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Martial Arts, Taekwondo

Interview – Master Vohra, a first class instructor. The ONLY first class instructor


In our last interview we covered how Master Vohra became the highest ranked official WTF Taekwondo Master in the United Kingdom. Not only is he officially the highest ranked WTF 8th Dan in the United Kingdom, but he’s also the country’s only 1st Class instructor.

July was a truly unique month for him as he first qualified as an 8th Dan and then went straight through to his 1st Class Instructor’s course.

The regime that he had to follow whilst on the course was very regimented indeed. Doboks had to be worn at all times, whether or not they were physically training or in the classroom and they were expected to sit up straight and stand whenever an instructor or lecturer entered the room. So strict was this regime that the students were given press-ups if they were late. Anyone who failed to follow the rules was told that they could either follow the rules or go home.

Master Vohra has given Taekwondo & Korean Martial Arts magazine an exclusive insight as to what the now tried and tested course actually consists of.

“Every day in the course started at 0830 and then ran through to 18:00. We were then expected to self-study from 1800 onwards.”

The week started with all of the students present (over 100) submitting all of the relevant documents along with the $200 registration fee. Considering that this is a five-day course taught by some of the highest ranking officials in the Kukkiwon and WTF, $200 for such training is an amazing deal. Included in this price were the textbooks that all students were expected to read and make notes in.

Kim Byung-un was their first lecturer and he more than set the tone for the rest of the course.

“He explained the general format as to how things operated and gave a two hour lecture on the Kukkiwon and how it operates.

No matter what grade the students were, Kim Byun-un explained that the Kukkiwon is solely responsible for the development of Taekwondo as well as the certification of all black belts. He went on to explain that the WTF was solely the sport section. With this in mind, he explained how Taekwondo is a complete martial art and not just a sport. Tae is 25% Kwon is 25% and Do is 50%. If we’re looking at examining someone we have to look at the ‘Do’ over the plain kicking and punching.”

The course instructors also made sure that everyone present was able to cover the full martial art rather than one specific aspect. Basic movements were taught in the dojang by Lee Jong-Kwan.

“He was kind enough to have given us private training for my 8th Dan the week before. Mr Noh, Hyng Jun then took us for basic forms Taeguk 1-8 which carried on through to 1800. Three hours of training under the World Champion of Poomsae was a real honour.”

Because certain countries or groups might have their students doing things differently in their patterns, the objective of the course was to ensure that everyone is now singing from the same hymn sheet. All of the information presented on the course was contained in the textbooks and the instructors also made their presentations available for all present.

During the week the attendees were also taught Poomsae by Master Noh Hyng-Jun and Kang Il-Pil who took them through the black belt forms. As the forms got higher and more advanced, Master Lee Chon Kwon (who had taken Master Vohra for private lessons) took on for the higher Dan Pomsae.

Previously, Taekwondo was ‘blind’ to the different body shapes of students the world over. Stances, for example, were set at ‘1.5 shoulders long, 1 shoulder wide’. Now however, instructors are being told to take individual body shapes and needs into account.

“We were told that we had to take an individual’s different build into account by Master Lee so all the techniques are now taught sp that depending on body shape, students can still deliver techniques that are effective for them.”

So in-depth was this course that Master Seo Jung-yoon gave a lecture covering fundamental club management. In this lecture he taught the attendees on how to run a successful club, as well as how to treat students and ensure high retention.

The Head of Planning and Development Kim Byung-Sung’s lecture went into promotions (gradings), student eligibility, and even what they should look for including correct eye control and breathing.

The attendees were then taught an unbiased and complete history of Taekwondo from the start through to modern day by Master Ha Ung-yong.

Aside from the more traditional and business orientated aspects of Taekwondo; students were also taken through a two-hour presentation of the World Taekwondo Federation rules by Master Lee Sang-Hun for two hours.

Often when someone gets a black belt it is assumed that they are immediately able to teach Taekwondo to all and sundry. This is not the case however and the Kukkiwon recognises that it is very important to ensure that even high-ranking Dan grades fully understand the best teaching practices and methods. With this in mind, Master Son Chun-Taek gave an in-depth presentation of Taekwondo teaching methods. During his speech he covered the format of how you teach people, how to treat children and how to get the best out of people.

The 1st Class Instructor’s course is the most in-depth courses on Taekwondo that anyone (regardless as to whether they are ITF or Kukkiwon/WTF) can attend. This is backed up by the fact that not only do attendees cover patterns, teaching methodology and how to run their schools, for example, but they were also taught how to plan and conduct demonstrations. Master Lee Kyu-Hyun of the Korean Demonstration Team taught demonstration theory with the attendees watching DVDs of the demonstrations whilst being talked through the format of the demonstrations. This was then followed with an open question session.

A theme that was constant throughout the course was the emphasis placed upon teaching Taekwondo correctly and in the best manner possible. Master Sun Jung-Kyu taught Taekwondo counselling.

“The presentation carefully covered the roles of teachers, and coaches. Specifically this explained how important it was to be a good role model, how important it was to have a good self-image (always making sure that you’re well groomed and wearing a clean and ironed Dobok for example). He also told us that we should be good ambassadors for Taekwondo and leading by example, always making sure that we teach techniques properly.”

One of the more practical sessions was Fighting Theory by Yang Dae-Seung. “He was a gold medallist four years on the trot. He actually took us in 2005 as well and this time he gave an even better delivery of the lecture. It boiled down to basic techniques being good for fighting, covering movement, and taking it from there.”

As you can see, if you’re planning to attend any of the 3rd, 2nd or 1st Class Instructor’s courses you’re going to have a very busy time indeed. Not only is there a lot of class work and theory to be covered (both during the day and in the student’s own time) but there is a lot of physical training as a lot of time is spent covering the basics of Taekwondo and the patterns. You can then expect to have a short exam.

On the last day, there is a presentation and for Master Vohra this “was highlight for me as I was number one on the course and got I also got a commendation letter which was something that I truly didn’t expect. This was presented by the President of the World Taekwondo Academy.”

Mr Oh Dae Young,,Ph.D World Tae Kwon Do Academy Kukkiwon Academic Section Head at Kukkiwon was also at the presentation.

Aside from the Masters giving the presentations, there were a number of other people who helped keep things moving.

As Master Vohra explained; “Master Young Nip Na was in charge of students from the United Kingdom and we enjoyed a couple of meals and drinks. He showed us traditional Korean hospitality.

When I went to Daejung, I was introduced to Master In Kwon Jang 6th Dan from Seoul. Who said that this was the first time he’d ever met a foreign 8th Dan and was very impressed that I was attending the Kukkiwon to grade. He made the effort to come and see me and invited me to have a meal with himself and his wife.”

Master Vohra has such good relations with the Kukkiwon and the WTF that he was “honoured to be invited to a meeting with Master Yang Jin Suk, the General Secretary of the WTF we had a quick meeting and introduction because earlier this year I did my International Referee’s course in Cairo, Eygpt.”

In closing, he said that he wanted to express his gratitude to the International Department International Director Mr Lee Hyun Sun because, without their hard work, it would not have been possible for him to have attended the course. It was through them that he was able to obtain the special documentation he needed that allowed him to continue his stay and register for the course.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7. Matthew was Features Editor, Technical Consultant and regular columnist for magazines such as ‘Fighters’, ‘Combat’, ‘TKD & Korean Martial Arts’ and ‘Traditional Karate’. These are the four leading martial arts magazines in the United Kingdom. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed 'Practical Taekwondo: Back to the Roots', which has been sold around the world. With regard to his martial arts background he has been studying martial arts since 1991. In 1995 he hosted Professor Rick Clark of the ADK and since then has been studying pressure points and their uses in the martial arts and on the street (initially as a Special Constable and as a Door Supervisor). All of this practical hands-on experience means that he is uniquely placed to write fight scenes that are not only plausible but some of which are based on personal or anecdotal experience. Matthew has had a number of short stories published by Fringe Works, KnightWatch Press, Anderfam Press and Emby Press.

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