As a shy boy growing up in Seoul, South Korea, Dongsoo Lee's parents encouraged him to go to Taekwondo school to become confident and disciplined.
"It changed everything," Lee said.
Five years after he began training, he started competing.
The confidence he gained inspired him to open his own studio in Avon called the recently, where he hopes to help others believe in themselves through the sport that taught him to do so.
"Taekwondo is my life," said Lee, who now lives in West Hartford with his wife.
It was the reason he moved to the United States to begin with, at a time when Taekwondo was more scarce in the country.
He first lived in Westport and was a headmaster at World Champion Taekwondo for 10 years prior to launching his first academy in Avon along Route 44. He also has experience in judo and gungdo sword fighting techniques.
He lives by the motto "be confident and be strong," a lesson he often imparts on his students.
"If you have confidence, you can make everything you wanted," Lee said.
In fact, one of the first lessons he teaches his younger students is respect and confidence, he said. There's a mental difference in teaching a kid versus and adult, he said. With adults he said that he stresses the techniques are meant for defense.
In order to physically train for this, you need to train mentally too," Lee said. "Everything comes from your minds. I tell them all the times you can think the positive, not think the negative things."
Lee already has 14 students from 4-year-olds to adults. Students start off with no belt at the entry level and a white belt is the second level. They take tests to advance in belt color. The first test was April 14. The students had to do Taekwondo forms, kicking and break wood boards.
"Everybody broke the board," Lee said.
Lee and Seungsoo Lee, who he met through a friend teaching Seungsoo Taekwondo in South Korea, have black belts and are headmasters of the program.
Families can also book birthday classes with the Taekwondo academy for weekends.
Dongsoo Lee is offering a free round of trial lessons for anyone who wants to try it out.
"I teach them a basic Taekwondo lesson and everybody tries to break the board," Lee said.
He said he is looking forward to educating people about Taekwondo in Avon and hopes to do programs in collaboration with local schools.
"If any of the schools are interested, I can go and teach an after-school program," he said. "[Students] learn some respect and discipline."
The academy, located at 220 West Main St., next to , is open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information about class times call Lee at 860-404-2248.