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The Wood family, from left, Grace, Jo, Olivia, and Isaac all have black belts in martial arts. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Thames black belt family a force

The Wood family are not to be reckoned with.
They’ve been asked whether or not it’s true they can “make somebody go down with just a finger”. It is.
Four out of the five family members have all earned their black belts in Kiaido Ryu martial arts – and while they haven’t used their abilities “in the real world”, time and again they’ve shown their skills in the dojo.
“Growing up, my kids had never really been sporty,” mum Jo said. “They were happy to run around and play with a ball but they never did Saturday morning netball or soccer at that stage.”
Jo told The Profile that when her eldest child Grace was around eight-years-old, the pair went to check out Kiaido Ryu. After a few moments of watching, Grace wanted to have a go, “and that was it”.
The other Wood siblings followed as soon as they were allowed.
Olivia started Kiaido Ryu the day after she turned seven. Isaac was allowed to start at six-and-a-half because “he’d been hanging around, watching from the side for so long”, Jo said.
It was mum’s turn to try out the sport after her children encouraged her. Now Jo’s husband Troy is the only one in the family who hasn’t trained in martial arts.
“I think he’s a bit intimidated by all of us,” Olivia joked.

The Wood family train at the Thames Kiaido Ryu Martial Arts Dojo – which has recently celebrated its 40th year in operation.
It is run by experienced teachers Lance and Ava Strong, who have also developed 12 other Kiaido Ryu schools across New Zealand.
The sport uses coloured belts to represent the rank and progress of its students, from white, yellow, orange, blue, purple, green, brown, and black.
“The hardest thing to do is to go in and start as a white belt,” Jo said. “You feel so uncoordinated, and it looks much easier than it feels… I used to wonder how the others didn’t laugh at you.
“But they’ve all been there and they’ve all done that, and they know how it feels.”
For a decade, the Wood family have been dedicated to their martial arts training, and their passion for the sport can be proven in their ability to remember the exact dates they earned their black belts.
Grace got hers on July 6, 2018, while Olivia obtained her black belt on July 9, 2021.
Jo got hers on December 6, 2019, and the latest milestone belongs to Isaac, who earned his black belt on June 30, 2023.
The family members have come face to face on the mat but insist they don’t spar outside the dojo, saying it was not a “natural thing” for any of them to “throw a punch at somebody”.
But they were all very proud of their black belt-status, with Olivia admitting it was the most physically difficult thing she had ever accomplished, and Grace saying it was “a surreal experience”.
“It was such a rewarding experience that left me blown away by my own achievements and with a new found confidence in myself,” Grace said.
“You don’t ever start out thinking: ‘I’m going to get my black belt’,” Jo added. “You start out thinking: ‘I’d be really pleased if I could just get my yellow’. But it’s really quite empowering to watch your daughter flatten somebody.”