Taekwondo, an exciting Korean martial art invented by General Choi Hong Hai in 1955, is becoming increasingly popular amongst young people in the UK.
Taekwondo is also a martial art in which young British athletes are excelling on the worldwide arena. Here is the lowdown on five up-and-coming Taekwondo athletes and established stars of the Taekwondo world:
Damon Sansum won silver at the World Taekwondo Championships, held earlier this year in Chelyabinsk. He was the first British male to be awarded a WTF medal and he has also recently won a bronze medal at the Korean Open. This is an incredible achievement when Sansum only started Taekwondo five months ago!
Sansum has enjoyed a successful kickboxing background but applied for the ‘Fighting Chance’ programme and was fortunate enough to be selected for the British Academy in Manchester, giving him the breakthrough that has enabled his determination and integrity to be translated into international victories. WTF Taekwondo is currently the only kicking martial art that offers the chance to represent your country on an international level and is also an Olympic sport. Damon Sansum hopes to represent the UK in Rio.
Jade ‘The Headhunter’ Jones
Jade Jones is one of the UK’s best-known taekwondo stars, particularly in Wales, where she won the public vote to become the ‘BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 2012.’
Jade was born in Wales in 1993 and left school aged 16 to concentrate on taekwondo full time. This early dedication paid off as Jade became Team GB’s first ever gold medallist at the Summer Youth Olympics, in Singapore in 2010.
After numerous other trophies at international events, such as the World Championships, Jones won a place in many British hearts when she won a gold medal at The London 2012 Olympics, an awe-inspiring achievement, the first ever Brit to win a gold medal in this discipline, and was subsequently awarded an MBE in recognition of her achievements.
Jade’s nickname is the ‘Headhunter’ as her preference is to aim higher-scoring kicks at her opponents heads rather than their bodies.
The Ginger Ninja Trickster/Aaron Gassor
Aaron Gassor aka The Ginger Ninja Trickster has become a YouTube sensation with his helpful online taekwondo tutorials, which have over 113,000 subscribers.
Taekwondo is in the family for Newport-based Gassor. His dad and sister are instructors at the local Martial Arts and Fitness Centre in Newport, and his mother and other sister also work there as receptionists. Gassor has become a well-known and highly respected Taekwondo instructor and is an acrobatic and energetic taekwondo practitioner. In fact, he is well-known for combining acrobatics with traditional taekwondo moves. His online tutorials are incredibly popular because of Gassor’s down-to-earth approach and the clarity of his instructions that are helping thousands of youngsters to improve their taekwondo techniques.
Gassor’s career as an instructor is going from strength to strength and is also diversifying; he has recently been involved in a Welsh action movie ‘Kamikaze’ which showcases some of his finest moves- look out for it soon!
Lutalo Mohammed was born in Walthamstow, East London in 1991, and started taekwondo from early childhood; his father began instructing him when he was only three years old!
Mohammed went on to become a highly successful British taekwondo athlete, who won a bronze medal for team GB in the 2012 Olympics. The decision to select Lutalo over his long-term rival Aaron Cook was controversial at the time, with Cook so disgruntled with the Olympic officials that he elected to become a citizen of Moldova, but Lutalo’s determined success proved that he is not a taekwondo star who is easily defeated.
Lutalo Mohammed suffered a serious knee injury earlier this year but luckily recovered enough to win another bronze medal at the European Championships held in June. Let’s hope Lutalo is on better form than ever at the Manchester’s World Taekwondo Grand Prix this weekend!
24-year-old Bianca Walkden is a British taekwondo athlete from Liverpool who is another member of the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester, a city that has been dubbed the ‘Mecca of British Taekwondo’.
Earlier this spring, Walkden beat Glady Epanque in an exhilarating final of the World Taekwondo Championships. This was an important victory for Bianca as she became the second Brit ever to be awarded a Taekwondo world title. Bianca’s phenomenal success in 2015, even with an injury to a knee ligament, means that she is full of confidence to tackle the next challenge, the 2016 Olympics in Rio, when hopefully she will be fitter than ever.