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Why Kuk Sool Won & Why Claygate Martial Arts Centre?

I wanted to write a post titled “Why Kuk Sool Won?”, but it slowly developed into “Why Kuk Sool Won & Why Claygate Martial Arts Centre?”. Please read on to find out why in 1992 I chose the relatively unknown martial arts system of Kuk Sool Won, in the depths of rural Suffolk, and then how my passion and enthusiasm for the art resulted in the revival of an old member’s bar in the heart of rural Surrey, into a modern martial arts centre, a new community hub in the village of Claygate…

Claygate Martial Arts Centre BEFORE

The journey begins…

I never really had much interest (and even less skill) in any mainstream sports but for some reason I wanted to start martial arts training. When I was nine years old my Dad took me along to the local judo club to have a go for myself and see if it was something that I wanted to have a go at. Unfortunately and unbeknown to us (or fortunately as the story develops) the judo club had cancelled all classes that night and so we headed straight home disappointed.

A week or so later, he took me along to a Kuk Sool Won class as a friend of his was a member. I still remember the instructor teaching me how to do a Front Kick and how this kick was to be practiced in a sequence with other kicks and hand strikes which I would need to remember. On the journey home my Dad needed to make a phone call so we stopped by a telephone box (no mobile phones back then) for him to do so. I thought that I had better follow my instructor’s suggestion and practice, so that’s exactly what I did. I got out of the car and practiced those moves roadside somewhere in a little Suffolk village. I think that I had forgotten most of the sequence, but looking back, it was the intention to practice that mattered. I had just started to climb the first mountain…

Student of the Year 1992 with Master Steve

My next memory was an announcement a few classes later that the 1992 UK Championships & Masters Exhibition was upcoming and Kuk Sa Nim (our Grandmaster) would be there, and demonstrating, so we should definitely go if we could. That’s exactly what we did! Wow! I remember watching the display by the UK Black Belts and US Masters as well as the Grandmaster himself. That was it; I was immediately hooked, but the mountain looked unconquerable!

I continued to train whenever and wherever I could in as many ‘local’ clubs as I could. I am forever thankful to my parents, instructors and older classmates for driving me to sports centres across the various counties of East Anglia. I still remember not being particularly good and never winning any medals despite practicing often, but over time my belt colour kept changing so I must have been doing something right. Every May there were seminars and workshops and I would attend as many as I could to gain as much experience and knowledge as I could from as many instructors as possible. I also began to help out and support in many different clubs.

Black Belt and beyond…

I achieved 1st Degree Black Belt just over five years after starting my training and was over the moon. This was (and still is) a huge achievement, but the great thing about Kuk Sool Won is that this is merely one mountain that I had conquered; I soon realised that this mountain was part of a much bigger range of mountains that also needed conquering. I continued to practice as often as I could and went on to achieve 2nd Degree Black Belt and win a couple of tournament titles, before heading off to university. It took me another six years to achieve 3rd Degree Black Belt whilst I juggled my university degree with training.

My own club…

I then reached a fork in the road; had I conquered my final martial arts mountain in the range?

I started on a graduate training scheme into management, during which training was impossible because of the working hours and distance I now lived from a club. I quickly switched career paths and studied a post graduate degree to become a teacher. I was still a distance from a club but I managed to just about keep training. I went along to the 2007 European Championships & Masters Exhibition, once again as a spectator like I was in 1992. I thought that either I have to give up my lifelong passion of Kuk Sool Won or open up my own club and conquer the next mountain in the range. The club I opened was nearly 100 miles from where I was teaching at the time, but my passion was reignited and I was enthusiastic to pass on my knowledge to anyone who wanted to listen and learn.

Our first demonstration to promote the new club was one week after the championships; there was no club yet so it was just me in the demonstration, with two children who I had just taught at the village fair where the demonstration was taking place. Vix my wife who is now a 3rd Degree Black Belt was on the microphone talking about what I was doing; she was yet to even start her training but did a great job nonetheless. We did thirteen demonstrations over that Summer period with various visiting Black Belts from clubs that I had trained and instructed in before, so we hit the ground running when we actually opened the doors to teach. Year One was still slow, but by the end of the year we had about twenty/thirty students training weekly in a squash court in Oxshott, whilst I was working full time as a teacher nearly two hours away.

3rd Dahn Black Belt Promotion with SBN Kim

Full time martial arts instructor…

This wasn’t going to work long-term, so following advice from a dear Kuk Sool friend before her untimely passing, I quit teaching, moved 100 miles south and found as many venues as I could to teach from as often as I could, to try and be a professional martial arts instructor. This was the biggest mountain to date, but something that I had dreamed of as a boy but I never thought that it would ever be possible as a reality. I invested every waking hour in developing my club into a school that in five years time would run from a full time martial arts centre in Claygate. A further five years down the line and Claygate Martial Arts Centre has become a community hub that Vix and I run together as an extension of our own family.

Black Belt 1997

So, going back to the title of this post “Why Kuk Sool Won & Why Claygate Martial Arts Centre?” as I’ve basically just written about my life to this point…Kuk Sool Won is a range of mountains, with many peaks which need conquering, just as life will have many highs and lows. Kuk Sool Won has taught me that perseverance and attitude are key. It has not only taught me to never give up, but that simply showing respect and etiquette goes a long way in conquering the mountains. Claygate Martial Arts Centre is full of wonderful people, training, instructing and supporting one another in conquering mountains together, whether they be in the Kuk Sool Won mountain range or not. At Claygate Martial Arts Centre you will soon come to notice that we are not a school aimed at winning medals and titles but in developing as a family to achieve great things together and develop one another to achieve our potential across the board. This mirrors what I experienced throughout my younger years at my first club under Master Steve, so thank you for sowing that seed Sir.

Claygate Martial Arts Centre Black Belts 2018

Changing lives…

The next mountain in the range is for us to continue to share our values with the wider community, whilst also continuing to support our Kuk Sool Won family in conquering their own mountains. If you would like to conquer mountains with us, the first stage is booking your FREE taster session HERE

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