Bringing Taekwondo Everywhere

July 17, 2014, 10:22 a.m. (ET)

By Ryan Lucas

Through taekwondo, Liz Evans has seen much of the world. Through Evans, a few officers have experienced the sport in some of the largest means of transport to ever crisscross the planet.

One of several United States Armed Forces personnel who have also achieved prominence in taekwondo, Evans brought the sport in increments to the empty compartments of U.S. Navy ships in the early 1990s.

The budding phase of her career on the mat coincided with Operation Desert Storm. As a hospital corpsman first class, Evans refused to let the vast stretches of ocean between vessel and shoreline drown her progress as an athlete.

“On the hospital ships, they had a flight deck, and then everything else was underneath it,” she said during the 2014 USA Taekwondo National Championships in San Jose, Calif. “Toward the bottom of the ship, they had a ward. Since we didn’t have any patients, I had my parents ship my taekwondo equipment out to me so we could train on the boat.

“Every time we had some free time there, we’d go down to the hull of the ship and work out. There were about 10 of us.”

Oftentimes, in the hushed motion of the early mornings for more than seven months in 1991, Evans jogged the ramp that descended from the flight deck to the nether regions of the ship. Ten completions of that route equated to 6 miles.

Then, with the right timing, she and her fellow officers would compete.

“When the water was calm, we’d do sparring down there,” Evans said. “I was the only female, so I had plenty of tough matches. It was something to keep us busy.”

Those experiences helped Evans from backsliding in her abilities as a taekwondo player. While stationed in Guam in 1989, she’d medaled at the Rio World Championships, her first momentous gain in the long haul toward the highpoint of notoriety in the sport.

Overall, by the time she retired from competition in 2001, Evans accrued 11 international medals and made the U.S. National Team five times. She also medaled five times at the USA Taekwondo National Championships.

In addition, as a servicewoman, she earned seven medals—four gold, two silver and one bronze—at the Military World Championships. Always intense, military tournaments shaped her mindset for any other type of event.

“The Military World Championships are almost like the World Championships, but they’re just lower numbers,” Evans said. “For other countries, most of their national teams are military so they can get better funding and time to train.

“When I was competing at the Military World Championships, I found that I was competing against some of the same international competition with the regular U.S. National Team.”

Upon her retirement as an athlete, Evans transitioned to the coaching ranks. In all, she served as an assistant for the U.S. National Team five times, including stints at the 2009 Junior World Championships in Vietnam and the 2009 World Championships in Denmark.

Now, aside from helping with USA Taekwondo’s National Championships tournament committee, Evans volunteers with children in the sport. Several days a week, she works with students between the ages of 4 and 15 at the Garfield Community Center in the Central District of Seattle—her hometown.

“It’s fun,” Evans said. “You just go in there, and whatever kind of energy they give you, you give that back to them. They just love it because they don’t have anyone to come in there and teach them like that.

“For me, it’s a way to give back to the community because I grew up there. These kids end up at the same high school that I graduated from.”