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Be the water . . . Oamaru Mail reporter Tyson Young expresses his passion for taekwondo. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

There are hundreds of clubs throughout North Otago, but one stood out for reporter Tyson Young – the Whitestone Taekwondo Club – when he moved here at the start of the year. He shares his reasons for wanting to take up taekwondo and his experiences in the club.

For years, I wanted to practise a martial art.

Taekwondo was of particular interest because it requires good balance and reasonable flexibility–two abilities I lacked.

Last year, while living in Christchurch and studying journalism, I worked as a part-time security officer at the Christchurch Public Hospital to support myself. I was taught some basic self-defence and restraint techniques, which further sparked my curiosity about martial arts.

I had also begun learning about renowned martial artist Bruce Lee.

The more I knew about him and the martial arts he practised, the more I aspired to be like him.

“I want to be able to do that sort of stuff,” I said to a friend one day.

After I landed the job as a reporter at the Oamaru Mailearlier this year, I decided to enrol in the Whitestone Taekwondo Club.

I remember my first day of training as if it were yesterday.

Shortly after finishing a day’s work, I arrived at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre where I met club members.

The hospitality of both the instructors and students instantly made me feel welcome.

My first session mainly consisted of training with instructor Darryl Johnston at various exercise stations around the gymnasium at the Rec Centre.

Each station featured a different kick to be performed. There was never a dull moment.

For the first half of the night, everything went well. Then I reached a training station that required me to perform a high kick.

While attempting the kick, I spun and lost my balance. Before I knew it, I was flat on my face.

The initial feelings were a mix of pain, embarrassment, and frustration.

After getting back on my feet, I was reassured by Johnston not to dwell too much on my mistake.

“Don’t worry about it – this sort of thing happens to lots of first timers,” he said.

As days of training turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, my passion for taekwondo and the club itself burgeoned.

I reached a personal milestone when I went up two grades to a full yellow belt a few months ago. It showed the effort I had put into training had finally paid off.

Since taking up taekwondo, my fitness has increased, my co-ordination has improved, and I’ve shed a few kilograms.

A pastime like taekwondo results not only in physical changes, but also an improvement in mental wellbeing.

I find taekwondo a healthy way of winding down after a stressful or hectic day at the office.

I would like to personally acknowledge and thank instructors Master Bernie Miller, Darryl Johnston, Jeff Spillane, and Vanessa Gough – without their courage and support I probably would have given up on taekwondo by now.

Although I will probably never reach Bruce Lee’s level, acquiring my own black belt is definitely a goal I plan to work towards in the years ahead.