Branch / Region
Watson Dojang / Canberra ACT Region
How long have you been training in Taekwondo and what got you started?
I began to learn Taekwondo in Sydney with my brother when I was about 13 or 14 years of age. We would train twice a week, two hours per session. Whilst challenging, strenuous and arduous at times, I am grateful that we did so. It was a different training culture at that time back in the 1980s. In addition, we would practise at home, twice a week on sparring, patterns, one and three-step sparring, stretching, strength and conditioning as we would have in class.
Being bullied at high school was the motivation, and while I never spoke about learning Taekwondo with anyone, what I found curious was that within a few months, I had been left alone; it was as if those people kinew not to approach me.
Highlights of your Taekwondo success?
Attaining 1st Dan in 1986 and having Black Belt recognised with United Taekwondo in 2010. Admittedly I have had a broken training regime over the years.
Attaining my 2nd Dan in November 2011 as I had trained really hard for it. My many thanks to Chief Instructor Brett for his suggestion to close my eyes with a Spinning Heel Kick back in October 2010.
Opening my own Dojang in Watson in 2011.
Describe your first black belt grading and what it took to get you there?
I was young and do not recall much about it other than it was rigorous and punishing for my brother and I. I recall my original 4th Dan Instructor sparring me one night in preparation for grading. He side kicked me in the stomach and I flew across the room, falling, seeing stars around my head, cartoon-style. It was done as a learning curve, not done maliciously. I was 17 or 18 years old.
My 2nd Dan training was ramped up for the last six months. I was training at Taekwondo three nights a week along with gymnastics one night a week after Taekwondo, followed by my own training sessions at home. The actual day was a blur, and I was raging inside at one point. My thanks to Instructor Peter telling me to shout LOUD before executing my board breaks. I got what he meant by relaxing and being stronger with the techniques. It felt good to smack through three boards with a Left Side-Kick using my weaker leg. With my double, blind-folded spinning Heel Kicks I felt as if I could “see” more clearly than when my eyes are open. Over the months I struggled with distance and consistent execution; on the day in that one moment to do this, it was perfect: distance, foot placement, 90 degree turn, kick, landing, etc. It was a fantastic and humbling feeling when Master Instructor Paul announced my promotion that morning to 2nd Dan.
How often do you train in Taekwondo, gym, etc?
I train in Taekwondo three times a week, teach my own students twice a week; I train in adult gymnastics once a week after Taekwondo; I stretch once or twice a week. I basically do little things every day – at the sink while washing up, or waiting for the kettle to boil, or in my mind running through patterns, etc – a stance, balancing, holding out a kick, Russian pistols, chin pull-ups, yoga, weights, strength and conditioning work throughout. I feel ON eight of the seven days a week. I do let myself rest as well.
I find gymnastics challenging and a good adjunct for me – working on front and back ‘saults, handsprings over the vault, chin-up pullovers and casting, backwards/forwards hip circles – and having all my buttons pushed with the rigours of the athletic sport on all six apparatus. I am currently working on building up to Giants – 360 degree rotations. Scary! It’s all in the hips and good technique, along with the white-knuckle death-grip on the high bar with those swings!! Gymnastics has helped my Taekwondo immeasurably.
Favourite Taekwondo move or moves?
Patterns – you can never get enough of basics;
Mid and High Reverse Turning Kicks (I am challenged by the simplicity and deceptive nature of them in the pattern Eui-Am);
Side Kick, Back Kick; Spinning Heel Kick;
My sparring has become more dynamic since training with United Taekwondo Canberra, which I like;
Russian pistols (one-legged squats);
Oh, and patterns – all of them! I love trying to figure out my patterns backwards, as mirror-images and in reverse-movie formats. It is the curious-Monkey-thing in me!
What are your personal goals for the future?
To make a positive contribution to United Taekwondo overall, and to the Canberra Region. I am really lucky with the friendships that I have made and try to foster here with United Taekwondo in Canberra.
To see my dojang at Watson grow exponentially with significantly more members/students.
To keep growing and bettering myself as a martial artist and as an instructor.
Your favourite saying and what this means?
“I will die on my feet before I live on my knees”. A Spanish saying that my father would say. Like the Black Sheep that he was and that I am, I understand it completely. I feel that it is self-explanatory, and in essence it refers to being authentic and holding true to ourselves and our path in life. I will add, without being rancorous or holding malice towards others – behave like a Caballero, as Papa would say.
“Always keep your eyes on the opponent.”
“Irony is a four letter word”. (I made that one up.)
“Life is too short – get off it, get on with it”.
“If you’re gonna move forward, get out and push the bus – if not, get out of my way”. People close to me know that of me well. [Say these last two with a twang…]
Best advice you can give someone training and wishing to start training in Taekwondo?
Do it now! Give it a go – patiently persist with the practice, as it can feel awkward initially with body postures and stances. It will resolve, becoming more grounded, and will feel incredibly comfortable, like a second skin.
Technique, technique, technique! Chase the good technique, and not the belt level. Getting to Black Belt is an arduous and rewarding path, and it does not end, with the constant working towards self-improvement and learning. Ask questions (there are no silly questions), be open to suggestions and take directions.
Use the challenges and limitations as motivation for improvement and not frustration – we are at where we are at. The rewards are worth the effort!
What other activities apart from Taekwondo do you enjoy?
Renovating property; cooking; swimming; gymnastics (I started in April 2011, not bad for my age); coaching in gymnastics (a recent thing); easel painting and drawing – art-making was my original training/studies at Art School; anatomy studies; teaching primary-aged children; studying – I have a curiosity for the world; reading – my library is vast and eclectic; listening to music – my range is eclectic, from orchestral/classical, Siouxie and the Banshees, OMD, Tina Arena, Tangos, Yma Sumac (look her up), Ella Fitzgerald, Broadway musicals, Rock-Operas, The Beatles, the Kane Gang, New Order, The Cure, through to mind-numbing/vapid twinky-pop like 1-Dimension.
Learning Auslan (Australian Sign Language); reading tarot cards; watching clouds; clipping parterre gardens; playing with puppies and kittens.
Jigsaw puzzles – random, just like my love of deconstructing patterns.
If full circle went beyond 360 degrees, then that would be me!
Favourite movie(s) and why?
I trained in and worked as a film projectionist for 14 years, managing cinemas, etc. My viewing habits are vast and eclectic (that word again). Some of my interests: The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, early silent films, MGM musicals, romantic comedies, psychological horror (less of the current spate of splatter goo that pushes the viscerality), (having said that) Wes Craven and Dario Argento, suspense and film noir, German Expressionist, Spanish cinema, Orson Welles, BUSBY BERKLEY (YAY!!), Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick (yet I disliked “A Clockwork Orange”); martial arts movies.
When I saw “Enter the Dragon” for the first time in 2010, I completely understood what the attraction to Bruce Lee is all about – a sensational film, especially after the first few films he made. Donnie Yen is sensational in “Grandmaster Ip Man” and “Ip Man 2”, “Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen”, “Hero” to name a few. I am really enjoying discovering his filmography in my limited time. I am enjoying some of Tony Jaa’s films – what an extraordinary martial artist!
Frasier, Will and Grace, The Big Bang Theory… self-evident, really: how good is the writing?!
Hmmm – my eating habits are so strict that I try to stay on course. I eat a lot of raw food, with minimal processing and prepared in a simple way – vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds; high protein, low fat foods; olive-oil-in moderation and chilli every day; lean red and white meats. I tend to graze throughout the day. Regardless of how strict I am with food, every day I eat one small square of good quality dark chocolate, sloooowwwwlly, so I savour it – otherwise I will go bonkers with the stricture.
WATER, WATER, WATER, GREEN TEA, COFFEE!!
The occasional dalliance with a cheat-treat, in no particular order, such as: french pastries (which I eat rarely, so I savour them); salt and pepper squid/bean curd; Chinese/Indian food; ice cream (rolls up tongue back into mouth); one cupcake (because they are a manageable size, just right).
With regards to Taekwondo where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
5 years; continuing my training and instructing students in my dojang; working in Taekwondo full time; seeing my first student attain their own Black Belt; to have attained my 3rd Dan Black Belt, working towards the next level.
10 years: to have attained my 4th Dan and be a respected member of the martial arts community; to continue my own training, and instructing students, to pass the baton on. It is such a privilege to do this, to pay it forward and honour the lineage.