Donna Page 1

Donna Peterson leads a class in jumping jacks at Evolution Tae Kwon Do in Monticello on Thursday, March 1. Peterson earned her black belt on January 20 at age 57.                                                                         

Jeff Hage

They say one in 10,000 people who begin Tae Kwon Do actually earn their black belts.

When Donna Peterson of Monticello took up the sport three years ago at age 54, she didn’t believe she could be one of the 10,000.

“But a year in, I knew I could do it,” Peterson said March 1 from Master Adam Johnson’s Evolution Tae Kwon Do Studio in Monticello.

After a year, Peterson set a goal for herself: She’d earn her black belt in Tae Kwon Do by age 60.

She achieved her goal three years ahead of schedule on January 20, 2018. It was that night in a studio in St. Cloud that Peterson took her black belt test.

She passed with flying colors, and even broke a brick with her technique along the way.

Peterson is a former owner of a Monticello quilt shop who has lived in the community for 25-plus years.

A personal tragedy led Peterson to the Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.

“I lost a daughter,” Peterson said.

The daughter had a young son. To keep the boy involved in activities, Peterson and another daughter joined a family Tae Kwon Do center in St. Cloud.

“We had three generations enrolled: me, my daughter and my grandson,” she said.

Two years in, the St. Cloud gym closed, which resulted in Peterson relocating to Adam Johnson’s Evolution Tae Kwon Do in Monticello.

Today, the family connection continues: Peterson is joined at Evolution Tae Kwon Do with her husband Scott, while her grandson Aidan continues to pursue Tae Kwon Do at the school.

“I was very, very happy Donna joined us,” Johnson said.

“She was a purple belt when she arrived,” he said.

With lots of hard work and dedication, Peterson earned her purple trim, brown and red belts before earning her black belt January 20.

“She dedicated herself to working hard,” Johnson said.

In the process, Peterson became the oldest female at age 57 to earn a black belt under Master Adam.

“She was also the first student in my school to ever break a brick,” Johnson said.

Peterson remembers the first time she tested.

“People think this is a physical thing...but its only half physical,” she said. “It’s a mental game, too.”

The first time Peterson tested, she says she was so nervous that her hands and feet were tingling.

“I thought I was going to pass out, but I put myself out there.”

She has relied upon the tenants of Tae Kwon Do- courtesy, integrity, perseverance,self-control and possessing an indomitable spirit- to make her a stronger person.

“That means a lot to me, and why I’m happy my family is involved in Tae Kwon Do,” Peterson said.

“It teaches good life lessons,” she said.

With her black belt in hand, Peterson figured she’d be looking for her next challenge.

“I always joked that after Tae Kwon Do, I’d go straight toTai Chi,” Peterson said.

But that didn’t happen.

With her husband Scott working towards a black belt and grandson Aidan continuing to participate in Tae Kwon Do, Peterson is staying with the sport.

Now that she is a black belt she is teaching a children’s class in Tae Kwon Do at Evolution and assists in leading an adult class.

“I found that with Tae Kwon Do, I’m always learning,” she said.

“I want to be better at the things I’m supposed to be able to do and want to improve on them,” she said.

She says she’s going to keep going- as long as her body is able.

Peterson has also set a new goal since earning her black belt.

“I now believe I’ll get my first degree band before I’m done,” she said.

Reach Jeff Hage at


Jeff Hage is the editor of the Monticello Times newspaper in Monticello, Minn. He came to Monticello after seven years at the ECM newspapers in Princeton and Milaca. Jeff began his newspaper career in 1993 with the Mille Lacs County Times in Milaca and ha

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