Waterside Taekwondo Club – celebrating 30 years in 2022

A feature on the Waterside Taekwondo Club in Hampshire.

As part of our 40th anniversary celebrations we’re sharing the stories of our members. In this feature we find out more about the Waterside Taekwondo Club, it’s members and successes as they celebrate their own anniversary of 30 years.

Speaking with Master Colin Graves he gives us the background to the club, how he got into Taekwondo – and why he still enjoys it after 37 years – as well as a look at the future of the club through the development of its Instructors, athletes, competitors and champions.

Waterside Taekwondo Club is one of the UK’s leading Taekwondo Clubs with dedicated classes for all ages and abilities delivered by professional instructors and coaches offering classes for Tiny Tigers, Family Traditional, Sports Sparring and Lift and Fit. We have clubs in Holbury, Netley, Totton and Redbridge covering Southampton and Waterside. We also have team building events such as Go-Karting, Paintballing, Camping, Beach Training all to bring the club, its members and their families closer together.

I started Taekwondo when I was 18 after my older brother Keith went along to the Southampton City Club with his friend Doug and came back to show me basic hand technique No. 1.

And just like that I became addicted to the sport.

I went along to the next session and I was stunned by the techniques in front of me displayed by the club Instructor Grandmaster Mark Biddlecombe. He had a sidekick that went straight to the ceiling, and I thought to myself that’s what I want to do one day.

We would do the beginners class, go for a feast at the local McDonald’s around the corner, and then come back to watch the advanced class where the guys would be beating each other in old school sparring.

It must have been about a year later that we managed to join this advanced class and you really had to step up as these guys were massive compared to skinny little me at 76kgs.

I soon gained respect as I was pretty fast, and this gave me the confidence to start doing local and national competitions.

I won the British National Championships by winning seven fights. That’s how big the categories were back then. It’s crazy, but winning those competitions got me a doorman’s job at the local nightclubs.

I took part in two sparring World Championships for Great Britain which were held in London and Barcelona. These are enormously proud moments for me as I have a thing about having your national anthem being played while you represent your own country.

I also became good at poomsae as I was learning from the best, so I took part in a few British competitions where I enjoyed the challenge.

After doing Taekwondo for seven years people kept telling me it was time to open my own club as I had so much to offer – so I did!

In 1992 I opened my first class at a local school and my very first student Regan Atkinson walked in the door and asked if he had come to the right place.

I was worried nobody would turn up and then suddenly I had another nine follow him through the door that night.

And that was it as I was off and running and I have never looked back since.

What I love about teaching back then and now is watching the progress students have made over the years. It’s your lesson planning and drive that has helped these guys achieve something special in their lives.

I was teaching one evening at Totton when a tall guy called Sean Neill walked in with his 5-year-old son and said he used to do Taekwondo years ago and wanted his son to have the same joy as him.

It wasn’t long before Sean started joining in and he’s been with the club ever since.

Master Sean Neill, as some of you will know him on the fighting circuit, fighting in the heavyweight division opened up his own club across the other side of Southampton and also teaches traditional and sparring.

Sean went on to win his sixth National Veterans title at the Copper Box in London in 2021.

While Master Sean and I were teaching together we had two great athletes joining us with their two boys. They were Master Kevin and Carolyn Westbrook who joined us from another local club after doing most of their Taekwondo in Austria. Kevin and Carolyn are still running classes at the club, and they are very much involved in helping out judging at poomsae events.

The club has gone from strength to strength as I have now been doing Taekwondo full time for 10 years now after quitting my warehouse job which became exhausting, especially with my teaching.

I opened my own dojang three years ago which saw the club boom in numbers, but Covid made things exceedingly difficult as we had to do sessions on Zoom. Although they did prove to be a considerable success. We managed to do at least three sessions a day for the young tigers aged 3 to 6, our sparring class and the poomsae sessions. Master Sean and I would like to personally thank those that supported us through those tough times.

The club has won many trophies at the Littledown championships hosted by Master John Webster. It’s our favourite venue.

My club joined up with Master Mark Sargeant from St Katherines as we called ourselves Team Chungdokwan GB and took part in competitions in the UK and abroad. We won the 1st place team trophy several times at the Littledown competitions plus the NTC event held in Nottingham.

Mark and I have a great relationship and have hosted events with Jade Jones, Paul Green, Lutalo Muhammad and Martin Stamper. These guys are fantastic athletes at the top of their game and our students learnt so much from them.

In recent times the club has been entering most of the UK competitions and some G2 events abroad. Most noticeably, we have two incredibly talented girls called Lily and Poppy Kingsley who have over the last 4 years won everything in the UK and are now starting to win competitions abroad.

Lily is now ranked number 2 in the world while Poppy has just recently won the Swedish Open. Both girls and Aimee Kim are part of the GB cadets’ wider squad that train in Manchester.

Doing Taekwondo for over 37 years has brought many fantastic memories including meeting my wife Donna, mixing with the best GB athletes, meeting some brilliant coaches in the UK, plus having the pleasure of meeting some great characters that officiate at events.

Taekwondo has certainly brought some hilarious moments like following the wrong minibus home from a Nottingham competition to end up in London when I should have been heading for Southampton!

Watching one of the club’s Masters fall over twice on wet grass at a local school demonstration while everyone else never had a problem. Seeing him with a dirty wet dobok still makes me laugh even now.

I will never forget the moment I arrived with my team at a hotel only to find out that I had personally booked the wrong hotel many, many miles away. I’ve done this several times now which is a running joke with the students these days!

I’m sure I will have many more hilarious moments on my travels with Taekwondo and that’s why people say it’s like going away with the family as the team spirit is brilliant.

I can’t recommend it enough for any students thinking about doing an event.

Waterside Taekwondo Club works closely with British Taekwondo and other clubs which enables us to take part in events and seminars Nationwide, most recently our poomsae team attended Grandmaster Shin Byeong Hyun’s Seminar at Bluewave Korean Martial Arts in Basingstoke.

Waterside Taekwondo is now one of the leading Taekwondo sparring, poomsae and family Taekwondo clubs in the South and the club is now doing Instructor coaching courses as we are looking at our talented next generation of black belts and coaches. Most noticeably Master Chenson Hope-Simes 4th Dan, Paris Wateridge 3rd Dan and Rio Bermudez-Sun have very bright futures with the club.

You can find out more about the Waterside Taekwondo Club on their website and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Photos: submitted.

If you would like to share your Taekwondo story please contact Richard Gottfried, Marketing, Digital & Media Manager via marketing@britishtaekwondo.org or 07706 342156.