Taekwon-Do is a personal journey – you climb your own mountain

IMG_4221 copyThis is the reason I decided on a mountain logo when putting together my own Taekwon-Do school.

They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, but how do you design a picture to say YOUR thousand words?

2012 was a fantastic year. The Olympics were in London, so the UK seemed to be in a fervour of athletic patriotism. For me my Taekwon-Do career was in the process of reaching a turning point.

I began training in Taekwon-Do at aged 12, because my friend who lived round the corner from me, said he was going to give it ago. Though my friend only managed to train for a few weeks, I stuck at it with the support of my parents:

“Son!” my Dad said to me. “One day, you are going to decide you can’t be bothered to go, for whatever reason. When that happens, you make yourself go anyway. From then on you will always go.”

Dad was right, and this is advice I have given adolescent students ever since. You see, Taekwon-Do is about forming habits – training until the brain knows no other way – for maximum performance in technique.
We call this trait ‘Perseverence’ (In Nae), the third Tenet of Taekwon-Do, and it suited me right down to the ground!

Stonehenge Taekwon-Do, run by (then) 4th Dan Black Belt Mr Ray O’Neill, was a great school and I loved my time there. I found Taekwon-Do allowed me to perform as an individual with the support of some great practitioners, and in this way was a perfect counter to my rugby training.

Ironically, it was not rugby which ended my teenage Taekwon-Do career:
I dislocated my left shoulder diving into the local lido pool.It didn’t hurt, and so for some strange reason I got out and did it again!

When I got home, nursing my sore arm, my mum noticed that ‘one arm was longer than the other’, and off we went to hospital! I was a 2nd Kup just shy of my 16th birthday.
One shoulder operation, lots of physiotherapy and two years later, I was well into college, parties, clubbing and girls, and never went back to Taekwon-Do (something I deeply regret!)

I was 24 and living in Lincolnshire when I decided to get back into Taekwon-Do. It was here I met (then 4th Dan) Mr Andy Glasby with UKTA. Here I trained to recover my standard to 2nd Kup, though my first attempt at 1st Kup with (then) Master Paul Cutler VIII Dan resulted in only my second failure to promote at a Taekwon-Do grading.

In due course I moved to Watford with work and joined a local school under Master Kim Anderson VII Dan with IMPACT. IMPACT was very similar to the Taekwon-Do I was used to with UKTA, so I fit right in and after a year or so re-graded at 2nd Kup. Then I moved again!

Now in Essex for good, with my wife’s family helping look after the kids, I joined the local Taekwon-Do school under (then) I Dan Mr Adam Thorne with GTI Taekwon-Do.

Frankly, my Taekwon-Do was a long way ahead of the standard expected at GTI, and I found the gradings straightforwards. Mr Thorne was grateful for some help, and I worked with him to achieve my 1st Kup, and then my I Dan. In 2010 Mr Thorne and I took our II Dan grading together, and passed!

In 2011 Mr Thorne took a big job and could no longer keep Braintree Taekwon-Do. I set up Olympus Taekwondo in September 2012, and acquired Braintree Taekwon-Do (which was being looked after by (then) VI Dan Mr Gordon Slater) in February 2013.

A question begs: Mr Thorne and Mr Slater were both with GTI Taekwon-Do, so why did I start up Olympus with ACE? Here we return, at length, to the Tenets of Taekwon-Do…

You see, earlier in 2012 now Grand Master Paul Cutler founded ACE Taekwon-Do with a particular philosophy – to teach Taekwon-Do to all who want to learn it as intended by our Founder, General Choi Hong Hi, under the Patronage of Pioneer and First Grand Master Rhee Ki Ha. No politics, no gimmicks – and none of the defensive paranoia I have come to expect from some organisations whose students I have met in training. I know I could set up my own independent school. I could grade my own students and teach my very own version of Taekwon-Do, as middle ranking black belts have done for decades, and who would know better?

I would know! I would know that I was not teaching ‘Taekwon-Do’, but ‘Marc Buckingham-Do’. There is a name we give to a Taekwon-Do instructor who knows just about everything about the Art and requires little or no further teaching (though those I meet tell me they learn more about it every day). These people are called Masters – and there seem to be a great many self-appointed Taekwon-Do Masters around. Some are promoted by themselves, some by a committee of junior grades, some buy thier certificate by mail-order from one of the (many) international organisations who allow such things.

Some simply learn their patterns up to their grade, pay a fee, and have a visiting Master or Grand Master promote them on agreement…

None of this would satisfy me. We call this Integrity (Ye Ui), the first Tenet of Taekwon-Do and something true Taekwon-Do students take seriously in everything they do. I have so much to learn in Taekwon-Do, and for that I need support from someone who knows far more about it than me – a level of knowledge and understanding about Taekwon-Do I had not found in GTI. I was due my III Dan grading, but knew that if I took it with GTI, every time I looked at the belt I would wish it said FGMR!

It was at this point my career as a student-only Taekwon-Do practitioner came full circle, for Grand Master Cutler operates out of Northern Ireland, and so is supported by an England-based Vice President – no other than (now) Senior Master Ray O’Neill VIII Dan!

SMON, as I have come to (fondly) call him, took me under my wing and provided me with all the support I hoped for and more. My II Dan grade was accepted, and I completed my ‘B-Class’ Instructor certificate under SMON. When GMPC conducted my first grading, SMON came along to help (imagine being graded by a XI Dan Grand Master and a VIII Dan Senior Master on your FIRST grading!). I had used my training under SM O’Neill to get me through two Colour Belt gradings and two Black Belt gradings, and now he was helping me to become an Instructor.

This is why we wrap our belts around once in Taekwon-Do: Loyalty to one Master. When asked who my instructor is, even after all this time (and all the different instructors under whom I have trained), it has always been SM O’Neill. Having successfully graded to III dan under Grand Master Cutler, authorised and approved by FGM Rhee, SM O’Neill presented me with an ID card as a Stonehenge Taekwon-Do Black Belt 🙂

The support doesn’t end there! Grand Master Cutler has been a great source of guidance, and nearer to home I have now had the pleasure of meeting Master Derek Blackburn VII Dan. Mr Glasby, who I trained under in Lincolnshire, has also joined ACE, and in fact graded for his VI Dan at the same time as I took my III!

So back to the logo, another reason we wrap our belts around once in Taekwon-Do: Pursue One’s Own Goal. This is why the Olympus logo features a mountain, after all, what better metaphor for ‘one’s own goal’ than a mountain? Climbing a mountain is hard, and you may be with others when you do it, but unlike team sports in which other’s performance can get you through, in Taekwon-Do it is your own performance that counts – and we each follow our own path, our own journey, in our own way, but we do it together!

So there it is – why we have a mountain in the Olympus Taekwon-Do logo. Simples!

As for ‘Olympus’ – officially it is for ‘Mount Olympus’ as featured in the logo.

Oh yes, and because it was founded in 2012…