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Branch Instructor

Instructor Oliver Wilkes

3rd Dan Black Belt

Canberra ACT Region – Curtin Dojang
How long have you been training in Taekwondo? And what got you started?

Over 15 years.

I started training at the beginning of 2005 when I was 8 years old. A good friend of mine and his mum had been training for a little while and they convinced me and another friend to give it a go.

Highlights of your Taekwondo success?
  • Starting Taekwondo in 2005
  • Joining United Taekwondo in 2008
  • Being promoted to Junior Black Belt in 2009
  • Being promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt in 2011
  • Being promoted to 2nd Degree Instructor in 2015
  • Being promoted to 3rd Degree Instructor in 2018
Describe your first black belt grading, and what it took to get you there?

My first black belt grading was particularly special as it was on the same day as my 13th birthday!

I had been training four times a week for 6 months and had been pushed to what I thought was my absolute limit.

My memories are pretty vivid, I remember Master Paul calling out my name and getting me to do my pattern, but I don’t remember actually doing it.

On the day I had three board breaks to do, but I can only remember doing one of them. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do a jumping back kick! I tried so many times but it just wouldn’t work. Master Paul pulled me aside and told me I was over thinking it. He smashed my board into three pieces with his own jumping back kick, called for another board, told me to do a tuck-jump as high as I could then as soon as I landed, do the kick. I did what he said, and it worked!

Then came the sparring. I was told to pick three black belts to spar. Instructor Peter and Chief Instructor Lachlan, my first two instructors, stepped up and congratulated me on my excellent choice of partners, despite me not actually having said anything yet. I asked one more black belt to join them and off we went. They absolutely smashed me but I got through it. To finish it off, Master Paul told me I wasn’t going home without sparring Chief Instructor Brett! I was exhausted but I knew this was my final test. I pushed through it, and at the end of it all I had a black belt tied around my waist and I was another year older!

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

I try to train four times a week in formal Taekwondo classes and once or twice in informal garage sessions. I also try to get in some running for aerobic activity and swimming for muscle recovery.

Favourite Taekwondo move or moves?
  • Stepping, flying spinning heel kick
  • Gliding side kick
  • Back kick
  • The falcon punch
  • And every single pattern
What are your personal goals in Taekwondo?

To always push myself to exceed my own limitations, to always be prepared to accept feedback and criticism, to pass on what I have learned to others, and to never obsess over gradings and promotions.

But most importantly, to always have fun and enjoy myself!

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

I’m not really sure. I’ve been doing Taekwondo for so long it’s become a fundamental part of who I am.

I’d like to think it’s made me a calmer, more self-disciplined and relaxed person. But the greatest thing about Taekwondo is if I’m ever upset or confused about something, one training session can completely clear my head and it makes me feel 100% better.

Also, I’m always exhausted after training so it makes me sleep really well, which is definitely beneficial.

Your favourite saying and what this means?

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog”

Spirit and determination are far more important than strength or ability. If you believe in yourself you can do anything!

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training”

You can talk yourself up as much as you want but if you’re not willing to put in the work you’ve lost before you’ve even begun.

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

If you’re considering starting, find a class and give it a go! Bring a friend or family member along too. When you’re training by yourself it’s easy to talk yourself out of it, but when you’re training with someone you don’t want to let them down. Also, it’s way more fun!

If you’re already training, be patient. Don’t be driven by the next belt or stripe. Focus on being the best you can be and always give it your all.

What other activities apart from Taekwondo do you enjoy?

Well I’m a massive nerd and a major bookworm.

I love playing video games, and I really enjoy reading, particularly fantasy and political history.

I’m also a musician. I’ve been playing saxophone for almost as long as I’ve been doing Taekwondo. Good breathing control and a sense of rhythm, both of which are crucial to playing the sax, are also incredibly helpful with Taekwondo.

I also love cooking, studying, relaxing, and spending time with my friends and family.

Favourite movie(s) and why?

Lincoln – Did I mention I’m a political history nerd?

Pulp Fiction – If you’ve seen it you’ll understand.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – I really love fantasy.

Star Wars – I always wanted to be a Jedi, Taekwondo was about as close as I could get.

Favourite food?

Japanese, Italian, Indian, look I’ll be honest food in general is pretty great.

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

When I first started Taekwondo, I used to think about what belts I wanted to get or how good I wanted to be. But, when I was training for my 2nd degree black belt I injured myself, twice. The injuries weren’t bad, but they were setbacks. What could have taken two years of training ended up taking four. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t disheartened. That experience taught me to take Taekwondo one training session at a time. So that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years, I have no idea where I’ll be in ten years. But tomorrow, I’ll be at training.