Tributes have been paid to a dedicated taekwondo instructor who continued practising martial arts in her hospital bed just days before she lost her battle with cancer.

Marcia Griffith, of Squires Lane, Finchley, was surrounded by family members when she died in hospital yesterday.

The 52-year-old was a school teacher at Totteridge Academy for more than 12 years, and specialised in helping children who faced exclusion from school.

But last year Ms Griffith was forced to take early retirement due to her ongoing battle with bowel cancer.

Despite her illness, she was able to continue her passion for taekwondo, which she began practising 17 years ago.

Over the years she achieved her black belt third degree, completed an international instructor course in January 2012 and was a child protection officer at taekwondo school, Total TKD, which is headed by her brother and senior instructor Nick Symonds.

Mr Symonds regularly visited his sister in hospital, where she continued to practise for her yellow belt, going through the chon gi pattern movements in her hospital bed.

Mr Symonds said: “Our family are deeply saddened by the passing of our sister Marcia and would like to thank all those for the support during this difficult time.”

Ms Griffith taught at Stormont School in Potters Bar, Christ Church Centre in Southgate, York House School in Croxley Green and was a visiting instructor to all north London taekwondo schools.

Her training partner, Malik Ayman, said she had a “unique and dynamic” teaching style and always connected immediately with her students. 

He said: “Ms Griffth will be sadly missed. She pushed me to grade for each of my belts and even pushed me to take my third degree black belt. Her support was solid and appreciated.

“I won't forget how many times she used to correct me and tie up my belt even as a black belt. Her words were "sort yourself out Malik, fix that belt". I’d like to thank her for sharing some great times together.”

Tributes have also flooded in from Ms Griffith's students, including Daniel Paschalis and Andrew Solanos, who praised her “perseverance and great indomitable spirit”.

Blue belt Katie Liasis, who trains with her children Leon and Mariella at Finchley Taekwondo School, said:  "I'm so sad to hear of the loss of Marcia Griffith. May peace be with her now. How very sad - words cannot express.”

And Martina O'Loughlin, mum of student and blue belt Sean O'Loughlin, said her death was “heartbreaking”.

She said: "So very sorry to hear about Marcia Griffith. May God grant her eternal rest. What a lovely lady.”

Details of Ms Griffith's funeral will be available on Total TKD website