I took my first lesson in the Oh Do Kwan style of taekwon-do on Thursday March 3rd, 1977. I was twenty-one, a soldier in the British Army, stationed in Osnabrück, West Germany. The school was the Song-Do-Kwan and my instructor, Georg Soupidis, then a 3rd degree black belt.
I took my 1st dan exactly 5 years and one month later, on Saturday 3rd of April, 1982. I remained in Osnabrück where I ran my own club in a neighbouring barracks and then, from 1985, became ronin, wandering from club to club never able to settle down because of a spat of short postings, followed by university, teacher training and employment in various schools and towns.
My taekwon-do lineage is close to the roots. Georg Soupidis studied under Rhee Hi-ka in the 1960′s while Rhee Ki-ha was introduced to taekwon-do, by one of, if not the founding father, Choi Hong-hi. Indeed, around 1973, Choi stayed in Georg’s house in Osnabrück.
I actually started martial arts in 1973, in Münster, West Germany, from Peter Dominic’s, ‘Teach Yourself Karate.’
Song Do Kwan, Osnabrück, 1977-85 (1st dan). I trained here under, Georg Soupidies, then a 3rd, and later 4th Dan (now 6th Dan).
ITF taekwondo in London (1980). Under Richard Koo, 2nd Dan.
Wing Chun Kung Fu under Master Simon Lau – London (1980)
Close to a years one to one training with Wai Po Tang – when he was 15 and before his travels to China and Thailand. At the time he’d only just taken up Wing Chun. (1980)
Oh Do Kwan taekwon-do Paderborn, Germany 1986. Under Master Song?
ITF taekwon-do, Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988. (green belt). Under Leroy Soutar, 2nd Dan
Traditional shotokan karate (TASK), Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988 (green belt). Under Master John van Weenen.
Self defence instructor Essex University 1988-1992.
Yoseikan Karate (Essex University) 1988-1992. Under Master Mark Bishop, 4th Dan.
Shotokan Karate (Goldsmiths College, London) 1993-1995. Under Gabriel ? 2nd Dan.
Daegu, Korea, WTF taekwondo, 2000-2001 (purple belt). Under Master Bae 7th Dan.
Daegu, Korea 2011, Oh Do Kwan, taekwon-do, (no school)
In 2001 I had to stop training because I developed an umbilical hernia and had to travel back to the UK for surgery.
In, 2003, I was back training in Daegu, in the school I trained in in 2000-2001. Once again, right before taking my red belt I did a high axe kick and re-birthed a para-umbilical hernia. I later discovered it was part of the first hernia. Once again I had to go back to the UK for surgery under the same surgeon who again managed to bodge a second operation. The operation failed to close the tear in my abdominal muscle and over the next few years a substantial lump grew on my stomach that I named ‘Billy.’
I now considered my training in martial arts over. Indeed, that’s what I wrote in my diary after leaving the consultant’s surgery. In 2008, the hernia was successfully repaired and I returned to Korea. I had put on a lot of weight and considered myself highly unfit but after three years regular gym workouts, which initially began extremely lightly, I eased myself back into martial arts training and eventually took up haidong gumdo.
My heart has always been with Oh Do Kwan style and despite having practiced other styles and compelled to take a break between hernia operations or when I ‘was lost,’ I have always practiced my patterns. Gumdo was a way back into full TKD training but I have quickly grown to like the style and unlike TKD, I’m not competing with past expectations. For now, Haedong Gumdo is my focus.
It’s now my goal to take my first dan in gumdo. TKD is too stressful on the knees at my age and the gumdo ideology much better at adapting to suit your own development. And in a comforting way, practicing gumdo provides a continuity so that I do not feel I have abandoned my style and all it meant to me.
After my hernia operation in 2008, I began training. In September 2011, I began training in taekwon-d0. It was very light and basically consisted the first 5 forms. On April 16th 2012. I began my first lesson in gumdo, under master Kwon Yong-guk. The gumdo was supposed to lead me back into TKD training but within a few months I was training almost exclusively in gumdo and had begun using other traditional Korean weapons.
This blog chronicles my journey.
I took my gumdo blue belt on Monday, June 29th.
I took my 1st gup, black-red belt, on Friday 26th of October, 2012.
I took my black belt on Saturday 23rd February 2013. I was then required to wear 1st gup (red-black) for a further two months before being officially awarded my first dan.