Taekwondo black belt Liesel Shadwick has spent more than half of her life learning or teaching martial arts and missed it after her instructor retired.

She took her passion and decided to make it into a new business.

Shadwick, 27, of Paducah, began her martial arts journey at age 12 and now, 15 years later, she's imparting knowledge and skills to the next generation at her own dojang, where she is lead instructor and owner. The dojang - Legends Martial Arts - opened Aug. 1 at 3420 Park Ave., Suite 3, in Paducah. It offers classes for all ages and abilities, starting at age 2.

"It was just one of those unexpected things - the last thing I would've imagined me starting, but I tried it out and I just fell in love with it right away," she said of martial arts. "I got into teaching after a few years. I just love it."

Shadwick guided a group of young students in warm-up exercises Thursday afternoon at the dojang, where they hit bags and jumped rope on a sprawling, thick black mat, as adults sat nearby. Her father, Jim Shadwick of Paducah, is a white belt student who watched proudly and is "glad" his daughter is doing what she loves.

Legends Martial Arts holds classes for specific age groups, such as toddlers and adults, in addition to family classes and Hyper Martial Arts, which incorporates elements of sparring, tricking and more. Shadwick seeks to teach respect, self-control and other core values, as students work to better themselves and, in turn, better the community.

"Taekwondo is focused on self-defense," she explained. "A big part of Taekwondo is kicking - a lot of leg work and everything like that. We incorporate some kickboxing once in a while. Then tricking, it goes into all the other styles, so we bring in weapons and sparring and things like that."

Students can begin at white belt and work themselves up to achieving black belt. They may continue after that, as black belts can have different degrees. It takes an average of about three years to go from a beginner to a black belt, depending on the student and how much they practice.

"I love the conversations and they always have cute things to say," she said of her younger students. "It just makes my heart melt."

Shadwick plans to hold an Oct. 5 grand opening event, featuring an inflatable slide, refreshments, giveaways and an open class. For more information, visit Legends Martial Arts on Facebook or call 270-994-2755.

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