Born in California, Charlene moved to Adelaide before finding her way to Canberra as an eight year old.
Her talents in Taekwon-Do were recognised at an early age, and she earned her black belt at 12. Two years later she was promoted to the rank of instructor; the youngest in the ACT at age 14.
“That was in the days when you would come home as an eight year old with a blood-nose and bruised ribs.”
After finishing school Harris came to ANU to study degrees in Science and Law.
“I ended up doing law as well thanks to some encouragement from my mum. I didn’t fall in love with law immediately, but once I started doing practical work at a local law firm it really put the teachings in context. Now I love it!”
Charlene’s dedication to her education, martial arts and career is impressive. She spent six years studying combined with training and instructing, as well as building her career as a lawyer.
“Commitment is a major factor. I have always done whatever I needed to do to get the job done – even if I had to stay up for two days straight! Taekwon-Do balanced my studies, and it provided both a physical and mental relief.”
After winning the 2013 Australian National Taekwon-Do Championships for board-breaking, sparring and patterns, Charlene travelled to Coventry, England to compete in the World Taekwon-Do Championships as the Australian Team Captain. She led from the front winning the Ladies Destruction and earning World Champion status. Harris said it was an honour and bring home a gold medal for Australia.
“To be honest it took about five to 10 minutes before I even reacted. I think I was in a bit of shock.” she said.
Whilst studying at ANU and preparing for the World Championships, Charlene was also putting a lot of effort into establishing her Taekwon-Do school. “We started at the end of 2012 with four students training on the squash courts. Two years on and we have grown to just under 70 students with a dozen black belts. I am lucky to have a team who are unwavering in their loyalty and commitment to the Club and the ANU Sport staff were extremely supportive as well – they do a wonderful job.”
Charlene’s passion to provide a quality martial arts education to ANU students is unquestionable.
“We have a lot of students that join lacking confidence in their ability. Because it is such a supportive environment, the students are able to test their limits freely without fear of failure. We push them and ask them to go beyond their comfort zone and they achieve things they never thought they could do. When you watch a student develop physically and mentally and see the pieces of their training start to fall into place, it is so rewarding. It really is an amazing feeling to know that you are making a difference.”
The last two years of Charlene’s study at ANU were on a part-time basis enabling her to work as a paralegal and continue training and instructing.
“I think Taekwon-Do provides a good balance and a bit of a release for uni students – we make our students do things that push their physical and mental barriers. It’s a lot about discipline and realising that you are capable of anything if you put your mind to it. That kind of determination, focus and commitment carries over into their university studies.”
Charlene was recognised at the 2014 Annual Blues Awards winning the coveted Sport Star of the Year Award for a sportsperson whose achievements have been outstanding in their performance and contribution to sport.
Since graduating Charlene has been focused on developing her career as lawyer with Kamy Saeedi Law in Canberra. In her limited spare time Harris is busy running her own business Precision Taekwondo Australia, where she’s President, Director and Instructor.
So what does the future hold?
“I don’t make plans or goals. I have never had a five or ten year plan, I just kind of wing it. I commit myself 100 percent to what I am doing, whatever it is, and I figure it will take me wherever it takes me.”
“I think if you commit yourself to whatever you are doing and take every opportunity that presents itself, no matter how scared you are, you will be successful. If you know you have given it all you have you can’t regret it. It doesn’t matter what you are doing in life, just do it with passion, drive and commitment.”
Charlene Harris in conversation with Michael Burke, Alumni Officer.