“The knowledge that I was still part of the BUTL Student Squad and supported by so many team mates really held me up.” - Victoria Turner
I was eight when I started Taekwon-Do. Every week I had to stay and watch my little brother during the first half hour of the class before I went to Brownies in the church next door and one Tuesday, I decided to join in and quickly forgot about the existence of my other activity. My Grandad would have definitely preferred me to carry on with my dance classes and girly activities, but I quickly became hooked with the martial art. I rapidly advanced through the belts, acing each grading, and by green-belt began competing at least once a month.
I would rarely lose a competition, and loved the sparring, whereas my brother was more patterns orientated. I trained at least eight hours of traditional Taekwon-Do a week and two hours sparring, at least, every week until University. I remember often having arguments with my Dad who, tired from the week, would have happily skipped taking me to the treacherous splinter gifting squad training venue on a Sunday. ‘It’s your brother’s sport… you sing and dance,’ was a reaction one week when my brother was less than keen to train. This remark has stuck with me. I firmly believe Taekwon-Do is a sport for everybody.
The move from my small, Welsh Taekwon-Do School (UTIC affiliated with UTI Netherlands) to training with Mr Phil Whitlock and PUMA at the University of Bristol was an amazing shock. Fighting training was multiple times a week, fitness was more than on the agenda, and the different styles of Taekwon-Do represented was incredible. I began freshers with a broken wrist so joined a few weeks late, still with my cast on. By the end of first year I was training the ITF sessions twice a week, the WT sessions once a week and had began training with Team Bristol Kickboxing through the University Society. After one brutal kickboxing session of me continuously fighting hand only with eight guys I finally stopped being the girl who could only use her legs!
It could be a disadvantage that I’ve come from such a small, unknown Taekwon-Do school. At some competitions, my style of patterns is laughed at and my suit (with a massive yellow dragon) can put a bias against me for sure. But actually, I love representing my little team and everything they stand for, and am so grateful for BUTL that allows me to do this. UTIC, headed up until recently by the late Master Gary Brady was built on strong family values. The school or the instructors do not make a profit, everything that school earns goes back into the students. I’ve seen so many kids who’s lifestyle have completely changed because of the discipline of, and worth gained through Taekwon-Do.
My grounding will always be in the UTIC leg-dominated style of fighting (those killer side-kicks took way too many years of practice to forget) and Taekwon-Do will always be about practice, sweat and respect. Master Brady passed on so many lessons to me that have enabled me to continue into PhD study, ‘train hard, grade easy-train easy, grade hard,’ ‘there’s no such word as can’t,’ and his staunchly feminist stances are mottos and reminders that still support me today.
My adventure to the University of Edinburgh regarding Taekwon-Do had a shaky start. Before the club changed direction it wasn’t as accommodating to all styles, especially my own and other offers of training in Taekwon-Do and Kickboxing were either too expensive or too far away to pursue alongside a one year Masters. Instead I was able to train with the University Kickboxing club and train on my own and still compete with BUTL. Taekwon-Do is a major coping mechanism for me, and a massive part of life so having that taken away in my first few weeks in a new city was heartbreaking. The knowledge that I was still part of the BUTL Student Squad and supported by so many team mates really held me up. My improvement from my first BUTL competition (the first BUTL competition) to now, is huge!
I could not have imagined the opportunities BUTL has opened up for me. Travelling to Poland and Belgium and winning European championships with the BUTL Student Squad have been massive highlights and prove that little clubs are just as worthy for teaching the Art as massive schools. I’m so grateful that BUTL is able to hold all styles and backgrounds together and just celebrate that so many people love this amazing martial art.
Victoria Turner, 3rd degree ITF blackbelt
PhD student University of Edinburgh.