Russ Martin TAGB Taekwondo Instructor in Bristol

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Russ Martin TAGB

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

Hi Russ, thanks for meeting us today, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started in Martial Arts.

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

Like most of us, I did Judo and Karate as a kid. I did some Kung Fu in my early twenties., Choi Li Fut. Then after a year or so off, I was a motorcycle despatch driver and drop a parcel to a place in Redfield and I heard loads of shouting and I looked over and there were people wearing white suits. In what is now the headquarters of the TAGB, I heard the energy, I stuck my head in and started the next day. That was the end of 1984.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

and you’ve been doing that ever since?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

Yeah, I’ve dipped and dabbled in other things since, but that’s the meat and two veg of it.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

For people that don’t know, can you tell us a bit about what Taekwondo is?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

Well, there are two types of Taekwondo. There is the stuff people see in the Olympics and with all respect to those people do not want me and mine to be identified with the Olympic Taekwondo. The Taekwondo I do, is what was left behind after the Japanese were kicked out of Korea after the second world war. There was a section of Korean society that had been to Japanese universities, they had done karate there, their country had independence. They basically rebranded the karate and called it Taekwondo. They made some changes to it over the years, but my style of Taekwondo and Karate are 1st cousins. Though not many people would admit to it these days, but the history is clear.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

Some people struggle hearing that their style is like something else.

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

To me that’s the strength. So if my style is the 1st cousin of Karate and the parent of that is the Okinawan Karate and the grandparent is the southern Chinese styles. So you can look up the genetic family up through the generations for loads of information and ideas.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So your part of the TAGB, the Taekwondo Association of Greta Britain, what is that and how does it differ from the more well known WTF and ITF styles.

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

With regards to the ITF styles, we were formed after a breakaway from what was the UKTA, United Kingdom Taekwondo Association. This was way back in 1982 ish. The TAGB was formed in 1983. So we are pretty much the same as the ITF styles, although the ITF has changed and revised the style. They’re changed some ideas, which is healthy, anything too cast in stone can never be that healthy. We use mostly for our inspiration, the creator of Taekwondo, Major General Choi Hong Hi. Had written a series of manuals, bibles we call them, as we keep the bibles that was current to when we broke away as our reference book. We use the 1983 manual, so the difference between modern ITF and us is very little. There are a few major differences, but it is mostly the same.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So could a student drift between the two?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

Difficult, because there are two big conceptual differences. We use an action to generate hip twist, mostly where we turn the hip hard. Whereas the modern style does sine wave, and it’s down up down up continually. People of my generation, find it completely alien, we can’t do it. I’ve never successfully converted a modern ITF person to ours, how we do it. I don’t know of any that have gone the other way either. If you have done it for long enough, done one way or the other it does become a bit of a stumbling block. The patterns are effectively the same and we can compete together, and we do. There are many championships and tournament that we compete together.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So I want to ask you about competition, is there three events? Or is it one event with three disciplines?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

The standard ones, in the colour belts, is sparring, up to blue belt, half way to black belt, which is points stop sparring. Beyond that it is continuous sparring with four corner judges. There is pattern competition, solo performance, kata, sets, whatever you want to call it. For black belt and above is destruction, breaking things. Some other things these days, which are very popular these days, which is tag team sparring. This is teams of three and every time a point is scored, the person can touch and they can come in and fight next. That’s quite exciting and a lot of fun. It’s always little bit lighter. Those are the main events, in a world championships you get more. You get musical patterns, which I personally think is a bit odd, but people like them and each to their own.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So being the TAGB, can you still compete at World level? IS there a TAFR, etc.?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

There is a TI, Taekwondo International. There is a few, as with many martial arts there is a few bodies running around calling themselves the World bodies, we are one of the main world bodies, we are not the only one. Two weeks ago, we held our world championships in the indoor arena, now I think the Barclaycard arena. We had over 3000 competitors, they were coming from all over. South America, Russia, USA, Australia, South Africa. We are open all associations, but only to the TAGB in the UK. People ask why? And it’s because we don’t need to, we’re big enough. There are 25,000 of us, every time we enter open kickboxing, clash of the titans we always win it, everytime, religiously.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So watching your classes just now, the class seemed a little bit different to how I expected it to be. You website mentioned applied Taekwondo. Is that it?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

No, this was just one of my normal classes. So rather than just focusing on one area of our taekwondo, say formal syllabus work to pass the next grading, or pure sport work, or destruction or a night of self defence. Tonight was a bit of this and that.

If you’ve seen references to my applied Taekwondo, that is my special thing. There are a lot of people out there doing what they call old style, or alternative application karate. That is what I am doing for alternative application for Taekwondo. It’s taking moves from our patterns and using them in a less than traditionally accepted method but to address genuine common acts of violence.

I have now gone beyond pattern application and now applied Taekwondo is making sure I have a practical realistic self defence system to address modern common acts of violence and pass that onto my students. As well as getting them to tournaments and getting their next belts

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So you are basing a self defence system from the patterns?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

If I can, I used to look through the patterns, Taekwondo patterns are based on karate patterns, and there is plenty of evidence that the way these techniques were used 100 years ago were used very differently to how they are now. The classic block that we would block punches with, or a kung fu style done at a distance, people would accept that these were something completely different, armlocks, or breaks or throws or takedowns, because it is not realistic to block someone in a big long stance. It only works if they are attacking with a big stance and a big hand to the hip punch. Which, no one has ever done to me down the pub with a few ciders, so I’m focusing more on self defence and more on the patterns, I threw the patterns out the window. I took some advice for a guy much higher grade than me, much better at this stuff than me and he said “forget about the patterns you are a senior grade martial artists, think about the common acts of violence and you come up with antidotes to them.”

So that’s what I did, I look at practical martial arts, military and police defence systems coming up with ideas and stuff that fitted in. What I kept stumbling over was traditional martial arts. Things that looked like are blocks, things that looked like and felt like our stances. Things like the hand on the hip. So I kind of went full circle and I don’t have to throw the traditional martial art our the window. So I teach the self defence system, so where there is muscle memory from our traditional patterns you can do this with your legs, that with your hands, move in that direction. Not only does it help that they already have it pre-programme in there and if they have steamed up and down the hall for 4 years, they should be able to it under crisis. With the adrenaline running, the brain being turned off with fear, or if they’ve been down the pub. It should be enough imprinted to do it. Also it helps with communication. I can say do L stance knife and guarding block. And it’s there, instance communication. That’s the passion, I start talking about these things and I get all excited.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So you’ve have taught for along time and got a lot of people to black belt, how do you keep motivated after all these years?

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

Well, let’s be honest we all get bored sometimes. Right?

I teach kids classes six night a week and I get a real buzz and get really inspired as they start getting it. Especially as they start approaching black belt. But let’s not beat about the bush I teach because I need the money and sometimes it can be a drag. You get a hot summer night, you walk into a kids class and it can be hard to know what t do with them. I am still inspired by my martial art, I am still inspired by my own training, by my research and exploration into old traditional martial arts and finding little nuggets that I bring into this self defence system for Taekwondo people that I am developing or for my own students at the very least. That really turns me on, I get turned on by bringing my own students into the sports thing. I never competed much myself but I seem to have an eye for bringing on competitors, my people seem to do really well. I gained a world champion last weekend, I have had many in the past. I have an eye for seeing how sparring works, I also like finding other people ideas and then translating into what I communicate to mine.

I’ve been unwell for the last couple of years in truth, I have put on a lot of weight. The last six months I have been loosing it again and now feel fitter at 60 than I was at 45. I think what can I throw myself into next, it exciting. I ride a motorbike, play the guitar, I have cats and children, nothing else other than the martial arts really interests me. I enjoy a couple of beers occasionally too.

Doug Swift Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So final queston, can you give the people watching the details on your club, if they want to train with you.

Russ Martin TAGB instructor:

So the best thing to do is check out my website which is www.tkdbristol.com My contact details are on there you can phone me anytime. I give the first month free. I believe we are the most approachable club you’ll ever meet. When you walk in through the door, you’re not going to be hit by attitude. Training is base don coming two nights a week, there is no one night a week option. You pay monthly subs, you can actually train six nights a week.

I am two nights week here in the Southville Centre, which is on the edge of Bedminster. I am two nights week in the Hengrove Sport centre, which is between Whitchurch and Hengrove roundabout and two nights week in the Bradley Stoke leisure centre. Kids ad adults I take young and old. I get more a buzz taking normal people. That’s not fit young athletic people but ordinary people that just walk in through the door and turn them into extraordinary martial artists. Rather than Mr Young and Fit who is really easy to teach. Ordinary people is the way to go and it suits me.