Nations’s best

Liam Durkin

SEASPRAY resident Remy McLeod displayed her all round abilities at the recent Australian full contact championships in Sydney, by winning the middleweight title in Kyokushin Karate.

McLeod’s efforts were made all the more remarkable by the fact that her true proficiency actually lies in the sport of taekwondo, which demonstrated her ability to create a hybrid combination of skills to see her be crowned Australian champion.

The championship win was yet another landmark in McLeod’s decorated career, which has also seen her train in many styles under ninth dan black belt grandmaster Joe Ingrati, who was inducted into the Australian and American martial arts halls of fame.

During her time with grandmaster Ingrati, McLeod was privileged enough to train under some of the best martial artists in the world, including grandmaster Richard Bustillo, a former first generation student of Bruce Lee, Ernie Reyes Jnr (creator of MTV’s Final Fu), Muay Thai legend Master Toddy of the US cable network show Fight Girls notoriety, sport martial art world champion Matt Emig and Benny “The Jett” Urquidez, an American kickboxer, martial arts choreographer and actor who appeared in films such as Wheels on Meals with Jackie Chan and Road House, in which he trained the late Patrick Swayze.

Having grown up in Bondi and started taekwondo at the age of eight, McLeod has progressed through the ranks, achieving her black belt after performing under the scrupulous eye of grand masters.

“Black belt grading’s can take up to seven hours and are designed to allow us as athletes to excel and push past our limitations, not just in a physical sense but mentally and emotionally,” McLeod explained.

The history behind the belt system is that originally belts or sashes were only white, with them becoming darker overtime due to the long hard training undertaken by those performing, thus meaning a black belt came to be symbol of devotion and experience.

In addition to holding a black belt for many years, McLeod has also achieved a number of ‘dans’, which is a Japanese and Korean ranking system used to indicate the level of one’s ability within a certain subject matter.

At the same time as obtaining her fourth dan black belt, McLeod was awarded the Kukkiwon and Chang Moo Kwan certificate.

“Chang Moo Kwan was one of the original martial arts schools to open in Korea at the end of World War 2, in the Kukkiwon students holding a fourth to sixth dan black belt are considered higher than an instructor, which is why receiving these certificates is such an honour,” she said.

Such is the rarity of the certificate awarded to McLeod, it has to be sent all the way to the world taekwondo headquarters in Korea for authorisation before being certified.

As well as competing, McLeod performs a number of educational and training classes, one of which is an initiative called ‘Bully Busters’, which aims to build healthy and respectful relationships within young children through the sport.

“I believe under safe organised conditions children can learn how to kick targets correctly and learn self-defence through the art of taekwondo,” she said.

“In addition to that they learn about respect and discipline. I teach my students to recognise and achieve their goals of one day becoming a black belt.

“Training in taekwondo is for boys and girls and will improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.

I believe in building the individual so they are able to work independently and in team environments.

Taekwondo originated in Korea and was used in the military, loosely translated it means “the way of foot and fist”. The ideology to kicking being the dominant component of the sport is that the leg is the longest limb and able to generate the greatest force, because of this kicks have the greatest potential to execute fast and powerful strikes with limited retaliation.

“Bowing before sparring symbolises that all issues are left out between those competing, and shaking hands recognises a mutual respect,” McLeod said.

Competitive spars are adjudicated on points, with fighters either wearing electronic chest guards that count the number of strikes, or by judges who each occupy a corner of the playing area.

Taekwondo sparring competitors are equipped with protective gear from head to toe which protects them from head shots worth three points, body shots either one or two depending on technique, whilst blows to the legs and arms are not allowed.

To be successful, McLeod said the art of anticipation and counterattacking were just as important as the execution of kicks, while sparring was about accuracy, timing and skill.

The mother of two is now bringing her love of taekwondo to local homes, and alongside husband Marc has established a mobile service to instruct participants from across Gippsland in the discipline.

“Anyone can do taekwondo, I am one of five black belts in my family, my parents both achieved their black belts at the age of 50, so it is never too late,” she said.

“It works as a great metaphor for life, as it teaches you to get up when you get knocked down.”

Anybody interested in taking up taekwondo or to learn more about having private lessons at their doorstep is encouraged to email mcleodtaekwondo@gmail.com