As we approach the festive period, it is time to reflect on what a year we have shared. Our first year as a club, proudly representing St Helens, we have students who travel far and wide to our club on a weekly basis. I thank you for your dedication and your hard work. This year started with booking Cowley High School and they have been a good host for this year. We have no plans at present to move as we have a secure base. The modernisation of the gym is on the cards and we will be using other school facilities when this occurs.
The biggest change that I have witnessed since our formation is the friendships that have formed in the club, and the camaraderie that has developed as the year has moved along. The relationships between families and the youngsters is a pleasure to witness, and the way that everybody supports each other is crucial to our future. We have experienced all seasons together and we have seen laughter, tears and tantrums. We have seen broken toes, and we have seen dodgy knees. We have witnessed raw recruit white belts moving through the ranks and we have always gained new beginners to replace our crop of 8th Kups and above.
This year has been exciting, daunting, detailed and rewarding and none of this would have been possible without certain family names. Firstly, The Johnsons, headed by Andy Johnson, who has become a trusted confident, a fantastic ally and a taekwondo black belt with the true tenets of Taekwondo emblazoned across everything he does. (Big year next year Andy!) Joanne has become a valued club member who, with our other adult females, has caused more mischief than most! Joanne has juggled work commitments with training commitments and I have to state that she has taken the decision not to grade when she was entitled too, and as such, shows true martial spirit.
I recall three young men walking into the gym called Derbyshire, and the room lit up with their energy. Harvey, Zak and have developed into three excellent taekwondo students and all three would be very quickly stolen by any sport who requires athletes. I love their continued enthusiasm and the competition that exists between the three brothers is what will define their successes. Mum and Dad enabled them to come and train with us, and not to be outdone, both parents then decided that leading by example was the best way forwards. Darren and Tracey both work as hard as each other and a family of 5 black belts will be some achievement!
Cowley has provided us with one of their leading students in Ryan. Ryan started back in January with a couple of friends and he quickly became one of the mainstays of every class. Ryan is a perfectionist and he has mini tantrums with himself on a nightly basis. He has developed into a model Taekwondo student and we know we must keep him interested as he is multi-talented and excels at other sports and at academic studies. Ryan introduced his younger sibling to the club. Jack was the most quiet and shy boy that ever walked through our doors. He built up his own confidence by attempting to improve his practices and he now shines when performing poomsae. He understands the importance of delivering power by waist twist and how to chamber, block and strike like an adult.
Cowley also provided us with Antony who has worked to correct faults picked up from another club and is developing nicely. Antony has been hit by a couple of dodgy injuries but returns from injury where others would simply take the easy option and pack training in. Antony has an asset that you can not teach and that is resilience. Being over 6 foot will have its advantages and Antony will be watched very closely in sparring in the future.
We are blessed to have some of the most talented young ladies that you could come across at the club and sometimes the boys, (and adults) are intimidated by the girl power that exists in their enthusiasm. First to arrive was young Chloe, who cartwheeled herself across the floor and demonstrated her excellent gymnastics skills, (Causing the Derbyshire boys to do the same, as they like to demonstrate their gymnastic and acrobatic ability too.) Chloe was the most gentle young lady you could ever meet and she would ever so gently perform poomsae. Guided by our adults, Chloe began to find a real nasty streak and she turned into a little ninja almost overnight. To top this off, Chloe gained best in grading recognition earlier this month. Being a family club, as we are proud to boast, the inevitable happened, well… with a little bit of nagging and Katie Williams also begun to train with us. Katie herself has developed her skills to a good level this year and she will continue to do so as time passes by. She has been unfortunate this year with injury, but she has an enthusiasm that is encouraged by our other female adult members.
Another adult student arrived in the form of Ste. Ste had previously been a Karate Black Belt and it showed. He had the most devastating turning kick we had seen for a long time and we thought, wow, we can do something to help you become a Taekwondo student. Ste has tirelessly worked on changing his long-term memory and shortening long stances and chambering his hands in the correct position. He has now started to look like a taekwondo student and he, himself, cannot wait to compete in the new year.
A staff member from Cowley high school had talked to me about her two daughters and how they would like to try another martial art. Both girls arrived and both girls excelled in their other martial art. Kiera was a first Dan Karate Black Belt and Isla was moving towards her grading. (Kiera is now a Second Dan). Kiera is a world champion and Isla loves a scrap! Both girls are a true reflection of the martial arts values that learning Karate from a young age has bestowed upon them. Both girls are flying at Taekwondo and both girls train with massive smiles on their faces. These girls are a great example to our younger students and lead by example. Isla, one month before her black belt grading broke her toe. We were all gutted for her and it was fabulous to see her back two months later. We will support Isla in her grading, and wrap her in cotton wool this time! The relationships that have formed between our older youngsters and the young youngsters is fabulous.
Millie has been a constant member of the club since its formation and she has worked so hard to improve her Taekwondo. She has worked her way up to her green belt grading and she is due to grade soon. She has always trained with a massive smile on her face and she loves to be more flexible than anybody else! She has a big year ahead of her and I see her performing brilliantly in Poomsae tournaments, especially with our young girls’ squad!
Finally, I must reflect on my partner in all things, Kirsty. 2018 brought a nice meniscus tear and 2019 was interrupted by surgery and rehabilitation. This is the woman who has supported the development of the club and she is responsible for more things behind the scenes than anybody else. The reason I always train to this day is Kirsty. She is a very capable Blue Belt and she has excellent Poomsae style and is mean in sparring. She has not let injury put her out of Taekwondo for ever and she will return with vengeance. I have no doubt that Kirsty will join the mischievous adult female cohort again and all of our ladies will benefit from her return.
We have had students who have arrived from other clubs recently and we will no doubt see some more soon. I have the pleasure of teaching some of the most wonderful and dedicated students I have seen, and they are also the friendliest. We have always stated that we do not want egos and we have none, we do not want aggressive and hostile individuals and we have none, and we have always stated that we would offer a safe and supportive environment where everybody can train in a friendly, welcoming club, and that is what we have. We will welcome any new members in 2020 with open arms as we always have.
For all students who have supported Taekwondo with St Helens Taekwondo this year we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay safe, continue with your practice as a martial artist and we continue our Taekwondo Journeys on the 7th January 2020.