Taekwondo with Louise Reeve Interview

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Louise Reeve – Clifton & Henleaze TaekwonDo

It’s a Thursday night at Bristol Free School and I follow what I hope to be Clifton TaekwonDo students across the premises towards a sports hall looking building, thankfully I am right, and this is a fantastic facility. Looks quite new and is a very large space half filled with students (I’m informed this is a smaller class due to the holidays!!). Louise is at the front running some younger students through their paces, they look well drilled and perform in harmony. Some of the students introduce themselves and help me get a few things to set up as she finishes the previous class. This is a very family orientated class, which is lovely to see and you will learn more about later. The kids are training hard, they are super respectful to their teacher, other students and myself. The class is surrounded by adoring parents, looking on and lending support and equipment assistance where needed, something I’ve not seen since I was one of those children in my Karate lessons many moons ago! This is the first interview I have done with younger children involved and I couldn’t have chosen a better place. Louise is very focused on safeguarding of children and students and also that everyone has a smile on their face.

Hi Louise, can you tell me how you started out in martial arts and how the Clifton Taekwondo club came about?

Hi Mike, Wow, that is a BIG question, lets start with the club first. It was opened in 2001, exactly one year after our umbrella organization PUMA was started. (Professional Unification of Martial Arts, a national organization https://www.puma-uk.com/).

For my part, I actually started in the 80’s and I did Filipino street fighting, I absolutely loved that! It didn’t last very long, as it did get a little bit violent, but I really liked it (laughs).

Where was that?

That was up in Leicester. Then I came back to martial arts a little bit later in the 90’s, I was actually shooting competitively at the time, doing Archery. I actually went out to America to compete out there….

A little different, but still the need for some Zen….

Yeah, its all kind of motor mechanical stuff, so very different but with some similarities. I’d been pretty successful with that, and it was my passion at the time, but then I got an injury. I actually got an injury on the bowstring finger, and I actually got that injury because I went to a Martial Arts class and I did some sparring (lets out an ironic laugh), like my students are doing behind us right now. I just caught my finger….

A tendon Injury?

….Yes it was the tendon, and that small injury was enough to, at that level, affect my scores in the shooting. So I thought, well, I’ve got to do something! I thought to myself well this martial art has done this to me, I’ll go back to it and ….


….yeah, beat it back in a way. That Martial Art happened to be Taekwondo. The person teaching at that time was Master Black (a fond smile rises on her face) who was my first instructor and sadly we lost him a few years ago now, but he was an amazing man, incredible character, CAPTAIN FITNESS we use to call him (we share a giggle)….. he was an incredible guy, the amount of energy, his energy was contagious, and I have since discovered I teach the way he taught me, even though now I have got other instructors. My instructor now is the chairman of the organization Master Ray Gayle, who is incredible, a very humble man who is very generous with his knowledge. I feel now I still teach, well with a mix of his style and obviously Jonny, Master Black (said with a sad and loving smile, at the loss of an obviously inspiring teacher).

So like a carbon copy of those teachers? I think that tends to happen a lot in Martial Arts….

Yes, very much a carbon copy of them, it’s wonderful isn’t it that people take the best qualities from people and I think that is partly what it’s all about really. So I came to Taekwondo then in the early 90’s at which time I was a professional nurse and I was working in Intensive Care. So, when I made the decision, because there are a lot of styles of Taekwondo like WTF, the Olympic style that is much harder with contact, then there is ITF which is Semi-contact, which is still pretty hard to be honest at the top level, but it is Semi-Contact. Because at that time I was Nursing young adults with head injuries, its something I wanted to get away from, I didn’t want to go full contact ….

Not create your own patients so to speak….

…..Yeah, that’s exactly it, and that is how I came to be involved in this Taekwondo organization that I am still involved with (ITF). I loved every minute of it, and I am STILL loving it now (smiles and laughs).

Fantastic, have you every been involved in competition?

Yeah, yeah it was, can’t remember now I think it was late nineties, I was very competitive, crazy competitive it was my passion, and I think in my best year, I was (starts thinking and counting on her fingers) English, British, European and another I think it was Scottish Champion….

So many you are struggling to remember is good!!

Yeah, mostly in patterns, I think it was my ONE year where it all just came together in that year, and strangely, as I am now edging the 50 mark I kind of look back and realize I’ve had my own journey already, competitiveness is not my thing really anymore I like the personal development that Taekwondo gives you.

So Turned all that more within now?

Yes, a little, my personal quest now is to have people within my school that may be challenged with going elsewhere. So I have a lot of children now, who have Dyspraxia who are trying to find themselves a little bit. We also have a lot of cadets and obviously adults as well.

I should mention, There are a lot of children off camera…..(due to the level of safeguarding measures Louise is keen to install at PUMA clubs throughout. We did not have permission from all the parents, so we were keen not to have them shown on YouTube without consent. It’s absolutely fantastic to see an instructor with this level of thought for her students and it is close to her heart).

Yes, we have a number of them off camera, hiding around the back there. (They were training hard not just behind a box). I also run a class for Home Educated Children, because my son is Home Educated. That’s a different kind of thing altogether and also a different kind of environment, a different style of teaching.

So any one interested or already Home Educating their kids, you have a specific class for them?

Yes, it is during term times and it is during the day which is important to most parents of home educated children, having something going on then, rather than at the end of the school day when actually they all just want to relax, and I’m in that boat too. It’s nice to be able to stand up in front of them and say well I home educate my son so I understand your needs.

But, it is still strictly a Taekwondo class not anything else?

It is strictly just Taekwondo but it is a fun environment. I’ve done a few terms now and we have another PUMA instructor who is about to start that also, so it is slowly growing.

That’s fantastic!! (I’m super impressed with her achievements and goals at this point).

Those are the challenges I like the most now, rather than going in the ring (competitive fighting) there are many different battles in the world aren’t there. You can go in the ring and fight and have a physical battle but there are other battles that are just as hard, just as tough and you need just as much resilience to get through them!

I’ve done a few interviews now and I seen that a few places, once you get to a certain higher level many ask for giving something back, to the people or community that is external of the style itself, it seems that you have just found this a very natural progression yourself!

Yeah, well, I hope so. I think that Master Gayle definitely an instructor that pursues something like that for his students. He certainly believes that people should make the right choices for the right reasons, he is not going to dictate to people, he will say, look this is the situation, you need to go out and make a difference to the world or at least be trying to. I would say that is quite instrumental to his training and I’d say that for Master Black too, the way he was, very much that kind of person too. As I think I said before I am a mix of those two instructors.

What an awesome journey! So are there students here that do Compete? Obviously they don’t have to.

Yes, no one has to compete, but PUMA has its own circuit of competitions and then obviously all the national and international competitions and PUMA has its own Squad.

Just in this room now (small class tonight remember) we have English Champions and some British Champions and Mr Heward over there in a cast, he has more Gold medals for destruction than anyone that I know of. He actually broke his arm doing destruction, which is pretty hardcore…..

…..is that cast hard enough for him!?….

I don’t know actually, it’s never stopped him, as you can see he is still teaching even now, or training, never stops him.

Press ups!?

I make him do them one handed (laughs).

One of my instructors had a cast on his leg doing Horse Riding Stance, obviously we didn’t have any excuses not too!

There is definitely something to be said for real hardcore training but obviously we like to keep it accessible to everyone too, I’m very lucky to have some hardcore martial artists here in the class, I have a Marine here training with us and there are a couple of guys who are going to come over and do some demo’s for you, they are on top of their game right now, they go to Tournaments and win them, they go to competitions and do patterns and come back with medals every time which is really nice to see. (We will add the demos to Enso Martial Arts YouTube Channel asap).

All that is a credit to you and the club itself also. That is the level they can get too, what does someone out there need to come down here and start?

They need a sense of humour….

….always good…..

….yes always. They get a couple of Free lessons, this is because there is SO much out there these days, especially kids, there are so many other things out there that is a pull on their time. And so many other sports out there, all sports are great as long as they are taught in the same way, all sports are fantastic, all Martial Arts are fantastic. So, they get two Free lessons to see what its about and if they want to get involved first. Then there is a starter package, which makes everything much cheaper, so you can get your License, suit, handbook and everything else you would need, plus the first month of training for a set amount. Then the way PUMA is set up you can go to any lesson as well. So other clubs, other instructors, you just need to let your instructor know and they can set up training elsewhere for you.

What ages do you start from and is there a limit to what it goes up to?

Well they can start at Four believe it or not….


Yes, they have got their own lesson, 4-6 year olds are called our Little Pumas and they actually learn Pre Martial Art skills. So, movement and control and self awareness. It’s all age appropriate so it’s all games based but they are learning all the time. We also do teach them how to make a fist how to punch but they don’t punch each other! Little bit of pad work but that’s all. We try to teach them focus and concentration, all involved in our games, parents tend to like that!

….I can’t wait for my daughter to reach 4!….

There is a waiting list on those classes. It’s also lovely to see, some of the people in this group were my Little Pumas and now there are still here as Adults.

That’s great! (There are also students with their children now here and entire families training together which is rare!) Obviously there is good safeguarding here (see their website)….

…Yes, not just here, I am the Safeguarding Officer for PUMA overall so part of my role is to go around the other clubs and make sure that Instructors have very good and stringent Safeguarding policies in place. I teach a course on this and ALL PUMA instructors have to go on it. We are all DBS checked as well (If you don’t know what that is follow this link https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service) and indemnity insurance.

Probably the best setup I’ve heard of so far!

Well, that is good to hear. That is PUMA instructors across the board.

So after Little Pumas, they can join our Junior A or Mixed Junior Class, depending on what they choose, and they can come to all of them. If they are a bit younger or a bit smaller they may just choose the Junior A class which is ideal for them, it’s a bit softer.

Then after that, they are able to join the Adults class as a cadet which is about age 10, my son joined as a cadet when he was age 9. They tend to be a bigger/taller physical build even though they are younger if they are happy to start in the adults class. I think the youngest we have today is 11. Having said that we are really lucky that there are no egos here, no cliqueness, there is nothing that feels particularly threatening, even though we are actually in a fighting environment essentially…

….Everyone has been extremely friendly and welcoming to myself, and helped me out (I left my Tripod at home, a student helped me fashion one from items in the hall (Nigel I think, THANKS!)).

….They are all very friendly, kind people and I am really happy to be able to say that! So I feel it really is a good environment for young people and they have some great role models, and as I was saying some of these guys were my Little Pumas when they were 4 years old.

You are obviously doing something, very right!

I hope so!

Thank you very much Louise, we are going to have some demo’s from a couple of students and speak to a couple of them about their experiences here too.

After some students demonstrating a couple of forms for the video, which are well performed but each is a perfectionist wanting to repeat until its perfect, I can tell they are the kind that it will never be perfect exactly, so I limit their attempts. Thank you to those students awesome performances they will be on the YouTube channel with the interview. I then had a little chat with Louise and her teaching assistants.

Louise: I just want to introduce Mr Heward who is 3rd Degree Black Belt hopefully heading towards 4th Degree very very soon. I noticed you have a cast on your arm there, would you like to explain how that happened?

Mr Heward: Yes Ma’am (laughs).

Louise – It WASN’T ME!

Mr Heward: One of the elements of Taekwondo as well as just training is testing your own abilities against fellow students, which is a barometer to measure your power and technique, I’ve been quite successful at this particular element at Tournaments and Competitions (Heavily understating from what I hear – Mike). However one time I was not as successful and broke my arm instead of the boards.

Mike: I thought that was heading to I destroyed a student with my arm, phew!

Louise: He did still get a silver medal though! And I have to say I think you are being rather humble because you actually have a lot of medals for destruction and you also teach it as part of PUMA day, you have your own seminars on destruction and we are very proud to have you here as part of this group! (Told you he understated it – Mike) You are also Officially one of my assistant instructors which is great because people get to have lots of different experiences being taught to them.

And Here we have Mr Williamson who also teaches for me and he is in a unique position because your family train here with you too.

Mr Williamson: Yeah, two of my children train ….

Louise: We will get the last one as well!

Mr Williamson: Yes, and if I keep working on my wife, we can get my wife as well (grins) But I have been here training myself for 5 years and I have successfully obtained my black belt with the help of Louise, Mr Heward and obviously all the other students in the school (Around about 175 I should add – Mike). My daughter is in the junior class and she’s really enjoying it, my even younger daughter is now in the Little Pumas class. It really is for everybody and there is something different we all gain from it, its not necessarily Destruction (points at Heward) or sparring (points at students behind sparring), there is confidence, increased Fitness levels and flexibility there are many levels of what we all gain from it.

Louise: I am very lucky because these guys are giving something back like we talked about earlier, and with them giving something back its allowed me more time to concentrate on my family, which is wonderful and I am very, very grateful to have both of them!

Mike: (To Mr Williamson) Do your children listen at home now, if you instruct them here?

ALL: (laughing)

Mr Williamson: Umm Everyone is completely different, but yes, if your children don’t listen at home, then send them here to Taekwondo and then they will, its amazing!

ALL: (Laughing)

Louise: It’s the suit isn’t it (tugs her Dobok)

Mr Williamson: Yeah, they definitely listen more when I am in my Dobok.

Mike: Thank you to you all, it’s been an absolute pleasure to come down here and hopefully some others will see this and come down themselves also.

If you are interested in Taekwondo and want an excellent set of teaches with a super fun and friendly environment then this certainly seems to be the place. If you want your kids to learn in a positive and well-guided environment they have that too. This is the best safeguarding set up I have seen so far and they are so child friendly you couldn’t ask for more. Also, the special needs and home schooling environment is a first I have seen to dedicate for that and I hope its not the last I come across. Check out their website and go and try their 2 Free classes, I am pretty sure you will be getting your wallet out for more after the first one!

Louise and Co. Please keep up the great work and hope that all your injuries resolve soon. (Additional to Mr Hewards arm, Louise is also nursing a few wounds currently). Thanks to all of your students for being so welcoming and letting me take up your time and theirs, good luck to everyone for the future keep those medals coming!