Monday, April 22, 2024

MONDAY MAN: Way of the martial artist

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In 2001, Ryan Walker was introduced to the martial arts.

Since then he has trained to the level of third dan and is the national instructor for the Barbados Taekwon-Do Federation.

While studying in Trinidad, Walker was exposed to the art form and when he returned to Barbados in 2008 he started teaching it here.

“My instructor gave me the mandate to begin a school. Although there was another [local] school I was to represent the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) in Barbados,” Walker said. As chief instructor of the BTF, Walker promotes the ITF style of taekwon-do.

While preparing for a Wednesday evening class at the Black Rock Cultural Centre, Walker spoke about how martial arts has changed his life. It has also helped him to change the lives of others and has been a source of strength in tough times.  

“Two years ago I lost my foster mother and six months later I lost my birth mother. My foster mother who raised me from the age of eight passed away due to complications from a stroke and my mother died from a heart attack. There were times when I felt like stopping, but I kept coming because my students needed me and it helped me. Whenever I come to class I feel invigorated and energised so it is not just physical, it helps you mentally and spiritually.”

According to Walker, practising taekwon-do has helped him to focus and concentrate and is also a good diversion from the problems of life.

“If you had a hard day at work you can get a sweat, if you have problems at home with the family you can come and get a sweat. Or you can come and kick and punch at the pads and relieve some frustration,” Walker said.

The instructor said he has seen many taekwon-do trainees come in very uncoordinated and lackadaisical, but had been transformed.

“They start to walk erect, have improved techniques, are better balanced and stronger and also their behaviour has changed.”

While seeking to teach, Walker also likes to educate people. He said the difference between taekwon-do and the popular karate is in their origins. While karate is Japanese, taekwon-do is Korean. Karate is also a lot older, while taekwon-do is the baby of martial arts having started in 1955.

“It is very scientific and is also all-encompassing, whereby if it works we will incorporate it into the style.  

“Traditional taekwon-do is similar to karate in that we are both striking arts, we do punches, and we do kicks. However, people know us more for our kicks which are usually very flamboyant. We have a lot of flying kicks which were originally used for kicking people off horses because the founder, General Choi Hong Hi, created it as a version of unarmed combat for use on the battlefield,” Walker said.

He also said there is the principle of “one shot, one kill”. If need be, a strike can be so powerful and effective that it can kill an opponent.

Giving a breakdown of the word taekwon-do, Walker said tae means to kick or smash with the foot, kwon means to punch and do means away.   

Its five tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and an indomitable spirit and all students are taught them to overcome all challenges that seem insurmountable.

Walker said the response to the art form has dwindled somewhat even as it develops and attributes this fall-off to the recession.

With the move to the Black Rock centre in 2009, Walker has an opportunity to not only teach children from as young as five years old but to seniors in their 60s.

With all that has transpired over the years, he is still on track to be a grand master.

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