Family Values

The Brannan Story - Family Values

The first time I stepped into a Dojang was believe it or not in 1984, trying to find something ‘different’ for myself and my friend to take part in, away from the run of the mill netball, hockey & athletics which were offered through school. I never really stuck with these things, I wanted something alternative to try. A local Taekwon Do school in Somercotes had done a leaflet drop in the area, so after some persuasion of both my parents and my friend, off we went! I can't say it was a ‘nice’ experience as it was full of boys, who didn't really think we should be there, but the instructor encouraged us to join in anyway. So well literally, that's where the experience ended, due to a torn stomach muscle after being thrown around a little by older students. As you can imagine my idea of what martial arts was didn't start out well. Pete on the other hand had always thrown himself into every sport going; football, gymnastics & athletics, he loved them all.

Skip forward to 1999, our son Kyle was now a very boisterous, eager and inquisitive 7-year-old, with boundless amounts of energy, that wanted more than the regular football training, clubs, socialising etc. So my homework began! As you can imagine with my previous experience, I was at first dubious what to let him try. We touched on karate and kickboxing, but not liking any of the ethos of these and how they were run, we sought out an alternative stumbling upon Taekwon Do yet again, run at Alfreton leisure centre. He fitted in well and enjoyed the varied training it offered, so off we went twice a week sitting at the back watching what was going on. We learnt the moves, the theory and the patterns whilst sat on our bums watching, all to help Kyle as much as we could out of class, unbeknown to us that we were getting the TKD bug!

We would take my daughter Megan from being tiny and she would do her ‘little bit’ at the back of the class, trying to copy the others doing their work. It took us to Kyle getting to the blue stripe belt for me to start wondering… could I have a go at this at my age? Am I too old to start? Could I even remember anything? Am I even fit enough? Especially with my past experience it was a hard decision but my thinking has always been that if I am prepared to let my children do it, then I should be able to push my boundaries too! So I bit the bullet and asked Kyle's instructor if I could give it a go. After getting to know a lot of the students and parents in the Alfreton class, I felt I wanted to try where no one knew me, so my very first lesson was to be at Eastwood taught by Gary Bradshaw and because the arrangement had been made and Pete was going to take me, he said he'd join in and give it a go too. So together we survived our first class, learned Saju Jirugi method one and basic techniques and the rest is history!

We graded four weeks later (after a lot of persuading from Mrs Bradshaw that we were now training under, that we should give it a go) and low and behold we passed to gain our yellow stripe. This was the first time we met Mr. Salt at our grading as well as Mr. Brian Towndrow, who ran the TAGB area at the time. Facing that grading panel for the first time was indeed nerve racking. Come July of the same year on Megan's 5th birthday she joined us on her ‘official’ first class, straight in on the senior syllabus as the junior syllabus didn't exist under the TAGB. This is also where we met a very young Emma Deakin, even at that stage a formidable student whose potential was evident.

TAGB holidays

Our TAGB holidays were fun, unlike anything we had done before. Our first one to Gran Caneria was filled with hard training in the mornings, fun afternoons (we chose not to train all day haha) and evenings out with big groups of us having meals and get-togethers. Our second holiday to Tenerife was when we first trained with Mrs. Salt too, yes Mrs. Salt has dabbled in the past herself! Mr. and Mrs. Salt were great, you could see the massive respect others had for them and we just seemed to gel. We even as a family all graded again in Tenerife, which is great to see written in our licences. As our confidence grew I had started helping out with the juniors at Alfreton and this is where a transitioning period was taking place. PUMA was introduced to us in March 2002 and this was where we had the pleasure of meeting Master Black for the first time. He had decided the best way to meet us all was by hosting a TKD fit session in the bowls hall at Alfreton, oh boy was that an eye opener! A crazy, fun, interactive icebreaker if there ever was one and an introduction into what down to earth, friendly, knowledgeable and fun set of people we were now joining.

TAGB holidays

With the new way of how PUMA would teach, incorporating the ‘alien’ signwave, we were also introduced to the new junior syllabus, which was a more adapted way for younger students to learn and grow. And also the new Little PUMA syllabus they had in place for as young as 4 year olds to take part in. Pete was to be in his element, teaching whilst having fun, the kids loved him! It was in July 2003, we were asked to set up a little PUMA class at Alfreton, to run alongside the existing junior & senior classes, to be a feeder group to these. There was nothing else like it around, so it flourished. At some points, we had over 30 students in the class, each and every one loving the new way we could teach Taekwon Do at such a young age. In October 2003, we did our Little PUMA instructor course and this is where life went mad. We were asked to take over another class which wasn't doing so well, which we again built up to over 30 students, it was obviously a gap in the market that was crying out to be filled. At one point we were running 5 different Little PUMA classes, very successfully. Something had to give! Full time work and out every night teaching took a toll, so we decided to ‘give away’ two of the schools initially to people who we hoped would continue making it a success as we had, for our students sake. As our teaching confidence had grown, we now considered what else we could do.

This is where South Normanton Taekwon Do School began. With our assistant instructor certificate in the bag in May 2004, it was now time to become full instructors in June 2005. Successful in our courses, South Normanton Taekwon Do was born 7th September 2005, with both Little PUMA and Junior/Senior classes running side by side. And this is where we are today. After many ups and downs, students coming and going, blackbelts made in both Little PUMAs and Taekwon Do and many hours of blood, sweat and tears trying to make it the best we can be, we are still going. We couldn't have done it without the continued help from family, friends, helpers, assistant instructors and the students themselves who we hope have all gained something from being part of our school. We have seen young 4-year-olds grow to become young adults, we've seen parents train alongside their children, we've seen friendships formed for life.

So you can see our story is very different to some, for us it wasn't about the gradings, the courses, the competitions (although we would always be front row, supporting and rooting for our students to do their best) or the medals etc. It was always about family, friendships, camaraderie and the joy people get from believing they never could, to achieving goals they never thought possible. The continued learning as we push ourselves to do more, not because we have to but because we want to, with people around us wanting the best for us and backing us all the way. Sharing what we have learned over the years from many people, who have been generous with their time and knowledge and who are prepared to share it with all for our progression. This is why Taekwon Do can suit everyone, no matter of age or ability, it is inclusive and having that in this day and age is always going to be a winner.

When we started in February 2001 who would have thought we would be typing this article for New Century Taekwon Do students to read on our 20 years anniversary. They do say of 100 starters, on average 20 students reach green belt, 4 students reach Red Belt, and 1 student makes it to 1st degree Blackbelt. For every 20 Blackbelts, maybe 10 make 2nd Degree, only 4 make 3rd degree and only 1 will make 4th degree. I think our family has done pretty well as we are both 4th Degrees now.

Joanne and Peter Brannan
4th Degree Instructors.