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Branch Instructor

Instructor Gary Wellham

3rd Dan Black Belt

Campbelltown NSW Region – Denham Court Dojang
How long have you been training in Taekwondo? And what got you started?

I started 25th January 2016. My Son was being bullied at school so he decided to have a look at United Taekwondo where his school friend trained. After watching my son for the first night I went to work the next day and contemplated the fact that I had always wanted to do a martial art. I listened to a motivational speaker at a work function once who explained that he started a martial art at 40. Everyone asked “Why are you doing that? Isn’t that for children?” I thought just as he did and I decided to join with my son at the ripe old age of 43.

Highlights of your Taekwondo success?

I have a few and it’s hard to cull, however the most cherished and again relating to my son, are as follows.

We both love to compete in martial arts tournaments and this led us to represent Australia together at the New Zealand Martial Arts National Championships (North Island). I still carry every day the photo of us together in our Australian Squad tracksuits.

I took to tournaments like a duck to water very early in my taekwondo journey with the guidance of my Instructor, John Marchand. Instructor John always told me he wanted to train a National Champion. We trained hard together for both of us as well as for other like minded students. Personally, he has so far managed to mentor me to a National Title at AMAC, National title at ISKA, 2 NZMAC titles and World Cup title at ISKA.

What I like most about this journey is that the titles are spread across different disciplines and my Instructor became more than my coach and is now a wonderful family friend and my son’s sponsor in his Catholic journey.

Most humbling highlights are when fellow students and Instructors thank me for the help I have given them towards their taekwondo journey at United Taekwondo, especially leading up to gradings or tournaments and keep them moving forward in their art.

In my 2nd Degree grading when doing my elbow tile break, I also broke one of the besser blocks that was holding up the tiles. It felt fantastic!

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

Leading up to my first black belt grading I lived and breathed taekwondo in every moment. While shopping I would do my stances while waiting in line to pay for my groceries. I would go camping and practice my patterns. I would run stairs and skip to get the stamina up. I had physio for approx 12 months prior to help open my hips and rack me out on the leg split machine to help my kicks. I couldn’t wait, also knowing that I had family and friends coming to watch and cheer me on.

The grading itself felt like a blur, and seemed to go so fast, but one of my main memories was how much I enjoyed the last sparring session, pushing me to exhaustion and happiness at the same time.

My fellow student and training partner, Vignish, went for his black belt on the same night. Embracing with him at the end of receiving our new belts and certificates is a wonderful memory I cherish. I then looked over to my wife, son, brother, in-laws and many friends and felt so proud of myself in their presence.

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

2-3 times per week; more during tournament season. I haven’t done gym for decades and rather now choose to just use body weight and focus on focussing. What I mean by that is I might punch the focus ball over and over again to train for speed and accuracy. Or, set a goal to do 200 push ups every day for a month. I might not do these things every day, but they all add up over time.

Also, training my mind is a huge part of my taekwondo and life journey. Learning to overcome obstacles, using mindfulness to appreciate the now, questioning and learning about all martial arts as well as focusing on being a better person when I wake up tomorrow morning which all counts to build a better taekwondo me.

Favourite Taekwondo move or moves?

Crescent kick and inverted roundhouse kick as well as all hand and elbow strikes. Just don’t tell my tournament opposition LOL!

What are your personal goals in Taekwondo?

To always be a better taekwondo version of myself tomorrow. I want to keep giving to other students and other Instructors so they too can wake up a better taekwondo version of themselves. I would like to be remembered for being a contributor.

Although all belts are milestones and give a sense of accomplishment, I really would love to be a 5th degree one day and hope to be a Chief Instructor spreading and teaching the taekwondo way.  It would be a significant moment in my life that would feel like a humble acknowledgement of my influence on the United Taekwondo Art and the students with whom I crossed paths and passed on my knowledge.

Has Taekwondo benefited home life? If so, in what way?

In so many ways it can’t possibly be all put into words at this moment.

Essentially and especially, I am truly a mentally stronger person. I am a fitter and healthier person. My entire immediate family are now all taekwondo students and better for it in similar ways.

Before taekwondo I was super scared of public speaking and now I look forward to it. I may still get emotional but there is nothing wrong with wearing your heart on your sleeve and  being vulnerable. Taekwondo has benefitted my work life with so much more confidence. In life I have the extra confidence to stand with those who need support in the face of adversity.

Your favourite saying and what this means?

Earlier in life it was – “Without a goal or dream, life is already dead” – meaning set goals,
have dreams and always aspire to them to live life to its fullest.

Today, especially since self reflection during COVID lockdowns, –
“ I must take small steps so I can see where I have walked” – meaning we must slow down and enjoy what we have now. The earlier we can learn and achieve this the more life we will get to enjoy. Older people reflect on this too late and wish they had realised this earlier.

Most people that know me would say that when I am asked “how are you?” that I answer with “Fantastic!”. When I am asked “why are you fantastic?” – I answer “because I choose to be!”

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

For those wanting to start – START! Get up and just start! Once you start, your new taekwondo family will inspire and guide you regardless of your fitness level or how you handle your daily lives. Over time what you are learning today will be easier tomorrow to help you with your next part of your journey.

For those already training – maybe something that I remind myself of every day (that I once saw on the web) might help:
Patience to practice
Courage to fail
Spirit to try
Wisdom to guide

What other activities apart from Taekwondo do you enjoy?

Camping with family and friends and all things that go with it.
Playing guitar even if it does sound bad LOL!

Favourite movie(s) and why?

Pay It Forward – the concept that one person can change the world in this way is beautiful.

Favourite food?

Anything with chilli or curry. I love Asian clear noodle soups and Indian/Malaysian curries.

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

I want to keep my taekwondo journey on track to become a 5th Degree Black Belt and Chief Instructor to help myself and others to be better people through our art.

My taekwondo training is my safe place where I exist in that moment, but also being able to give through instructing is so humbling and knowing I have helped someone else is priceless.