A little more than ten years ago in the New Year of 2004, I started to have some lower back pain. I had an almost three year old son and an active job as a veterinary surgeon, I skied and rode horses. I was getting into the car one day and one foot slipped out from under me. I slipped two discs in my lumbar spine and fractured the pars joint. After six weeks of diagnostics, I underwent a surgical lumbar spinal fusion, and twelve weeks later, after much physical therapy, made it back to my job and my life. However, a change of pace was requested by the surgeon.
“Don’t fall off any horses or mountains. If you break that fusion you will not walk, and it will break when the metal fails. If you don’t have the muscle tone and new bone ready when the metal fails, you will end up in a wheelchair.”
Initially, I did physio and Pilates, but I found that a bit tame. When my son turned 6, he was small for his age but academically inclined. He was bullied in his primary school, so my husband and I researched the local martial arts classes. Alex tried it out and liked Kuk Sool Won. I liked the black uniform since there would be less washing. After a few weeks of watching and chatting with the other mums and dads, four of us; three mum’s and one dad (not my husband yet,) took the plunge and joined PSBN Chris Winter’s school in Dereham, UK.
Alex grew in confidence, and I found a straight back and leg mobile exercise, with the mental stimulation of the Korean language, it offered the challenge I needed. Neither of us was great at it, but Kuk Sool Won is not a race. Alex and I promoted to red belt in Dereham, just prior to our relocation to the Midlands in 2009, when Alex was 8, going on 9.There was and still is, no Kuk Sool Won school in Northamptonshire, so we travelled West for 1 hour every Saturday morning, Tuesday evening and one Sunday a month to train with PKJN David Johnson in Hinckley. No two schools could be the same martial art and so different. Dereham in a sports hall, with a light hand on discipline. Hinckley in a cold, drafty old boxing club type industrial building with almost only Korean spoken and a physical, tougher approach, when 200 push ups for forgetting your belt was not unusual. But, that makes it sound bad…it was fun. It was hard and rough and ready and strongly team building.
There was, and still is, no Kuk Sool Won school in Northamptonshire, so we travelled west for an hour every Saturday morning, Tuesday evening and one Sunday a month to train with PKJN David Johnson in Hinckley. No two schools could be the same martial art and yet be so different. Dereham had been in a sports hall, with a light hand on discipline. Hinckley was in a cold, drafty old boxing club type, industrial building with almost only Korean spoken and a physical, tougher approach, (where 200 push-ups for forgetting your belt was not unusual). But, that makes it sound bad…it was fun. It was hard and rough and ready and strongly team building.
I made some life long friends, met Asad, then about 13, and Alex and I promoted through brown belt stages. I took up veterinary acupuncture as a result of learning Maek Chi Ki and then meridian theory and pressure points and it has remained a part of the anaesthesia and analgesia veterinary anaesthesia service I offer. Hinckley school saw us through a hard few years in regard to work, and my first experience of stress that was almost depression, and the team started to be like family.
In about 2011 Sir relocated to a new unit, and we all clubbed together to decorate and build and make it a Doh Jang. At that point, my husband declared that if the club made it into the better building he would join. With Ivan as a white and yellow belt and Alex and I new DBNs we had the worst year of our marriage. Ivan’s sister died after a short illness with cancer, and his mother had heart surgery. Kuk Sool friends helped us through, we got to know Asad and supported him in his move from foster care in Hinckley to independent living in Northamptonshire, and he joined the group of 5 students who now made the regular 2 hour round trip to train.
Apart from our group, Hinckley member numbers started to fall, and for reasons it is not yet possible to discuss, the school in its original form closed in late 2013. We trained ourselves in a hired hall, in Peterborough, Tamworth, and Bedworth as guests while KSN Mark, and others like JKN Ian, worked hard to save the Hinckley school.
Alex and I, along with Asad promoted to JKN in the summer of 2014. With the leadership of JKN then KSN Mark Hinckley, our school started to recover. My work position, and the need to offer more support to Ivan’s mother took Ivan, now a blue belt, and 2 JKNs to sell up and move again and in the odd hand fate plays you, back to Dereham!
So, Alex and I are now training for the European championship tournament next month, Asad still lives in Northamptonshire and trains in Hinckley and Tamworth. Ivan had to retire as a red belt, in his 50s, with a hip injury. He still drops Alex to cadet class while I join them for the adult class after work. At work, I am an RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Veterinary Anaesthesia. Alex is 5 ft 3 and 13 years old, I am 5 ft and the wrong side of 40, and our Kuk Sool Won stories are not finished yet!
With an honourable mention to Ivan, Helen, Josh, Amy, Emily, Jordan, JKNs Alex, Tammy, Ian, Asad, Steve, Helen, Mike, Raj, Cory, Ian, Haley and KSN Rebekah, Mark and PSBN Kirsty and Richard, and PKJNs David, Chris, John, and so many more.
Peace and Long Life, and Kuk Sool Won…