- AGE/DOB: 45 years old 15th July 1960
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Halesworth, Suffolk
- OCCUPATION: Full Time Kuk Sool Instructor (18 years)
- FAMILY: Alison children: Rachel (19) Jason (17)
- YEARS TRAINING IN KS: 27 years
- AGE BEGAN: 18 years old
- LOCATION OF TRAINING: Beccles, Suffolk
- OTHER MATIRAL ARTS? None
- FIRST INSTRUCTOR: KJN Philip Holmes
- INSTRUCTOR NOW AR: Lowestoft, Halesworth, Ipswich, (Suffolk)
- HOW REGULARLY: Every night
- REASON FOR STARTING MA: Self-defence (I got into a lot of scraps when I was 17years old)
- OTHER INTERESTS: Yoga, Art, Music, Reading
How often do you train now, and what does your training entail:
I train and teach everyday in some form or other. I also enjoy running two to three miles every other day and practice meditation and yoga on a regular basis, these additional activities help supplement my regular daily Kuk Sool practice.
What is your motivation to train after years of practice:
My motivation is to be more healthier and fitter at the age of 45, than I was at 25 years of age.
How do you perceive that the ma’s have changed since that time:
In the old days as students we were encouraged to practice mainly for self-defence reasons, things used to be quite brutal back then. I can always remember my brother-in-law getting his front teeth knocked out by a woman during a sparring bout. Today much emphasis is placed on health and personal development. I recognise that today we are not training our students to go into battle, instead we are encouraging them to become the very best that they can be, in all areas of life.
What if anything do you enjoy most about your training?
Personally I love practicing forms or hyung’s, this I can do on my own without a partner. For me practising Kuk Sool forms represent a total body workout, as well as a great way of calming the mind. I also really enjoy the traditional Korean archery.
Would you say that you specialise in anything:
From a training point of view I believe that I am reasonably proficient in all aspects of Kuk Sool and tend not to specialise in any particular area, however I do believe that my particular strength is in teaching and helping others understand the unique concepts that Kuk Sool offers.
M: You have, as it were, a martial arts family. Does this change the family unit in any way:
To answer your question; it hasn’t changed our family life at all, because Kuk Sool has always been part of our life together, we don’t know anything different.
As a family we are exceptionally close, we have a special unity that can only be described as quite unique. I know that Kuk Sool is recognised throughout the world as a ‘family martial art’ and hopefully we represent this image.
My wife Alison has been practising Kuk Sool for 25 years and is a 4th degree black belt. Both our children, Rachel and Jason started when they were three years old and still practice regularly to this day.
MA and the benefits/effect it has had on your children, and the kids that you teach at KS:
The benefits and positive effects that martial arts has on children’s lives is enormous, what other activity teaches children respect, courtesy, self-discipline as well as adopting a healthy lifestyle.
It has become apparent to me, that the many children that have studied Kuk Sool, including my own kids have gone on to do remarkably well in other areas of life as well. At first I thought this was a bit of a coincidence, but over the years I have to say it has become extremely noticeable and apparent that martial art training certainly gives a person the edge.
To the envy of many, the Lowestoft school has dominated the UK (the now European tournament in recent years) winning the overall winning school on eight consecutive occasions. How have you achieved this:
Well if I revealed the secret to you we might no longer win… however if I told you that generally we are not concerned with winning tournaments, would that surprise you? In fact our main emphasis is on Teamwork and providing outstanding student service. Following on from this we have developed a fantastic team of instructor’s who work very hard providing excellent tuition in a friendly and relaxed environment.
What would you say are the most important aspects of running a ma school:
Without a shadow of a doubt one of the most important aspects of running a successful martial art school is EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This must take place on many different levels for example; it all starts with the school owner, communicating effectively with his or her instructors and staff, in turn the instructors must have developed great rapport when dealing with students and parents. Usually I find that when things start to go wrong it can be traced back to lack of communication on all levels.
What part does etiquette play in your school and why:
In Kuk Sool we are reminded that developing correct martial art etiquette is the first step in developing a strong mind. Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh also told me it’s also a very important principal in having a very successful martial art school – and of course he was right!
What is the best thing that you get from KS (abilities, disabilities, ages, sex possibly):
Kuk Sool means many different things to many different people, however personally for me it is a complete system of training for mind, body and spirit, which I find very enjoyable to practice and extremely rewarding to teach.
Tell us about the KS syllabus: The Kuk Sool curriculum is structured similar to that of the school educational system, adopting, primary, intermediate, high and advanced stages of learning. To my understanding a Kuk Sool Won 1st Degree black belt is the equivalent of a B.A. (Bachelors Degree). The 3rd degree is comparable to that of the M.A. (Masters Degree) hence, one reason we get a wider black belt at this stage, and as mentioned, the 5th Degree is the PhD Degree. As we all know the PhD degree is a level that a person never stops studying and training in ones chosen subject.
What do you tend to focus on and why: I tend to focus on being extremely positive. I also try to see the good in every situation if possible. Of course I do have my moments like everyone else, but these are now becoming few and far between.
Over the years we have had to educate the public to view martial arts in a different paradigm. Typically martial art’s was viewed as an aggressive type of activity. Today many people are beginning to recognise the positive attributes that the martial arts has to offer.
M: you opened a school in Thurso, Caithness Scotland ; tell me about that Why, and what it entailed:
I was originally invited to the North of Scotland, by one of my students SBN Donald Mackenzie, who now lives and teaches Kuk Sool in Edinburgh. Together we started Kuk Sool Won of Caithness School.
During a period of ten years I had travelled the 700-mile journey up to Caithness more than thirty times, in order to help support the school. I’m pleased to say that the school is still thriving to this day, fifteen years later, under the guidance of PSBN Cathy Smith.
M: David Beckham/ Prince Charles. You have also been a key figure in publicising KS. Tell us about that:
I have been very privileged to have been invited to perform Kuk Sool exhibitions as part of a team for some of the UK’s most famous VIP’s including David Beckham, HRH Prince Charles and Prince Edward. I did take the liberty of presenting each VIP with a Kuk Sool honorary black belt on behalf of the WKSA and received extensive media publicity.
M: Tell us about your business/ Shiatsu:
Today I only teach Kuk Sool as my main profession. Originally I decided to study Shiatsu / oriental medicine as way of learning more about the bodies energy system, which incorporates pressure point knowledge and application. I did have a separate business practising Shiatsu for several years, as well as teaching Kuk Sool but I became overworked and eventually burnt myself out, trying to do both.
I am still a registered practitioner but I only use Shiatsu to a treat a small amount of friends and family, or to help speed up the recovery time for individual students after prolonged illness or injury.
How realistic is it to open a school with a view to making a living, and being self-sufficient on that alone:
When I first stated out as a professional instructor there was no one else around teaching full-time, it was almost unheard of. I always recall my mother telling me to ‘go out and find a proper job’ thankfully I persisted with the venture and ended up where I am today, with what I like to think is a successful business.
Anyone can now start up a career as martial art entrepreneur quite easily, but I would recommend searching out one of the many martial art business management companies here in the UK to give a helping hand through the initial early stages. Like any other business it takes time to build.
Got your Masters when:
In October 2002 in South Korea.
Tell us about the ceremony:
It was a memorable occasion, as you would expect, receiving your Masters degree in South Korea. But I have to say the ceremony was quite strange, the atmosphere was very subdued, and I had only a handful of close friends including my wife to witness the event, but it was still a very exciting moment.
What does it mean to you to be bestowed with the title master:
Of course it’s a great privilege and an honour. Also for me it personally signifies martial art maturity, becoming an adult in the martial art world. It seems quite Ironic, that when you become a Kuk Sool Master you are presented with a ceremonial white belt, which signifies one journey about to be completed, and another one about to begin.
How do things change for you at master level:
The level of responsibility does increase, everyone expects so much more from you. I have to add that once the novelty wares off I like to think that I am still the same person as I was before. I try to not get too hung up on the title, however I still regard it has a great nonour.
What does the first level (5th dahn) syllabus entail:
(Not sure yet)
It is said that up till masters level, emphasis is put on hitting points with a view to hurting an attacker, but at master level emphasis is put onto using those same points to heal/ talk about: As I’ve already mentioned I have concentrated a lot of my time and energy into this particular subject. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my own instructor KJN Philip Holmes for his encouragement and inspiration in myself perusing oriental medicine. KJN Philip is a registered Acupuncturist and one of the highest authorities in Kuk Sool in the UK when it comes to healing, hopefully he will be asked to produce some articles for TKD and Korean Martial Magazine for future editions concerning this subject.
Tell me about the trip to Korea, how the competition compared to the ones that you have been witness to in Europe, and the Korean people. What the trip meant to you.
It was billed as the trip of a lifetime and for me it certainly lived up to all the expectations. From a competition point of view everything is much the same except for the sparring being full contact, as opposed to semi contact in Britain and the US.
I was amazed to see kids getting knocked down during sparring on a hard wooden floor, getting straight back up and continuing on without a complaint, their only objective was ‘to hit the other person back’.
Korea is a rich blend of transition and tradition and a great place to visit. As for the Korean people they are overwhelmingly friendly and have some great customs, which are incredibly good fun and interesting to learn.
Did you learn any Korean: was there a language barrier:
How do you see the structure of KS in Europe and the UK at the moment:
Everything in Kuk Sool is organised and systemized but the Grandmaster himself, the way I see it everything is going accordingly to plan.
I remember Grandmaster Suh saying, that from little acorns big oak trees grow – we are now witnessing considerable growth of Kuk Sool throughout the UK and Europe. Personally I would like to see Kuk Sool expand more extensively into countries like France and Italy.
Tell us something that we do not know about you.
I have recently celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary something I feel extremely proud of.
What is there left for you to still achieve:
That’s a great question Paul. I have to admit that I have exceeded all of my own expectations and ambitions up to now within Kuk Sool, therefore, my future ambition is not for myself but for my wife Ali. I want to see her reach Master’s level hopefully within the next two years. She’s a fabulous martial artist and one of the many unsung hero’s involved in Kuk Sool over the last twenty years.
Anything else you would like to talk about:
I would just like to thank yourself Paul for the interview and of course my colleague and friend Master Steve Issacson for being a great representative and ambassador for Kuk Sool. Thanks.