I started training in Tae Kwon-Do in 1987 at the age of 6 after being inspired by early Kung Fu movies. My mother and father managed to persuade Master Atkins to give me a 4-week trial. Somehow I managed to impress Master Atkins and he took me on as his youngest ever student. I trained at Master Atkins’ School in Redditch religiously, never missing a lesson. Out of class I was either reading my theory sheets or trying to sit in the box splits position between two chairs trying to emulate my childhood hero Jean-Claude Van Damme.
At the age of 11 I took my black belt grading, and passed! I had achieved my first major goal in training (apart form the box splits on chairs!). As a junior I had to wait double time to grade for my 2nd Dan – during this period I took a serious interest in the sport side of the Art, and worked hard on fitness and sparring drills. I remember taking my first Gold medal at the Welsh Open Championships in 1995. I can still remember feeling like I’d won a world title, and to look over and see Master Atkins with his hands in the air for me made it even more of an achievement. Since then I have competed in 3 world championships (best finish being quarter finals), and have won and been placed in numerous national competitions.
When I hit the age of 16 I gained promotion to 2nd Dan, and at this point started to look towards maybe teaching and coaching as a path forward. I completed the necessary tests and courses, served my apprenticeship under Master Atkins and looked at opening up my first TAGB Tae Kwon-Do School. I opened Droitwitch TAGB Tae Kwon-Do in February 2002. The club has gone from strength to strength and what started with 8 members in 1 hall running for 1 hour has now grown to over 70 members running in 2 halls for 3 hours. Since opening I have had 13 members gain their black belts, 1 of whom was from the original 8. The school has produced 1 world champion and has various national title holders in both the patterns and sparring disciplines. The school has a great family atmosphere and I think I would be lost without Tae Kwon-Do as part of my life!
In April 2008, I was given the opportunity to take over the instruction of my original club; to think Master Atkins was intrusting me with a lifetime of his hard work was a great honour. I will always have a soft spot for the Redditch club, as we still train in the same hall where Master Atkins started the club back in 1980. Again there is a great bunch of members here and the club keeps growing and performing at great levels.
For the future I hope to keep teaching, training and talking about TAGB Tae Kwon-Do, as it has given so much to me, and I have met many great people and made some great friends.
My Obsession with martial arts started around the age of 6 at a local Karate club, I’d joined along with my brother and it quickly became a competition to see who could be the best and who could take home the weekly trophy for training the hardest! (If you were to ask my brother he would say it was him, but I’m sure it was me…). Unfortunately after an enforced absence through illness my brother decided he didn’t want go anymore and I didn’t have the desire to go by myself (if I couldn’t compete with him for that trophy what was the point?).
By this time I was already good friends with Mr Lennard who I’d met at first school, although I wasn’t training in a martial art regularly as kids we spent the majority of our spare time practising kicks and new moves on each other or watching wrestling and Jean Claude Van Damme movies over and over until we could practically recite every word! During this time I spent a number of years experimenting with different styles – I trained Kickboxing, Tai Boxing and Taekwondo with Master Atkins but for one reason or another I always seemed to move onto something else. It wasn’t until Mr Lennard started his own club in Droitwich (and a job to help fund the hobbie/obsession) that I finally knuckled down and gained my black belt.
I’ve competed in several tournaments as a coloured belt and managed to walk away with gold medals in the British, welsh and English championships, my only regret was to get beaten by the eventual runner up in the quarter finals of the world championships but I suppose we can’t win them all… As a black belt I have only competed on a few occasions and managed to win a few fights but not progressing very far overall, myself and Mr Lennard did win a bronze medal at the South Midlands championships in the team event though but that’s been my only success to date.
I’m currently training towards my 2nd Dan black belt and hope to start competing again soon.
I started practicing Taekwondo in 1984 at the Age of 18. It was my cousin who suggested I give it a go after he mentioned he was training for his red belt. I turned up at the International Community Centre in Nottingham and was introduced to the instructor, Tom Zuza (who became a Master and who has sadly passed away). The training was great fun, although hard, the warm up was based on 100 of everything, sit-ups, push-ups, star jumps etc… I was certainly warmed up by the time it came to go through patterns. I remember my 2nd week of training and Tom said it was time to stretch my legs, I sat on the floor with a Black Belt with his feet on my ankles and he said ‘ You’ll like this’ at which point he grabbed my belt and pulled me forwards straight into side splits… I’m glad it’s not done like that now.
My first competition was great even though I lost in the semi-final, it was a fantastic experience. After 3 years I decided to take a break, I was getting knocked out most training sessions as I was always sparring with a lad who was on the British Squad, I’ve forgotten his name but he was handy with his reverse turning kick !!
The next time I decided to start training again I’d moved to Leicestershire and many years had passed. I decided I needed to get fit again and saw a local club was doing a demonstration, so I joined Blue Wave Martial Arts under Alex Andrews and started from white belt again and eventually got my Red Belt. Unfortunately, I then had to move out of the area with work and having moved several times have now settled in Redditch.
It was here that I decided to restart my training again after almost 6 years. So now in my 3rd Club training with a fantastic Instructor Matt Lennard (third time lucky they say), well I achieved my 1st Degree Black Belt in October 2014. Perhaps the moral of my story is Perseverance the third tenet of Taekwondo – I am now working towards my 2nd Degree. My love of Taekwondo has even passed on to my 5 year old son Noah who’s training towards his Yellow Belt.