Fitness and Self Defence

Joseph Spinella

Branch Instructor

St George NSW Region

Brighton-Le-Sands Dojang








How long have you been training in Taekwondo? And what got you started?

I started training in 1992 when I was 11 years old. I’m 36 years old now so I’ve been training in martial arts for 25 years. I had a few years off when I moved to Italy after getting married. I am very happy to be back.

I’ve always been a huge fan of martial arts movies and I think this is what really got me started. Bruce Lee has always been my favourite. One day I got a brochure in the mail to attend a demonstration being held at the local Kogarah hall. This is where I met Master Paul. I was so impressed that I started training under him the following Monday.

Highlights of your Taekwondo success?

The highlight of my Taekwondo training was obtaining my Black belt when I was 14 years old. At the time I was too young to go for first degree black belt so the Master implemented what was called “Junior Blackbelt” which was a black belt with no dan. Two of us applied for Junior black belt that day, Daniel and myself.

The second highlight of my training was when I opened my own hall in Sans Souci when I was 17. Master Paul put a lot of trust in me at such a young age to run my own hall and it was a very steep learning curve. I am very proud that one of the students that started at my hall has gone on to become a 4th degree black belt in the organisation.

Describe your first black belt grading, and what it took to get you there?

I remember training really hard to go for my black belt. I was putting in 5 nights per week training. There was Taekwondo training from Monday to Thursday. On Fridays I trained with a private group of friends. This training was really tough as I was the youngest and smallest in the group.

On the day of the grading I felt in good form. The patterns and board breaking went well for all candidates and the sparring was really tough. It seemed to go on forever. At the end of the day I felt really proud to have earned my belt. I think I almost slept with it on that night.

How often do you train? In Taekwondo? Gym? etc

I change my training schedule weekly depending on work and family commitments but it typically involves a morning 4km run before breakfast 3 days a week. I also insert a training session on my heavy bag during lunch breaks from work where I train speed kicking, hand techniques or foot work. I’m currently committed to training twice a week at my local Taekwondo training centre in Brighton.

If I can find time I attend the gym twice a week or do some dumbell training at home as I think resistance training is very important to martial arts development.

Finally I do a hard session at the Cronulla sand hills on Sunday morning with Instructor Mark Sekom and anyone else crazy enough to brave the cold at 7am.

Favourite Taekwondo move or moves?

I like executing moves off the lead hand or foot for maximum speed and efficiency.

I also like to work in progressive, indirect attacks such as a low jab feint turning into a high back fist to strike.

What are your personal goals in Taekwondo?

I wish to keep growing as a martial artist and become the best I can be. Hopefully I can inspire others to do the same along the journey.

Your favourite saying and what this means?

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” – Bruce Lee

 For most of my life I’ve worried about what people think of me and what they expect me to be and do. I’ve come to realise life is too short to live for other people’s expectations; you need to start living for yourself.

Best advice you can give someone training and wishing to start training in Taekwondo?

Try not to approach martial arts as just another fitness activity or social opportunity. While it can be both I feel you will benefit most from martial arts if you make it a part of your way of life even if it’s a small part. For myself studying Taekwondo has encouraged me to stay flexible by stretching, fit by exercising and generally healthy by eating nutritiously to supplement my training. It’s not just something I do twice a week, it’s something that guides me through all aspects of life.

Also try to learn as much as you can about the fighting arts. This will keep you motivated to keep training as you will always have something to work on and try out.

What other activities apart from Taekwondo do you enjoy?

Apart from Taekwondo I enjoy reading, socialising, playing piano and guitar. I also enjoy painting and 3d Modelling.

Favourite movie(s) and why?

I like watching martial arts movies. I prefer the more realistic ones as I can learn a lot more. I’m not really interested in the ones where they leap from the ground and fly unrealistically through the air. Or where they speed the film up to make the fighters look lightening fast.

My favourite movies are:

1) Best of the Best: Philip Rhee is an excellent martial artist with Taekwondo and Hapkido skills.

2) The Rocky series: These are quite motivational.

3) Way of the Dragon (Bruce Lee): The fight scene in the Colosseum with Chuck Norris is one of the best fight scenes ever filmed in my opinion.

Favourite food?

My absolute favourite is pizza from Naples (Italy). I first tried this when living there and I find it really hard to find a good pizza back home. Although they are starting to get better.

I also like Sushi and Vietnamese food.

With regards to Taekwondo where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?

In 5 years I hope to still be enjoying my training as much as I do now. If I have my own hall again I hope to be able to effectively teach my students to incorporate Taekwondo and martial arts concepts into their lives to benefit them as much as they have benefited me.

In 10 years I hope to continually develop my style to be in rhythm with my changing body as I get older. I believe we should always be modifying and looking for better ways to express ourselves as we never stay the same through our lives.

I also hope to have my son training in Taekwondo if he wishes to do so.

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