“12 months ago, I hated Taekwondo.”
Sian Buckley had never considered trying out martial arts before.
That is until, she and wife Rachel Salt decided to start up Lancashire-based club; Kicks Taekwondo. Rachel, who previously fought for Great Britain, holding a National Title for some time, took a fifteen-year break from the art and sport, before getting back to Taekwondo two years ago.
Originally, Rachel began training at a local club. Her passion being sparring, she was disappointed by the lack of sparring clubs and competitions based in the Lancashire area. This spurred the pair to start their own classes.
After some persuasion from Rachel, Sian agreed to attend a lesson at the pervious club Rachel trained with;
“I didn’t want to try Taekwondo, but I folded last August,” said Sian, “… As I feared, I didn’t like it at all!
“There were lots of parents there watching, lots of pattern work and I felt really self conscious.
“That was my one and only Taekwondo experience.”
In November, Rachel Salt became one of many British Taekwondo Instructors to start her own KickSister class. KickSister is a female-only programme, designed to open more opportunities to women who would like to get fit, have fun or even just try something new. For a second time, Sian reluctantly agreed to attend a Taekwondo class, this time; KickSister.
“This was a whole new experience – I loved it!
“It felt like a safe environment with like minded people.
“I was quite overweight at the time, due to having an under-active thyroid, and so this confidence boost helped me so much.
“Rachel is an amazing coach (though I know I’m biased!). But she really made her class of women feel at ease – it was friendly and fun! We also did the class to music.”
By January 2015, and with KickSister classes thriving, Kicks Taekwondo became a full club, and today have four separate clubs; all going from strength to strength.
“I have been training on average 4-6 times a week now, also training at the gym. I’ve lost three stone, gained so much confidence and made lots of new friends!”
“We also decided to target the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community in Manchester” Rachel told us.
“There have been so many hate crimes and attacks over the past few years. That’s why I started a class called ‘KickSistah’, with the intention of teaching some self defence awareness. It runs on Canal Street in Manchester.”
Like Ji Kwan Taekwondo, who adapted KickSister to suit the local Muslim community, Kicks Taekwondo adapted the programme to suit the LGBT community in Manchester. And, after some time, KickSistah progressed to be a full Taekwondo club, due to the demand from growing classes’ to progress even more.
Recently, 16 Kicks Taekwondo students graded. Sian achieved Blue Belt, 3 KickSisters got their Yellow Belt and after completing the 3 month programme, 2 KickSistahs made Yellow Tag, with 1 Kicksistah achieving Yellow Belt.
“We’re the first LGBT Taekwondo Club in Britain… and possibly the world! I haven’t found any others yet anyway,” said Rachel.
“Our request to march in Pride has been accepted too, which is really exciting stuff.”
Sian has 18 years experience in working with young people, in her role at a children’s home, and set her aspirations to marrying this experience with Taekwondo.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” said Sian, “but my ambition is to get to Black Belt level and beyond, so that I can start instructing too.”
Rachel hopes to leave work to follow her passion as a full-time Instructor, so the pair are working hard to build and grow their clubs even more to make this a reality.
In the meantime, Sian looked to develop her skills, and hoped to gain more experience by putting them to the test in competition.
“I have been wanting to compete for a while now,” said Sian “but I am quite short, and still classed as heavy weight, so Rachel wanted to make sure that I was ready first.
“It’s a lot more scary competing when you’re older…”
Training rigorously with Rachel and the club, Sian attended the Spenymoor 1-1, 14th June.
“I was lucky enough to get two fights. I was so very nervous… but I kept the skills I had learnt in mind.
“My first fight I won! 13-3, and made quite a few head shots, which is great – because I couldn’t kick to the head at all in January!
“It went so quickly, I didn’t even think to use any back kicks – which are my favourite – let alone look at the scoreboard.
“I was actually recovering from a sprained wrist at the time of my matches; I took a few blows to it, which affected my blocking. I also took some low kicks and knees to my leg.”
The next fight came quickly, and after the first round Sian took another knock to her leg. She continued to fight, but unfortunately didn’t win.
Having decided to compete to broaden her experiences as a Taekwondo instructor, Sian now tells us that she’s hooked!
“The experience was great – I’ve won and lost and know how both feel!”
Sian and Rachel hope to make Taekwondo a full-time reality, and continue to grow their clubs.
For Sian, who continues to train hard to achieve her goal of being an Instructor, it was all kickstarted by our female-only programme.
“KickSister is a great way of starting Taewondo, it’s a completely different environment to other classes. It’s fantastic for boosting confidence, self esteem – and weight loss!”
KickSister clubs continue to run up and down the country, with more classes opening all the time. It’s fantastic too, to see clubs making the programme even more accessible to the communities around them.
To find out more about running the programme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org