I was seven years old when I started playing sports. I loved hockey and played up to Juniors, but I remember watching Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris movies as a kid and thinking that was what I wanted to do with my life. My mom always said she’d pay for sports but not Martial Arts as I had such a temper as a kid… she thought (knew) that I just wanted to fight. I had lots of anger growing up and even though I blamed my parents for all the household negativity, it was my choice to act and react to situations. My siblings and I learned early on to fend for ourselves and that there were no free handouts. If we wanted something, we had to work for it and find a way to make it happen.
I always share this story with my students as this was a turning point in my life. I was in grade six with big bushy hair, buck teeth, and the beginnings of pimples. I had just found out that I had to get braces and the dreaded head gear entering into grade seven and on the third day of school as I was walking down the hallway, I got sucker punched in the mouth. At that moment, I made the decision that no one would EVER hit me again.
Ironically, within a couple weeks, a friend asked me to go to Karate classes. I knew I could go if I came up with my own money as my parents would not pay. So… twelve years old, I got my first job delivering the Edmonton Journal and collected bottles and cans to earn my life changing opportunity and started my first Martial Art at the Karate/Kick-boxing Academy and I never looked back.
At twenty-one years old I found out I was going to be a father and with many other stressors in my life, I didn’t quite know how to handle everything. I had been in and out of training, I still played sports and was hitting the heavy bag and working out with weights regularly. I knew I had to get back to being disciplined so I opened the Yellow Pages and flipped to “Martial Arts Schools” and literally pointed to Hong Park Taekwondo College. My life changed forever after making that phone call and going to a trial class.
I trained hard, five days per week sometimes twice a day. I was obsessed with Taekwondo, the art, the sport, the friendships and the amazing fitness conditioning that it provided. It was destiny as I met my beautiful wife Leah at the same Taekwondo School. We had another daughter together, Taylor who is now a beautiful, talented and compassionate fourteen year old and a 2nd Degree Black Belt who teaches alongside me. Over time, I started competing and having great success. I also started teaching classes and learned how to control my mind, body and spirit and found some peace, acceptance and direction.
In 1995, Leah was training at a popular Edmonton downtown gym, Sports Connection - the elite aerobics and fitness class gym at that time. I joined and fast became intrigued and excited to take part in their many fitness classes. She, along with many of the amazing and highly motivating fitness instructors, inspired me to want to also teach fitness classes and do personal training. One thing about me is that if I want something, I go get it. That’s one of many lessons I learned from my mom. Within a year, I had successfully taken the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Program (AFLCA) and CanFitPro Personal Training and Fitness Instructor Certification Programs.
I was hired by Sports Connection to be a Personal Trainer and a Fitness Instructor, teaching my own version of HITT / Bootcamp / Circuit Training type classes. One of the greatest moments and trends in the fitness industry at that time was Tae Bo®. Every fitness club was trying to offer this program and at that time, I was the only qualified Personal Trainer and Martial Artist with Kick-boxing training who had a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo… the perfect fit. Needless to say, Sports Connection asked me, and I taught there and throughout the city at various clubs.
I always loved Core Strength and conditioning training so I founded and trademarked the name CORE KICK-BOXING™. Leah and I started our own business in 1996, Fitness Foundations Inc., and started our own Taekwondo School called Precision Martial Arts Academy (PMAA). In 1997 I went on to graduate and receive my Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT) Certification with honors in the first graduating class at Mount Royal University. This became the PFT Program now offered at MRU and NAIT. I was blessed to meet, train and learn from some of the best fitness leaders in the industry, many of whom are still active in the Edmonton area.
My background and experience with Taekwondo has made it my first love when it comes to fitness. It is the most popular, powerful, dynamic and widely practiced Martial Art in the world. It is hands down the best Martial Art (in my opinion and experience) to practice as it fast becomes an obsession and a very healthy, active lifestyle for every age and physical ability. It is so much more than just blocking, punching and kicking.
Taekwondo made its debut as a demonstration Olympic sport at the 1988 Seoul Games, and became an official medal sport at the 2000 Sydney Games. In 1989, a movie called “Best of the Best” starring Phillip Rhee came out and was one of the first movies to showcase and introduce Taekwondo to the World. There are two sport streams in Taekwondo, Kyorugi (Sparring) and Poomsae (Patterns). I have been blessed with great success in both sport streams. I did well Provincially in Sparring, however due to injuries, I never did make the National scene. However, I always loved and excelled at Poomsae throughout my Taekwondo career. I am a seven-time Gold medalist at Nationals, won Bronze at the Canada Open, Bronze at the US Open and Bronze at the Pan Am Open in Las Vegas, Nevada. I have proudly been on the National Poomsae Team four times representing Team Canada travelling to Korea, Mexico, USA and in 2012 competed in Tunja, Columbia at the 2012 World Poomsae Championships, the highlight of my career. I was the first ever to win a Gold medal at Nationals in three events, Individual, Pairs and Teams. I was the first ever to receive Taekwondo Canada’s Hall of Fame “Poomsae Athlete of the Year” and “Taekwondo Club of the Year”
Now retired from competition, I have moved on to become a Certified National Sparring Referee and International Poomsae Referee. I am also one of a handful of Certified Coach Developers (Workshop Learning Facilitator and Evaluator) for Taekwondo Canada.
I believe one important aspect about Taekwondo that clearly sets itself apart from other Martial Arts is that it does not focus on “Combative” fighting. It is a sport and as such has many rules to ensure the highest measure of safety for athletes and class participants. There is mandatory training involved for Coaches and Referees to become qualified, particularly with concussion protocols and head contact rules. Also, there is mandatory equipment that must be worn by competitors to limit the potential for serious injury.
The most important and defining quality about training in Taekwondo is that it is a tool and means to teach character development and develop healthy, productive and positive lifestyle habits that truly improve one’s quality of life. More than ever before with our techno world of tablets, Netflix, smart phones and social media, we are all bombarded with so much negativity, hatred and racism in the world. What happened to respect and humanity? Students of all ages, gender, race and religion are learning and practicing Taekwondo and are in a positive and productive environment that instills self-discipline, self-respect and respect for others. We develop functional fitness, strong lean muscle, improved cardiovascular endurance, core strength, stability and increased flexibility. We become better people, better citizens, better children, husbands, wives, employees, employers, and so on. We become our own success stories who pay it forward by inspiring others to do the same.
I am so proud of my daughter Taylor, as she was recently promoted to the rank of 2nd Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo. Since she was born, like her sister Kassandra, I always taught her to be strong, respectful, work hard and go for what she wants in life, no matter what! Both daughters have only known this life with dad and mom being busy fitness and wellness professionals and working day and night, thankfully with alternating work schedules. Taylor has been training consistently for nearly seven years and is a part time Leadership Team Junior Instructor. She loves helping to teach and work with the young kids and is so good with them, they all love and adore her as she is very skilled, sweet, kind and caring. She is a wonderful role model and I am very proud of her and all she has accomplished in Taekwondo and at school.
I must share that the hardest part for me, teaching Taekwondo for over twenty-two years plus all the years of training in the evenings that I have missed far too many bed time stories, and tuck-ins and family dinners with both my girls and my family. However, we find balance and peace by ensuring that our time together is precious. We’re present in the moment and we make it up on our annual family vacations. Funny… sounds like we live to work… but we truly work to live and are proud, privileged and truly blessed as a family.