Article written by Emma Michelle Pymm regarding her training and subsequent black belt jump Dan promotion from 2nd Dan to 4th Dan with Grandmaster Tony Vohra.
I started training in TaeKwonDo in 1997 when I was 18 (a scarily long time ago now!). I had just finished school and, with no PE lessons at 6th Form College, I wanted some exercise that was more interesting than going to the gym and watching men posing in front of mirrors with weights I couldnít lift. A new friend, Jon Parry, had just got his black belt, and I initially became interested through talking to him and listening to his enthusiasm about TaeKwonDo and the club he attended. I had done judo as a small person and so I wasnít a complete stranger to martial arts. We got talking about stretching and, when Jon found out that I could touch my toes without bending my legs, he suggested that I go to the TaeKwonDo class he attended. I was still a bit reluctant. I remember saying, ďIíll be rubbish at that!Ē and worrying about looking like an idiot.
But when I got over my nerves and started, I loved it. I became addicted early on. I remember practising low and high blocks and getting so frustrated because I couldnít get my hands and feet co-ordinated! My first classes were with Master John Turner in Brigg and when my friends Jon Parry and Andrew Sharp started classes in Brigg and Broughton, I trained with them too. The Friday night class in Broughton Village Hall was my favourite. For about the first year, we had to throw mats down from a balcony to cover the concrete floor which hadnít dried out properly. You had to be really careful not to step off the mats or you would end up with your uniform covered in dust! My first grading was held in a church hall in Grimsby. Throughout the whole grading I was incredibly nervous; I remember my arms shaking throughout the blocks and the pattern. At the end, I earned my first bit of electricianís tape and became a yellow stripe. I was so proud!
Over the next few years, I continued training, although when I finished university and started working I had to stop training six nights a week. I achieved my first and second Dans in 2001? and 2003? and moved my training to Hull where Jon Parry had set up 5 Tenets TaeKwonDo. I started my own clubs, one at the school at which I was teaching, one teaching 5-9 year olds, the Tenet Tigers, and one for adults and also taught self defence courses. I enjoyed the teaching and the training and suddenly, 6 years had passed without me having graded again.
I think that turning 30 inspired me to grade again. When I started TaeKwonDo, once Iíd got over my nerves, my aim was to get to my Black Belt but, as I progressed through the belts, I started to think about getting my 4th Dan and set my sights on achieving that. I knew I had enough time in to jump from 2nd to
4th Dan - and I thought I had the skill - but I didnít know where to go, especially as it was important for me to be Kukkiwon certified. In August 2009, I phoned Master Malcolm Siddall, someone I had known for a long time. He recommended Master Tony Vohra straight away. When I first contacted Master Vohra, he was very friendly and open about how to go about grading and potentially jumping to 4th Dan and about the prices and process, Unlike some people I had heard about, he didnít ask that I affiliate all my members with his club or pay an extortionate joining fee. Instead, he invited me down to his club in Nottingham that weekend to take part in a seminar designed for people who were intending to grade. Master Vohra was very patient, despite me annoying him with my too wide long stance and inability to jump very high! I attended training sessions about once a month after that and he also offered other seminars and one to one instruction. Everyone who came to the seminars was so friendly and it was very advantageous to have other people training with me to achieve the same end. The seminars covered all of the skills which Master Vohra tests during a black belt grading. Following the warm up and stretch we worked on kicking techniques including reverse kicks and jumping kicks; Master Vohra watched our patterns in groups and individually gave us a critique and we worked on basic stances and blocks, including knowing the correct weight distribution and foot position of each stance. As well as this we worked on one step sparring and self defence. Master Vohra was keen for those of us who didnít usually train together to share the different thoughts and techniques we had for self defence and to learn from each other. The seminars lasted for 5 or 6 hours and we were always treated to a tasty lunch. Although I couldnít attend all of the seminars, I am really grateful that Master Vohra let me come down on one of his few days off and gave me some one to one tuition.
I eventually graded in December 2009, the day after our club Christmas meal unfortunately! The grading followed much the same structure as the seminars so nothing was unfamiliar or a surprise. We performed our patterns first and then moved on to kicking, self defence, one step sparring, sparring and destruction. Master Vohra invited back people who had graded previously to receive their Dan certification and to perform some mini demonstrations.
My family and friends were invited to come down and having their support was so valuable; it helped me get through the long, and fairly cold, day. Overall I did enjoy the grading, but it was nerve-wracking to be honest. Having not graded for so long, I was terrified of forgetting my patterns or taking the wrong leg forward on my stances or hitting someone during the one step sparring. But all went well. I was thrilled to have been able to grade and I am very thankful to Master Vohra for making the process so uncomplicated and straightforward and for taking so much time to help me to achieve my goal of becoming a 4th Dan in TaeKwonDo. Hopefully, getting to 5th wonít take so long!
Obviously, reading articles and books can help to improve your theoretical knowledge and practice of techniques; however, nothing beats practical, first-hand tuition. Master Tony Vohra is always pleased to
offer this type of quality expertise to allow you to reach your highest potential. Individualised personal
development programmes are currently being run locally, nationally and internationally. These have already succeeded in enabling practitioners, both young and old, to achieve their physical, mental and spiritual goals. Educational programmes are also being run at present, working with young children to promote positive values such as physical health, self esteem and self confidence and to combat negativity, obesity and bullying.
If you are interested in taking part in any courses or require any advice, Master Tony Vohra is pleased to be of service to individual students, instructors and clubs and can arrange demonstrations, courses & seminars to suit any individual or groups both at home and abroad. For further details please contact:
President Grandmaster S. S. Vohra (8th Dan),
International School of Martial Arts UK HQ,
Nottingham School of Tae Kwon Do,
Ilkeston Rd., Nottingham NG7 3FX, England.
Tel: 00 44 (0)115 9780439;
Fax: 0044 (0)115 9785567
Photography: Master Jeff Scott-Smith 5th Dan (firstname.lastname@example.org)