics. I loved the self-confidence I began to build. It was a very liberating feeling to know that I would be able to defend myself if the situation was ever presented. The whole time I was doing the kickboxing class Margaret and her husband, Mike, — also a 3rd degree black belt — would tell me over and over I needed to start training in the formal Taekwondo classes. I was a little leery of the actual sparring that goes on in the Taekwondo classes. After four years of kickboxing, I finally decided to take my training to the next level and start from the beginning as a white belt.”
Hoffman, who played basketball at Bradley Central High School from 1995-97 and at Cleveland State Community College from 1997-99, said Pope, a 7th degree black belt and Theresa Pope, a provisional 6th degree black belt, welcomed her into the adult classes and began teaching her the ins and outs of martial arts.
“With four years of kickboxing under my belt I already had a good foundation to build on,” she said. “As a beginner I had two belt levels to work through before I had to actually spar. I enjoyed having time to focus on basic technique and proper execution. When the time came to actually spar, to be perfectly honest, I was scared to death. I remember thinking I just wanted to survive those first few classes! As I moved up through the color belt ranks, I became more confident in my abilities.”
After two years of training, Hoffman earned a black belt and went on to compete against other martial artists in a sport that allows the former basketball athlete and child ballerina a chance to enjoy the artistic side of competition.
“In my three-year Taekwondo career I’ve won 20 medals,” Hoffman said. “I am also currently a Tiger Rock World Grand Champion. By competing in National and World tournaments, points are earned toward a championship title for the year. Tournaments consist of many different events. I compete in traditional forms, free design forms, sport sparring and board breaking. I still prefer the artistic side of martial arts. Focusing on the forms — a set number of specific Taekwondo techniques done in a particular order — is my personal favorite.”
Enjoying a lifestyle that incorporates martial arts, Hoffman has no problem listing the benefits of her favorite pastime, explaining, “There are so many benefits to learning and practicing Taekwondo. The confidence it gives in knowing I would be more than able to defend myself if the situation became necessary is the best thing. Stress relief is a huge benefit also. People don’t typically realize how therapeutic it can be to let all the anger or frustration out on the workout floor. It is also a great strength and cardio workout. The friendships made with fellow students are another great thing. Martial arts is all about respect, and it certainly takes a lot of respect and trust to let people kick and punch at you.”
While her family remains enthusiastic about her accomplishments, Hoffman said, “No one else in my family has shown any interest in taking the classes for themselves. They are very supportive of my training and are all excellent cheerleaders during my competitions. Each one of them has played an important role in helping me prepare for the next event — be it a competition or a rank evaluation. My daughters have been my ‘judges’ many times at home while I practice my forms. My husband has even put on the sparring gear to help me get ready for competition.”
Currently, a level two 2nd degree black belt, Hoffman said she is thankful she’s never found a need to use her martial arts skills other than instructing a fitness class at Macedonia Baptist Church in Cleveland, where she incorporates what she’s learned in Taekwondo.
“It makes me feel good that the ladies in my class have gained so much confidence from the hard work they put in,” Hoffman said. “The self-confidence in their self-defense as well as pounds and inches lost has been wonderful. We’ve all come a long way from where we started, and it makes the journey better to share it with others.
Married for 12 years to Matt Hoffman, the couple has two daughters, Kylee, 8 and Taylor, 4.