Master Barb Kunkel
2000 U.S. Olympic Team Member
U. S. National Team Captain
8 time U. S. National Team Member
7th Degree Black Belt
Born in Tacoma, Washington, Master Kunkel originally played all sports, but specialized in basketball. She received scholarships to several colleges, but chose to stay close to home. In the first year of playing, she had open knee surgery. She was able to come back to basketball only to tear her other knee the following year. Having full reconstructive surgery on both knees put a short challenge to her career. The Lord helped change the path of sports from Basketball to Karate then to Taekwondo.
Taekwondo was supposed to help strengthen her knees to be able to play competitive basketball again, but she fell in love with Taekwondo as a sport and a lifestyle and eventually gave up basketball. In 1993, she made the U.S. National Taekwondo Team. In 1995, Master Kunkel gave up her job career and moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, in order to pursue her dream of making the U.S. Olympic Team. In 1996, she made the team, but Taekwondo was eliminated from the 1996 Olympic Games. It was a Demonstration sport in 1988 and 1992, and was taken out of the 1996 Olympics. Taekwondo achieved full medal sport status in 2000, for the Games in Sydney, Australia.
For a decade, she trained 5-6 hours a day, in order to achieve the Olympic dream. She went on to become an 8 time U.S. National Team Member, U.S. National Team Captain, and in May 2000, she secured her position as 1 of only 4 athletes on the U.S. OLYMPIC TAEKWONDO TEAM, representing our country in the 2000 Olympic Games, in Sydney, Australia.
During this pursuit, in 1996, Master Kunkel assisted her coach, Grand Master Han Lee, in opening up the Castle Rock Taekwondo Center in Colorado. They taught in the evening times, after a full day of training. It was a chance to enjoy teaching and giving back. The school grew strong, to about 300 students, and it took pride in families. One of the motto’s in the school was “A Family That Kicks Together, Sticks Together”
Quote from Master Kunkel:
“I have done many sports, Taekwondo is different, and unlike any other. Taekwondo empowers people of all ages to achieve dreams, sometimes more than they thought. It is an activity that families can train side by side, while accomplishing different goals. Most adults focus on Self Defense and Fitness, and kids have fun kicking and punching, while learning valuable life skills. Realizing it is great and fun to have discipline and respect, they can be the best they can be in all aspects of life.”
In 2001, the U.S. Taekwondo Academy in Colorado Springs was opened by Grand Master Sang Cha, Kunkel’s original Instructor. Master Kunkel has since assumed ownership, renaming it The Academy of Life and Leadership Taekwondo (A.L.L. TKD), to reflect the school’s mission statement: Provide quality martial arts instruction, Empower students with valuable life skills, Develop strong leaders and champions in the home, school, community and in life, and Contribute to a more safe and peaceful society. It is Master Kunkel’s belief that as students master these concepts they will contribute to a safer and more peaceful society. The continuous emphasis of these values results in a family-oriented environment where each individual is supported to reach his or her potential and to become champions in life.
Master Kunkel, now a 7th degree Black Belt, AAU Taekwondo National Team Coach, and USA Taekwondo-U.S. Olympic Committee Athlete Representative, strongly encourages her students to remember that dreams start within us. “Never stop dreaming,” she states, “Dream big and never give up on your dreams!” When asked what Taekwondo means to her, she responds, “Taekwondo is more than a sport; it is a way of life.”