Halswell Taekwon-Do and the Port Hills fire, February, 2017
It was a normal Tuesday club training night for Halswell Taekwon-Do club – except there was nothing normal about the raging flames and smoke on the hills they could see out the windows of their training venue at Te Hapua: Halswell Centre. It was the second day of the Port Hills wildfires last week when the wind had changed and the fires had combined, and seeing the fires from their dojang was making it a stark reality.
Halswell Taekwon-Do Head Instructor Ms. Nicola Tse, who lives with her partner in the outskirts of Halswell (adjacent to the Port Hills) was due to leave for a conference the next day. About 300m away people had already been evacuated. Smoke was swirling around the house and she was wondering what items she would save if they got the 5 minute warning to evacuate – the cat had already been put in its crate, just in case.
Meanwhile, lots of the students at Halswell Taekwon-Do had got in touch to let her know that if she and her partner (and cat) were evacuated, their homes were open. With no family in Christchurch it was a weight off her shoulders to know that there was not just one, but multiple places to stay if they needed.
Says Ms Tse, ‘With what Christchurch has been through with the earthquakes it’s brought everyone closer and now when this happens they’re all with you, right there.’
On Wednesday night the message came through that Thursday training would have to be cancelled – their training venue had become a civil defense evacuation centre.
In the end the fire came within 1km of Ms. Tse’s house, although they were lucky not to have to evacuate. ‘I can see how relevant what we practice and try and encourage our students to live by in the ‘Do’ of Taekwon-Do is so valuable in real life outside of the dojang,’ says Ms Tse. “And you often don’t realise it until there comes a moment when you have to draw upon the Do and everything that you’ve learnt without even thinking about it.’