As a teenager, Scott Downey would hitchhike from his home in Stephenville Crossing for karate lessons in Stephenville.
Decades later this passion for the martial arts still burns inside him and recently paid off when he became the first Atlantic Canadian to be promoted to 8th degree black belt — or senior master — by the International Taekwon-Do Federation.
Master Downey and his wife Cathy, herself a sixth-degree black belt, own and operate Downey’s Taekwon-Do in St. John’s.
To achieve his promotion, the 53-year-old had to go through a rigorous process in front of three-person promotion committee during an international instructors course in St. John’s. After showing his proficiency in the discipline by demonstrating 24 patterns which include blocks and strikes, Downey also had to spar and answer questions about taekwondo theory and philosophy.
He also had to wait the required seven years from the time he earned his 7th degree black belt in order to take the test.
Downey is now just one promotion away from achieving the discipline’s highest ranking of 9th degree black belt but isn’t eligible to take the test for eight years.
He admits it was difficult to contain his emotions when he learned he earned his 8th degree black belt in June.
“It brought tears to my eyes because I was looking forward to that moment for some time,” Downey said recently from his home in St. John’s.
His club will enter it’s 25th year in January and is already the longest running taekwondo school in St. John’s or Mount Pearl.
Downey has also been a child and adolescent psychologist at the Janeway Children’s Hospital for 23 years and he admits many of the skills he learned through the martial arts have helped him in his career, particularly in helping find solutions when a child struggles socially or academically.
In this sense, he said he’s learned the values his discipline promotes, such as self-control and respect, can impact an entire community if children are simply exposed to taekwondo at tender ages.
He admits he had very practical reasons for getting involved in taekwondo in the early 1970s.
“It was Bruce Lee movies and the importance of defending yourself in the Crossing,” he said with a chuckle. “That was a really tough spot when I was a teenager.”
Since that time, he’s learned involvement in the discipline is a chance for lifelong learning.
It’s for this reason that he isn’t prepared to rest easy after achieving a rank most participants never will.
It’s for this reason that he isn’t prepared to rest easy after achieving a rank most participants never will. His training for the current designation began immediately after achieving his seventh degree.
“I’ve learned to not stop until I achieve my goals no matter what it takes.”