Back at the beginning of the millennium, after a 5 year break from teaching Taekwon-Do, I wanted to set up a new Taekwon-Do school. I looked for a town which would be big enough to have a large school with at least 4 adult classes each week.
In February 2001, I ran an opening demonstration for Brighton & Hove Taekwon-Do School. Being part of TKD Impact, Grand Master Nardizzi, a few of his students, some of my black belts from my old clubs in East Grinstead and Crowborough, and myself performed in this small demo in front of an enthusiastic audience. This was the beginning of my new journey as a TKD instructor. At the time I could not have dreamt of just how successful the club was going to become or the amazing journey I was going on, meeting many terrific and interesting people who were to be my students.
The first classes of the new venture were a single children’s class followed by an adult/teen class on a Sunday afternoon in a very small hall at Withdean Sports Centre. At the time this was the home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.
The School’s Development
From that modest start, the school has grown to having 6 adult/teen classes and 7 children’s classes each week. I have built the school by developing after school clubs and encouraging the younger teenagers to assist in the children’s classes providing so many life skills. Many of my classes are now filled with teenagers and adults who first started as 4 & 5 year olds in the kids classes. I have seen my students train from 5 years of age until they go to university and then coming back after they have graduated.
For me one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching is all the different people I get to meet along the way. People from all walks of life are the individuals who make this group so special and who create the positive atmosphere in the classes. I am very proud to say that the number one recurring comment about my school is the friendly atmosphere.
When a new student walks into my dojang I see a new potential black belt. Regardless of natural ability or their physical coordination, each student contributes to the club and even if a person never achieves black belt, they will get something positive out of training at Brighton & Hove Taekwon-Do.
Social Inclusion & Diversity
For a 4 year period I am proud of the fact that a few of my black belts and myself ran a free-to-access class for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. These were really great people determined to rebuild their lives having lost most things people hold dearest.
The club has also been able to provide a very safe place for adults who are autistic and have learning difficulties. These students come and train equally, unjudged, enjoying their training just like anybody else.
Black Belts & Beyond
Of course, 2020 and 2021 are very different years than any of us ever expected.
In the first 19 years my club has produced 70 black belts and there are several who were not able to grade last year due to the pandemic.
The first Brighton & Hove black belt, Mr James Morris 2nd degree, is now teaching a small club in norther Spain, whereby, he is teaching children, in after school clubs, English through teaching Taekwon-Do.
Many of the Brighton & Hove black belts have graded up to 2nd degree, several 3rd degree black belts and Katerina Avramides gained her instructor stripes by training up with me from white belt to 4th degree.
Another 4th degree, Nick Sargeant who has trained with me since he was a 1st degree and has gone on to open up his own successful clubs in Burgess Hill and Crawley.
Competition is a key facet of the club and a few students have won their place on the England Team. This all started with Charlie Bishop Williams, in 2007, gaining her place at just 14 years of age and winning gold medals in both the European and World Championships. Since then, there have been Brighton & Hove Taekwon-Do black belts selected every year, and in 2019 we had 4 selected to compete for England at the 2019 Euros.
20 amazing years! And now to the future. The last 10 months have been particularly difficult for most of us, another challenge for all Taekwon-Do practitioners everywhere. However, we are dedicated, determined people and Brighton & Hove Taekwon-Do students have shown their indomitable spirit through out this tough time. As we come out of these strange times I’m looking forward to even more success from my club and meeting many more amazing people. Here’s to the next 20 year!