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Fight Camp

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The Annual British Student


Reliving the Pain and the Passion

by Choi Yan Yau

With three days devoted to the teachings of tae kwon do, hundreds of students from around the UK gather under one roof, drawn together by the magnetic ties of dedication, determination, and a beating passion for tae kwon do. Once again we relived the pain and the passion that is the annual BSTF fight camp.

Before continuing, a quick word about the hosts:students-1

The British student tae kwon do federation (BSTF) are a truly altruistic group of individuals in the world of tae kwon do. They are not for profit and everyone who gets involved including some of the highest level grandmasters share this ethos. They thrive purely from the love of tae kwon do and a passion to teach and have only one agenda; to keep the true spirit of tae kwon do alive. Having personally known some of these individuals for some time now, I canít help but notice that there is something different in the air they breathe; it comforts me to know that someone has our best interests at heart.

students-2The BSTF fight camp; just passed this April, is hosted annually in the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Aylesbury, providing top quality facilities, including a fully equipped gym, running track, swimming pool, sauna and a refectory selling only the healthiest of foods and a full range of accommodation. All training, breakfast, facilities and accommodation for the three days is accounted for in the mere fifty five pounds per student, just enough to cover the costs; with the Masters instructing for free. Every year the students look forward to reuniting, training together and learning from each other. We all come mentally prepared and raring to go, fully equipped with body, arm and shin protection, kick paddles and copious amounts of water, deep heat and freeze spray. This year drew crowds from the universities of; Bristol, UWE, Oxford Brookes, Birmingham, Southampton, Nottingham, Kent, Cambridge, London, Leicester, Sheffield and Westminster. Amongst the crowd were a few big names in student tae kwon do, including the famous siblings, Gavin and Tiffany Lin; current double gold medallists for both Sparring and Poomse at the 2008 BSTF national championships and too many other medals to mention.

This yearís annual fight camp was blessed with the presence of three of the highest level tae kwon do Masters; Grand Master Suh Ki Young (7th dan), Master Bae Dong Jin (6th dan) and Grand Master Tony Vohra (8th dan). I know that they wonít be happy for me to tell their history but for some of these masters, modesty is their worst enemy. I hope they will forgive me for what I am about to share with you. students-4

Born in 1958, Grand Master Suh Ki Young was the Korean national student champion by the age of 16. Having practised for almost 40 years now, he is a 7th Dan Kukkikwon certified International Instructor of Olympic Style Tae Kwon Do; one of the most senior masters in the UK. In his lifetime he has been coach to the National presidential Guard of Paraguay and the Argentinean, Brazilian and Paraguay tae kwon do national teams. He is also a Grand Master of Jung Sim Qi Gong (Internal Martial arts and high level meditation), which was passed down to him through family generations.

Master Bae Dong Jin, the youngest of the three masters is a former coach to the Korean Navy Team and the Inchen City team in Korea. He is currently a student in the UK, studying sports science at the University of Bournemouth and Teaching tae kwon do at Surrey University. Born in India 1958, Grand Master Vohra has practiced martial arts since 1970. He became a professional teacher in 1982, gained hisInternational Master Instructors Certificate back in Korea in 1998 and is now the UKís highest ranked instructor. He also competed in the World Championships in 1998 and 2000, bringing home many 1st place trophies. He has also taught the East Midland Universities Officer Training Corps the skills of Tae kwon do, Self- Defence and Unarmed Combat.

For those of you who have attended fight camp or are thinking about coming next year; this is the level of Masters we are dealing with here, and this is why such an opportunity should not be missed at any cause. students-6

Over the three days, the fight camp completes an incredible nineteen hours of training which leaves you in a state of nostalgia, fully battered and bruised yet thirsty for more. You know youíve trained hard when youíre hobbling awkwardly through the streets with legs wide apart like John Wayne.

This hectic three day weekend usually  plans out as follows: Friday, 6pm arrival, registration and 7-9.30pm straight into training. Saturday, 7- 8am track training, 10am-1pm and 3pm-7pm indoor training 8-10pm organised social and meal. Sunday, 7-8am track training, 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm indoor training, 6-7pm breaking demonstrations, photos and goodbyes.

Throughout the three days, training consisted of: sparring training focussing on stepping techniques, attacking, counter attacking and combination kicking; paddle training working on power and speed; full contact but friendly practice in the ring; dynamic and yoga style stretching and flexibility training; Poomse training and demonstrations; meditation and qigong training and special breathing exercises; fitness, stamina and balance training at the crack of dawn on the running track; and a breaking competition to perfectly finish off the weekend.

I have been asked to write what I thought were the best and worst moments of fight camp. Like the paradox of life; my personal favourite moments at fight camp always seem to be coupled with my most dreaded. I dread what I fear I cannot achieve; winning a fight, running the track, getting up at six in the morning; yet Iím pushed to all my limits and beyond; and from that point of no return, I have learnt something new every time.

Other legendary fight camp moments, included: the all you can eat Chinese buffet, which this time round saw a black belt shamefully lose to a yellow belt in our own all you can eat ice cream competition; tae kwon do style Pillow Fights in the dormitories strictly following WTF rules; midnight snacking and lounging with pillows in the corridors; lots of photo taking and reminiscing, laughing about the day gone by and all the other little yet meaningful things that draw the student tae kwon do community closer together each year.

For me, itís always amazing to see my friendsí progress. Every year we come back with a new coloured belt and shock each other at how much weíve improved technically, and joke about how bad we once were. Thereís always an air of friendly competition that drives us all forward, yet we look out for each other and want genuinely to help one another progress. The student tae kwon do community is very much a family in this sense. We love sharing our time together, ever reliving old memories and creating new ones. A special thank you goes out to Trevor Page, the BSTF treasurer and David Grey the BSTF vice president, who had a huge role to play in organising this yearís camp, as well as Master Suh, Master Vohra and Master Bae for sharing their years of experience with us.

The BSTF fight camp is open to anyone who wishes to attend, either as a group or individually. Many non students have also attended in the past and it is open to all forms of tae kwon do.

Here is what some of the guys had to say about Fight Camp 2008:

Sarah Kennedy (Oxford Brookes):
Wow, fight camp, amazing as always thanks to the hard work of Master Suh and other organisers. I had loads of fun and learnt loads too. Canít wait for a
year to go by so we can go again!!

Waseem Mohammed (West Midlands):
I can hardly walk but I canít wait for the next fight camp!!

Mike Day (Kent Uni.):
I think the name of this event should beďI Survived the BSTF Fight Camp 2008... barelyĒ... lol

Vicky Nesbitt (London):
Fight camp was awesome! I agree with Sarah - we learned so much (who would have thought falling would be so much fun!), and have plenty of things to take back with us for normal training sessions. As well as learning so much, we also had the chance to meet old friends, and make new ones which is always fun :-).

I think itís your turn to win breaking next year :-). Thanks to everyone for making this such a memorable weekend. Roll on Fight Camp 2009!!!

Michael Voong (Birmingham UK):
Thanks for the words of wisdom Master Suh - I really enjoyed training with you - and I love your training methods! See you next year or hopefully before! Thanks BSTF and everyone that helped out for making this possible!

If you are interested in attending this three day fight camp in the future then Email and stay tuned in at the group in the new student hub; Facebook:

For more information about the BSTF, visit the website:

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