Jumping Side-Back Kick – That was all that was needed to attract a 14 year old like me to join the Taekwondo class in my secondary school in 1991. After all, most of my classmates were in it. Almost immediately I fell in love with the art and even got obsessed with it!
I remember after a few months of learning, there wasn’t a wall or tree branch in school that we didn’t try our best side kicks and jumping back kicks to see how hard, how high or how fast we could do them and also to impress passersby. These were done outside of training times of course and we were the mischievous bunch in school.
What I like about Taekwondo is that it is both art and sport – art because of the precision, the discipline and the forms, and sport because of the flexibility, strength, speed, rules, the tricks etc. Both these appealed to me so much that I was practising it for at least two to four hours every day or night for many years. At 3 a.m. in the morning, it was not uncommon to have my parents knocking on my room door to ask me what the ‘thumping’ noises were all about. I was of course, hardening my fists and heels against the floor and wall, as one would!
Ahh…those were the days when I could do a flying side kick across a motorbike and kick as high as any good practitioner would. What I am less proud of though, was the string of discontinuities that followed. When I was 16, two years into the art and a Blue Belt then, I stopped because of study commitments. I picked it up again when I was studying in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore where I decided to go through White Belt again and eventually got to Green Belt. Later, I quit because of my study commitments.
It was also around that time that I discovered that I had a minor heart complication and the doctors advised me not to do any strenuous work, including running and martial arts. That dropped to me like a bombshell, because I loved these sports. Undeterred, I spent the next two years improving my general health and pushing physical boundaries, frequenting the gym and swimming almost every day. Between 2000 and 2008 I had the opportunity to train under two other instructors, Mr. Oh in Geelong and Grandmaster Cho in Monash University. Unfortunately I became injured both times and had to lay off Taekwondo for substantial periods of time.
I still cannot explain why I keep coming back to it; maybe it is the uniform, maybe it is the challenge of it, or maybe it is the good old feeling of kicking and punching. Whatever it is I certainly gravitate to it wherever I seemed to go in life i.e. in Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Here I would like to take the opportunity, if I may, to acknowledge all the instructors whom I trained under and whose lessons helped culminate and form my understanding of the art thus far.
1991-1993, Malaysia – Mr. Chang Chong Onn (2nd Dan, WTF)
1993-1993, Malaysia - Master T.L. Loh (7th Dan currently, WTF)
1996-1997, Singapore - Mr. Kwan (4th Dan, WTF)
2000-2001, Australia - Grandmaster Cho Yong Dai (9th Dan, WTF)
2007-2008, Australia - Mr. Oh (5th Dan, WTF)
2010-now, Australia - Paul Macloy (2nd Dan, ITF)
2011-now, Australia - Grandmaster Joon No (8th Dan, WTF)
I think having had guidance from a few instructors gave me a wealth of experience of styles and interpretations. I am thankful that Grandmaster No has taken me in and understood my goal of achieving this important milestone of Black Belt. Amid all the previous setbacks, I learned perhaps the most important lesson of all – the value of perseverance. To me, this value is more precious than any kicks or techniques I have learnt thus far, and one which has eluded my full appreciation until recently. It will now continue to guide me in life.
It is true what they say, that “a Black Belt is a White Belt who never quits.” Today, I stand proud to say that I am probably one good example of this saying, as I always encourage people to keep it going. Nevertheless, the journey ahead is still long and shrouded with yet other challenges, but yes, I am now armed with my new found lesson of perseverance. After all, achieving Black Belt is still the beginning of a much longer journey. That being said, it would be a great honour to receive my Black Belt under Mr. No, whose lessons and personal attention I have come to be so inspired by.
I shall quote what many others have said before - that Taekwondo is truly life changing. Strangely, some days Taekwondo makes me feel like I am 14 again – alive, kicking and growing! (After 20 years though, I am still learning to do the Jumping Side-Back Kick that first drew me into the art when I was 14)