GRAND MASTER KUNKEL
Master Barb Kunkel
Master Barbara Kunkel is a Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee, an International Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Empowering Life Coach. She is an 8th degree Black Belt, 2000 Olympian, 8-time U.S. National Team Member & Captain, and a courageous Stage 3 Breast Cancer survivor. Leadership Awards include: National Women's Leadership Award, National Association of Professional Women Award, International Women’s Leadership Award, and the Continental Who’s Who Award.
Born in Washington State, Master Barbara Kunkel played all sports growing up, eventually specializing in basketball. She received basketball scholarships to several colleges, but chose to stay close to home. In the first year of playing, she injured herself in a game resulting in 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 challenged her basketball career. Needing to strengthen her knees in order to return to competitive basketball, she turned to Karate and then to Taekwondo.
Master Barbara Kunkel 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, She gave up her job & career at Marriott Inflight Services & Caterair International, and moved to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado in order to pursue her dream of being one of the first female taekwondo athletes to live at the Olympic Training Center and then making the U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team. In 1996, she made the team in the first year Taekwondo was supposed to be a full medal sport rather than a demonstration sport as in 1988 and 1992, but Taekwondo was eliminated from the 1996 Olympic Games. Although this was thought to be another huge setback at first, Taekwondo achieved full medal sport status in 2000 for the Games in Sydney, Australia.
For almost 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.
Master Kunkel is passionately dedicated to sharing her love of Martial Arts and her story of positive perseverance through life’s challenges to kids, teens, adults, and families. After the Olympics was over, she decided to make Colorado her home and opened up a Taekwondo school in order to give back what God had given to her. She started coaching both USA Taekwondo and the AAU National Teams.
After several years of coaching and teaching, she was given a chance to foster two young children from Korea. She jumped at the chance and resigned from coaching the National Team temporarily to focus on them. As a competitor, she wanted to fill that competitive void, so she pioneered an Extreme Competition Team in Colorado. The home-grown team rose to the top and became ranked #1 nationally and #2 worldwide. Two years ago, the opportunity finally came for her to adopt her son and daughter, and only one month later she was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She knew it would be a tough battle, but Master Kunkel knew that God had a bigger plan--this is what God and life trained her for. With the support of family and many friends, she overcame her Stage 3 Breast Cancer battle and is back teaching, coaching, and motivating people to also dream big and to handle life’s challenges with a positive and realistic mindset. she uses that experience to be a vehicle to plant encouragement and hope in others’ lives going through similar circumstances.
In her own words she says, “I am blessed to be able to use my successful business skills, and my love of planting seeds in people, so they can reach powerful life goals," she says. "I have owned my own business for 15 years and have been public speaking to encourage and motivate people. I focus on the 4 D’s of a Champion: Desire, Discipline, Dedication, and Determination - to empower others to dream big and accomplish desired life goals. My motto is, ‘Discover the Champion in You!’”