I was born in 1964, raised in Coffs Harbour where I began my training in Tae Kwon Do in 1976, aged 12. The club I joined had just opened, with a few of my friends studying Karate I thought that this new club could be for me. The organisation was called the “Australian Tae Kwon Do Institute”; its Chief Instructor was Mr Graeme Johnson 5th Dan. My instructors name was Mr Steven Sadd 1st Dan; Steve had a very technical and dynamic style. Just great to watch how easy he made these amazing kicks and strikes look. Steve had been trained under Mr John Callegari 3rd Dan from the Tweed Coast but will come back to him later. I was no superstar at class but was (born) tall and found that the kicking style suited my lanky body.
I entered my first tournament as a Yellow Belt where I placed 4th in my division, which I had not expected. It was held at Brisbane St Lucia University and really opened my eyes to high level ranks in open competition. Watching the Black Belts sparring, breaking boards and performing patterns was inspiring for me. My next big event was my first Training Camp that was being held at Cabarita Beach at Camp Woolumbin. It was a great time, camping in tents, training all day, comparing bruises at night and just soaking up the atmosphere. This confirmed that this Tae Kwon Do stuff was for me.
In 1979 Steve Sadd left Coffs Harbour leaving the class without an Instructor. Not wanting to close the class and only as a Blue Belt Brown Tip, I contacted Mr John Callegari (Steve’s instructor). We arranged that I would keep the class open in Coffs but once a month I would have to travel to Tweed Heads to undergo intensive training at his classes. Generally we would do 8 lessons over 4 days, training at clubs in Mullumbimby, Lismore one night than Tweed Heads and Gold Coast classes the next. Plus lots of additional practice of patterns and bag work during the day.
I attained my Black Belt on 2nd May 1981 aged only 17. In those days this was incredibly rare and to be teaching at this age unheard of. The class in Coffs started to grow rapidly having on average about 45 people cram in my class; we would spill out onto the local football ground and train outside for more space. I opened a club in Woolgoolga 20 minutes north of Coffs Harbour, and began my 4 nights of teaching professionally with over 70 students and just having gained my driver’s licence I needed to train under some one again to go to the next level of training. In 1983 I moved to Brisbane to study Acupuncture and train for my 2nd Dan which I attained on the 30th May 1983. It was this period that my flexibility really came to the attention of others as it was difficult the get around my legs, I had been inspired by Bill “superfoot” Wallace (world kickboxing champion with amazing kicks and flexibility) from the USA and modelled my style around his kicking principles.
The “Australian Tae Kwon Do Institute” split into several groups of which, the “Australian Freestyle Tae Kwon Do Academy” was formed in 1984. The AFTA was founded by Mr John Callegari then 4th Dan and a group of his senior instructors. It was then that John asked me to teach full time. I established AFTA on the South Side of Brisbane with classes at Holland Park, Salisbury and Algester. The mid 80’s saw me competing in Tae Kwon Do and Open Martial Arts tournaments.
I was ranked as high as 6th in Australia while competing in the AFTA Burners Team in a National Teams Tournament. I was called the Bonus Point King, as I would always be rewarded for head high kicks with a bonus point, people were not use to someone kicking over their guarding positions. It was a lot of fun but my focus was on teaching. In 1986 I received international recognition; gaining a Mu Duk Kwan Certificate under Master Instructor Pyung Yon Moon 8th Dan (now deceased). Though the mid 80’s I received AFTA instructor Achievement Awards on several occasions. And on the 25th July 1987 I attained my 3rd Dan aged only 23, again considered a huge achievement for my age.
Throughout the late 80’s, into the Early 90’s Continued teaching but moved from the south side to the north side of Brisbane. I opened a class in Kallangur’s Kruger Hall that is still training in the original hall. In 1992 I was featured in “Australasian Fighting Arts” magazine demonstrating kicking (photo in major national mag, big thrill). In 1993 I was promoted to Executive Committee Member of the AFTA and Chief Instructor for Queensland.
In 1994 I reopened the Redcliffe class which had closed the year before due to an instructor moving town. With Kallangur Monday & Wednesday, and Redcliffe Tuesday & Thursday and students exceeding the 100 mark, the students had the opportunity to also train 4 nights a week.It was then that Jason & Brett Parker came under my guidance. Both had already having gained their black belts under John Callegari. On the 2nd December 1994 I gained my 4th Dan aged 30, 7 years after receiving my 3rd.
But again, not all was well with the AFTA, like the ATI that I started with, internal conflict and general unhappiness with-in the instructors lead to a meeting which resulted in me leaving my club of many years to form the “Institute Of Modern Tae Kwon Do” on the 15th October 1996. The club went from strength to strength to what it is today. In 1998 a group of instructors from the NSW AFTA clubs lead by Mr Ron Claassens contacted me as regards to joining the organisation. It was agreed to let them run their own gradings as Ron was a 4th Dan, not requiring me to attend their regular gradings.
With the Institute of Modern Tae Kwon Do continuing to grow and so many black belts all moving up the ranks, it was time for me to move another level to make room for the next breed of instructor to advance. On 8th December 2006, 10 years after IMT was established, I undertook a 5th Dan Examination. Since then the club has continued its expansion with a number of Senior Instructors achieving their 2nd, 3rd and 4th Degree Black Belts.
Tae Kwon Do has become my chosen life style; I love the joy of teaching and sharing what I have to offer all of our students. The satisfaction of achieving something most people only ever dream off. The opportunity it has given me, the lifelong friends that I have made, has all come from Tae Kwon Do.