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KUK SOOL WON’s Most Recently Promoted Female UK Master!

Becoming a proficient practitioner in Korean Martial arts requires many years of dedicated practice, and that requirement applies to the one of the UK’s most senior female practitioners of Kuk Sool Won, Alison Ducker. Alison was promoted to Master level during 2007.

TKD-KCA – First of all Alison congratulations on your recent promotion to the distinguished level of Master, 5th degree black belt in the Traditional Korean Martial Art of Kuk Sool Won. Let’s begin by finding out how long you have been practising Kuk Sool and old were you when you first started?

AD- I was fifteen years old when I began practising Kuk Sool That was in 1981.  Since then I’ve taken a couple of years out to have my two children.

TKD-KCA – How did you initially become interested in training?

I went along to the local martial art school to watch my boyfriend (who incidentally is now my husband) practice. He was a novice himself at the time and I must have sat there patiently watching for about three to four months before the principal instructor, (after several unsuccessful attempts) finally enticed me to join in with a class.

TKD-KCA – What was training like back then?As you would expect, it was rather challenging back then, and there weren’t any special favours or allowances just because you were a girl or a woman. There were only a couple of other females around at the time. These ladies were generally quite masculine and could certainly dish-out as good as they get.

Unfortunately I wasn’t very big so my only real advantage was just being very flexible.
In comparison with today’s training, generally the overall attitude was much stricter and more militaristic. At times you were literally treated like a solider on parade, you especially weren’t allowed to smile or show any kind of emotion, which was considered a weakness.

From a physical point of view it was also very demanding, the drills were often quite regimental. We would practice the same routines and techniques week in and week out without ever questioning the Instructor’s motives. However the by-product of this type of training was you became really proficient at performing the basics.

Training methods were tougher back then compared to how they are now and attitudes were a lot different too! Many good practitioners left our club because it was so physically and mentally demanding. These days everyone is much more relaxed and not preparing for battle, so to speak.

TKDKCA  – So what made you stay the course?
That’s a good question. My husband would say it’s because I’m a Taurian and generally quite stubborn. I rather like to think it’s because I have a strong mind and of course I also recognize the positive benefits that martial arts has to offer as well.

Apart from gaining the obvious advantages in learning self-defence, martial arts in particular does offer a complete system of training for mind, body, and spirit. The greatest benefit that I’ve noticed personally has been an overall increase in my levels of self-confidence.

I am now able to perform and speak more confidently in public, where in the past I would have been slightly shy and nervous. I can now demonstrate on most occasions without feeling over-anxious, of course you still require an element of nerves to get yourself initially fired up before a demo.TKD-KCA  – You and your family have performed lots of exhibitions. Does any one stick out in your mind?

Well, by far the most memorable was the one we did for the ‘Beckhams’ 2002 pre-world cup party. Members of KSW UK demo team, including my own family were actually asked to perform at that event. Of course that was amazing.

I mean any person in their right mind would have jumped at that opportunity. I literally had to pinch myself at least a couple of times to make sure that the whole experience wasn’t a dream.
Another time my family and I were invited to perform the opening demonstration at the 2005 Kuk Sool Masters’ Exhibition in Busan South Korea, in front of an audience of approximately ten thousand Korean spectators.

This exhibition was also broadcast on Korean TV, and was also shown in many other countries including parts of Southern China.

TKD-KCA – Tell us about your family.

Well, I’m married to Martin, who is also a Kuk Sool Master Instructor. Rachel our daughter is 21 years old and Jason is 18, both are 3rd degree black belt Instructor’s and are currently preparing for their 4th degree Black Belts in 2008. Both have been involved with Kuk Sool for the majority of their lives.

TKD-KCA – Have you ever competed in tournaments?

AD – I really enjoyed competing in the Kuk Sool tournaments, both here and in the USA. They were always great fun and I learnt a lot about my art and about myself as well. Wouldn’t you agree that these should be the main reasons for participating in tournaments in the first place and not just about winning?

As for my results, lets just say that I used to do reasonably well, especially as most of the time I had to compete against the men in the various different categories. I do have a few Gold medals hidden away in the cupboard somewhere.

TKDKCA  – Have you now retired from competing.

AD – In KSW you are no longer able to compete in tournaments after 4th Dan. Your role then becomes one of an official.
TKDKCA – Have you experienced any major challenges or setbacks along the way during your nearly 26 years of training.

AD – Well as I mentioned earlier I’ve always been rather flexible, the only problem with this is that my knee joints have a tendency to pop-in-and-out rather easily. I have suffered four dislocations on the same leg during my twenty-six year’s.

The worst was after only a few months of starting Kuk Sool, when I was just a yellow belt. I was performing a simple self-defence manoeuvre, when I unexpectedly found myself falling down on the ground. When I tried to stand I realised that my left leg was at a 90° angle, bent in the opposite direction to how it should be.

I recognized it was just one of those obstacles that life throws at you.  You have a choice, to either quit what you’re doing or just to get on with things. Over the last few years I’ve discovered how to successfully strap and bandage my knee so it doesn’t have the option to pop out so easily anymore.
TKD-KCA – What’s your favourite Kuk Sool weapon?

Well I really like practising with all the traditional weapons, as each has its own unique individual appeal. However I have a tendency to use the double short swords and traditional Korean fans for demonstration purposes, as these generally depict the specific roles used by the female Royal Court bodyguards.

TKD-KCA – What did you think of Korea?

AD- I’ve visited Korea twice, once in 2002 and 2005. Korea is a very, beautiful country and often described as the ‘land of contrast.’ My experience was very similar. I really enjoyed spending time visiting all the Buddhist temples and Monasteries however on the other hand, being a lady of course, I also enjoyed midnight shopping in the vibrant capital city of Seoul. It was very exhilarating, witnessing Kuk Sool performed at the highest levels getting to meet many high-ranking Korean Masters.

TKD-KCA – Name some of those Masters.

Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh, is like a father figure to us all in Kuk Sool. He is very kind and considerate and an exceptionally knowledgeable person to say the very least. I also really admire the Grandmaster’s wife, Sa Mo Nim. She works so hard behind the scenes dealing with Association business but she has always found time to look after our family on our numerous visits to the US.

The Grandmaster’s two eldest son’s – Master Sung Jing Suh and Master Alex Suh are always a great inspiration and I personally regard Master Alex as my main teaching influence. When Martin and myself visit KSW HQ it is Master Alex who looks after us.

I also need to mention Master’s Barry & Choon OK Harmon in the USA. They have been a major influence in helping us to establish a successful martial art business here in the UK.

Finally, I would like to thank my initial instructor – Master Philip Holmes. He really did persevere in getting me to start all those years ago. I still consider him a great friend and a major supporting influence for us all here in the UK.

TKD-KCA  – What’s next on the cards for you?

AD – Well of course I’m very proud to have reached Master grade but once the novelty of that wears off, it will be very much the same as before, training, teaching, and supporting my family like any good mother does.

There has been talk of another World Kuk Sool Association trip to Korea within the next year or so, which I’ve heard will be specifically dedicated to training, as opposed to the cultural trips and tournaments that we’ve previously done.

TKD-KCA –Master Alison Ducker – Thank you very much for the interview.

The pleasure was mine. Thank you!

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