MMU Taekwondo have had a very busy but hugely successful 2016, and are looking forward to many more exciting events in the coming year.
We spoke to Ross Sharman, Coach and Instructor, who is studying a part time Masters in Animal Behaviour and Marine Biology. Ross started the first British University Taekwondo league and the team from MMU won this overall. We reflected on some of the club’s achievements so far, including red carpet phone calls, and found out what else they had planned for the rest of 2017.
Tell us a little bit about the club
I started the club in January 2011, when I was in my first year. There wasn’t actually a Taekwondo club at MMU. I’d been doing it about fourteen years at that point, so just wanted to carry it on, and I thought I’d see If anyone else wants to do it as well. It’s really popular, so I’d say most universities have a Taekwondo club now. We train on Tuesdays at the Sugden Sports Centre, and Thursdays in the Union studio, and sometimes on Saturdays we have squad training as well.
What is Taekwondo? What makes it different from other martial arts?
It’s a Korean martial art, originally from South Korea. It was formed in 1955, so it’s one of the newest martial arts. It’s really well rounded and covers a lot of stuff because it was created for life or death scenarios, and the Korean army had to use it to survive as not everyone had weapons. The word Taekwondo actually translates to ‘the art of hand and foot’. It really concentrates on making them the most powerful and most effective tools.
What events have you taken part in so far?
In July 2016, we went to the European Championships in Poland – we were the first ever university club to be invited which was great. We took four students, two black belts and two colour belts, and we came back with two golds, one silver and a bronze. Our club captain, Sarah Elliott, won gold, so she’s the black belt European World Champion at the moment. Our other committee member, Sam Capp is the colour belt European Champion as well. That’s a huge achievement but it was an honour just to be invited. All the other teams there were the elite squads from about sixteen or seventeen countries, and we were invited based on our achievements from the previous year where we won the first British University Taekwondo League, so after they saw that, they thought it would be great to let us have a chance. It was a great experience.
We also held one of our seminar training sessions in November 2016, where we invited a master or world champion from the Taekwondo world to teach a special session. We do four of those a year and we had Master Gary Bradshaw, one of the highest masters in the UK at the moment, come and teach us. It helps inspire the club and the training you get is really effective.
In December 2016 we held our annual charity ‘Fight Night’. It was an evening of Taekwondo live fights in a boxing ring and it makes it a bit more of a spectacle, and we did a demo for everyone to see what training would be like. 381 people attended, we managed to raise over £2000 and it was a really successful night. We’ve just finished the league season, and we’ve just been crowned champions for the second year. All 29 people in the squad have won gold throughout the league as well, which is amazing, and we’ve got fifteen unbeaten fighters across the competitive season.
Also, at the Sports Personality of the Year Awards in December 2016, I got a phone call from the red carpet, and it was the world number one and British fighter Lutalo Muhammed. He was calling all volunteers to say thanks for what we’ve done, and because I started the University Taekwondo league, he was saying thanks for doing that. I ended up thanking him, because he’s inspired a generation, so it was a really nice phone call! We both love Taekwondo, so it was nice to hear from him. I don’t know how it happened! Hopefully from that we can arrange to do something with him in the future.
What do you do outside of training and what’s next for the club this year?
After every training session, we pop to the pub just to socialise, which is really nice. We try and cater for everyone as we have a good mix of members from different backgrounds, so we also do an awards evening ourselves in May, and we give out awards to club members who have done the best. We also go on a club holiday — we’ve been to Tenerife for the last two years, and this year we are going to Bulgaria. We have Nationals coming up, they are in May. Then in September we’ve been invited to the World Championships in Holland – again we are the first university club to be invited, and that’s due to our success at the European Championships.
What would you say to anyone interested in getting involved in the club?
I’d say it’s just really important that anyone just comes and has a go at it, we’ve got everyone from beginners to black belts. The classes are structured so that everyone trains together, so people can do their own thing, but get to experience training with other people. They’re never taken out of their comfort zone and they can progress at their own pace. I’d say it’s brilliant for helping with confidence and your own personal growth and it helps people open up. Not only is it really fitness based, but you can get other skills out of it as well, there’s a lot of morals and discipline. There’s the five tenets of Taekwondo — courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. It has good teachings, and it’s a good foundation for living.
To find out more about Taekwondo or to get involved, check out the club's page or Facebook.