The past few weeks have been fun and hectic with our school participating in both the Scottish and European WKSA Championships. We had great success at both tournaments, and it was a privilege to see so many masters and students from near and far promoting to their next ranks.

Competing twice in the space of two weeks at two different ranks has been a goal of mine for some time. Although, with other priorities, we didn’t actually finalise plans to attend the European Tournament in Norwich until after the Scottish Tournament was over!

Scottish Black Belt Tournament

The Scottish Tournament started on Friday the 24th May in the Bathgate Kuk Sool Won Dojang, with only myself from our school competing in the black belt competition. The overall standard at Kuk Sool tournaments is clearly improving year on year and I’m delighted to have won 5 out of 6 possible medals and a gold medal in my last ever sparring tournament. Congratulations to a friend of mine and great martial artist Jake Jones on winning the overall Grand Champion title in my age category!

Black Belt Testing and Colour Belt Tournament

Saturday morning at the Scottish Tournament now kicks off with national testing, where black belts and black belt candidates come together to demonstrate their ability and progress toward their next rank. In Kuk Sool, when you are in your testing period, you grade several times for about 2 years until you are recommended to be promoted to your next rank. It can be a draining few hours, so I am glad it was held the day after the black belt tournament instead of the morning before! We had two students begin testing for their black belts, Dahn Bo Nims Apoorva and Valerie. For myself and JKN Brian, this would thankfully be our final testing before promotion!

Once testing was complete and we had stuffed our faces, the colour belt tournament began. We had six students competing, and every single one of them managed to win at least one medal!

I’d also like to give a special mention to Sarah. In her first ever tournament, she won a perfect three gold medals, one in every division! I’d also like to mention DBN Apoorva, who won three gold medals plus one silver. Both of them have been working incredibly hard in class, and it’s great to see them be rewarded for their efforts.

Well done to everyone who competed and thank you to all our students and instructors who helped everyone prepare!

Black Belt Promotions and Awards

The final part of the tournament weekend is the black belt promotion ceremony and demonstration. Congratulations to my good friend and long time student Brian on reaching the rank of 2nd Dahn (Kyo Sa Nim). I know you have worked incredibly hard despite some health troubles in the run up to grading and thoroughly deserve your promotion! Well done, Kyo Sa Nim Brian.

KSN Brian has also written a blog post about his Crohn's disease and training. Have a read when you are done here!

It was then time for me to promote to the rank of 4th Dahn or Sa Bum Nim. I had been a 3rd Dahn for what felt like forever, and it feels very strange to reach this level. When I started Kuk Sool, so many of the now senior masters who I look up to were 4th Dahn at the time, so I feel a lot of pressure and a duty to lift myself to their level! At the promotion ceremony, it was an honour to be promoted by Kuk Sa Nim alongside my first instructor, JDKJN Don Mackenzie, and my current instructor, PKJN Graeme Temple. I’m incredibly thankful to both of them for everything they have done for me!

We had one last nice surprise in the announcements for school places, where each school competes for the overall best school. Every medal a student wins from each school is added together to determine which school has the overall highest score. We managed to win an incredible 8th place overall, totaling 71 points with only 7 students. This meant we scored an average of over 10 points per student. Well done team! We often don’t place at all and to get a top 10 with so few is a great achievement.

Let’s Go to Norwich!

That evening, while celebrating with some of our closest friends from the Westhill and Inverurie KSW schools, we decided to commit to travelling to Norwich to join them the following week for the European Championship. It was an exciting opportunity for me to compete at a new rank for the first time in six years, and KSN Sarah decided she wanted to compete too. One very hasty practice session and seven hours of driving later, and we found ourselves there.

The venue was much larger at the European tournament, and there were a lot of 4th Dahn competing. Needless to say, I felt quite nervous and a bit out of place in my new division. After what felt like eternity, I was called for my first division, spear form. Thankfully, I managed to get through it with no mistakes and the nerves settled a bit. Techniques and empty hand form followed and before I knew it, we were finished.

To my amazement, I managed to win 4th place for each of my forms! The standard of the other martial artists I was competing with meant I had expected nothing but to be straight onto the podium is an achievement I am extremely proud of. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see KSN Sarah’s tournament, but she won silver for her sparring! She has been working incredibly hard on sparring in class, and I’m extremely proud she made it to the final at this level of competition! I also have to say a special thanks to KSN Chris for taking charge of our sparring class and helping KSN Sarah, and other students, improve their sparring game!

Masters Promotions

Once again, the promotion ceremony and demonstration finished off the event. There were an incredible number of masters from near and far being promoted. It was great to see my original instructor, Master Don, reach 7th Dahn, as well as two of my fellow original Thurso KSW members reach 6th Dahn, Masters Gavin and Cathy. It’s a great privilege to see the people I started my training with as a small boy in Thurso still active and all training in the same martial art 30 years later!

I also want to say congratulations to Master Karl Martindale on reaching 5th Dahn Master. He has been a massive inspiration for so many people, winning 30 grand champion titles during his time competing and is a true embodiment of the Master title.

Goodbye tournament, hello Master Karl - read the blog post on KSW Widnes website

That night, we had a great time celebrating with Master Karl, Master Gavin and many other Masters and students from all over. The social aspect of Kuk Sool and the fact we get to meet so many people who share a passion for training from all over the world is what truly makes Kuk Sool Won special for me, and why nothing beats the buzz of a tournament!

I already can’t wait for the next tournament in November! I hope to see you all there.