To say that David and Goldie Mercer and their family – who just arrived in Hay River a couple of months ago – are deep into taekwondo is a bit of an understatement.
David Mercer is a fifth-degree black belt, making him a master of taekwondo, while his wife is a first-degree black belt, and their two young children are also learning the martial art.
And now the couple wants to pass their knowledge onto their new community by launching a club called Iron Tiger Taekwondo.
"Taekwondo is the Korean art of self-defence," said David Mercer, who is a constable in the RCMP.
"What kind of differentiates us from other martial arts is we're predominantly a kicking martial art," he explained.
The 33-year-old Mercer started learning taekwondo at a club in his hometown of Shearstown, N. L., when he was just six years old.
"Like every other Canadian kid, I played hockey and it was all good and I loved it, but at four or five or six years old I started watching all these Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, and I was like, 'You know what, I want to do that,'" he said. "And sure enough that's what happened."
The Mercers first met in high school, it was not long before Goldie was introduced to taekwondo.
"He was into it so much and I used to see him do it all the time, and I was like, 'Hmm, maybe I should give that a try,'" she said, noting she has been training since she was 18, and only slowed down to have children.
David Mercer has been posted with the RCMP in Wainwright and Manning, Alta.
In Wainwright, he served on a military base and taught taekwondo. In Manning, the Mercers formed their first club, also called Iron Tiger Taekwondo, and they are still involved in overseeing that club.
Teaching taekwondo is nothing new to David Mercer.
"I've been teaching since I was 12 in Newfoundland," he recalled, noting he had a first-degree youth black belt – for those under 16 years of age – when he was 11.
Mercer came up with the club name Iron Tiger Taekwondo when he was seven or eight.
"I knew right then I was going to want my own school," he said.
Even his wife thinks that is somewhat unusual.
"It's funny at that early of an age this guy is all about taekwondo," she said.
David Mercer's skill in taekwondo saw him ranked several years ago as the fourth best senior heavyweight in Canada.
At one time, he was the provincial champion in Newfoundland and Labrador, and he is the current provincial champion in Alberta.
"I love competing in taekwondo," he said, although he noted it's been several years since he competed at the national level.
The Mercers hope to start their club – a non-profit initiative – in early October.
"It's not about money," said David Mercer. "It's about getting into the community. It's about teaching respect, teaching discipline. I've got to be honest with you, if it wasn't for taekwondo when I was growing up I probably wouldn't be in the position I am right now. It kept me out of trouble. Goldie can vouch for this. A lot of people that I know were in jail at least two or three times, a lot of my friends. And I'm on the flip side. When they were out doing things they probably shouldn't be doing, I was in the gym training."
All fees will be put back into the club to rent space, buy uniforms and possibly send students to tournaments.
While not officially an RCMP initiative, David Mercer said the taekwondo club has the full support of the detachment.
"It kind of unites us with the community," he said.
The Mercers hope to base the club on the Hay River Reserve as a way to help unite the reserve and the town.
"We want it over there because it's going to benefit everybody, not just Hay River, not just Enterprise, not just the reserve," said David Mercer.
The constable expects to be posted in Hay River for three or four years, and afterwards he and his wife still hope to oversee the club after they move to another community.
Goldie Mercer, who right now is a stay-at-home mom, is in the process of applying to join the RCMP.
David Mercer will be head instructor at the new club, while Goldie Mercer will also instruct.
She noted the classes are for ages five years and up.
"We're trying to do it as a family class so they can do it together, and they don't have to worry about babysitting or having to try to keep their kids still while they're trying to do their class," she said. "So we try to do it all together."
She will also administer the operation of the club.
The Mercers extol the many benefits of taekwondo, including self-control, self-confidence, and respect for yourself and others.
"It teaches you not to fight," noted Goldie Mercer. "It helps you defend yourself."
Taekwondo is a lifestyle, said David Mercer. "It's going to benefit you in life no matter what."