It could truly be said that the seeds of the John Ward School were planted by his 5 year old son, Adam, some 23 years ago.
Adam came home from school one afternoon and asked if he could join "Cook School One". Thinking it was some kind of Junior Masterchef course at school, KJN John said, "Yes of course", secretly hoping he was in for some culinary treats!
At the time John was working away a lot of the time, so he was very surprised when he came back one Friday nIght to find Adam proudly wearing a BLACK uniform!
"You can't cook in that!" he exclaimed.
Of course it was then quickly explained that Cook School One was actually Kuk Sool Won, a Korean martial arts school. Therefore, John's hopes for treats were dashed...but he did get something much better...eventually!
As John was away so much he saw very little of his son's martial arts, except when being used as a "willing partner" at weekends. Eventually, he went along to Adam's first grading test and there he was interested to see that there were some students even older than he was! After this Adam won two tickets to see a demonstration of Kuk Sool Won which was taking place after one of their tournaments. John found himself inspired by this and shortly afterwards, he signed up!
John loved traning right from the start. He had been looking for something to do in order to get and keep fit, but nothing seemed to fit the bill. He had tried the Gym, but like so many others, stopped going after only a few sessions. He bought a bicylce and hardly rode it, he even got an exercise bike, but rarely used this either.
It seemd that he lacked the self discipline that these activities require in order to make them work for you. What he needed was something where someone ese TOLD you what to do……..Cue martial arts!
After few months John took part in his own first grading for his Yellow belt. It was a litle nervewracking, but he came through it and decided that if he could take this small step, then all he had to do in order to reach Black Belt, was to keep going and not give up. As a yellow belt, John found himself wanting to help other, newer students in the class, as well as training with Adam in their spare time
It was not long after this when John asked his instructor (then PSBN) Phillip Hinchliffe what you have to do to open a school. PSBN laughed and said, “well first you have to get your black belt John!”
“Yes”, he replied, “but after that, what do I have to do?”
Seeing that John was not joking, PSBN said, “You’re serious aren’t you!”
“Well, once you have your 1st dahn, you would have to ask me, and then the Grand master for persmission, and so long as noone objects then you will be abe to go ahead”
And so, about five years later, that is exactly what John did. His first school was in Dereham, Norfolk (about 40 miles from his home in Beccles, Suffolk) and was a great success for a relatively small town. The reason for choosing somewhere so far away was twofold. Firstly there were restrictions on how close a KSW school could be to another, and secondly, John did not want to appear to be trying to “steal” his instructor’s students!
After a while John expanded, opening schools in nearby Swaffham and Downham Market. By this time he had moved closer to the area where he was teaching. Around this time John took the step of giving up a very well paid job to become one of a very small number of instructors who teach martial arts as their full-time living.
“I knew that I would probably never replace my previous income through teaching martial arts, but that was not important. All I wanted was to make a reasonable living doing something I loved”
John also took part in many tournaments, winning over 100 medals and the UK senior 1st dahn Grand championship, no less than three years running!
However, depsite this success, he struggled to make a decent living as the towns that were available to him were quite small and there were no larger towns available.
And so, in 2003, he sold up and moved over 200 miles to Heysham, near Morecambe with the intention of setting up a brand new school in this area.
He chose this area as he knew it quite well and had relatives here and the added benefit that there were no KSW schools within 70 miles, the nearest being Liverpool. At first it was far from easy as there was noone to help with the opening or running of the school.
Initially he taught at a variety of local venues, such as sports centres, village halls etc and within two years he had managed to expand enough to take on the tenancy of his own building, where he is still located today. This was a rather run down industrial unit, but with a little hard work and help from a number of his students, John was able to transform it into a fully fitted training centre (dojahng) which has undergone further improvements over the years. It now has permanent olympic standard matting with carpet covering unmatted areas. There is a range of equipment including freestanding and hanging kick bags, crash mats and exercise equipmement.
Over the past 11 years, John has developed relationships with a number of primary and secondary schools and has taught after school and in school sesions for hundreds of youngsters.
In 2009, now a 4th dahn (SBN) himself, John was disappointed to discover that his parent organisation introduced some very restrictive practises, which included an 80% reduction in his licensed area as well as restrictions on training in other arts.
After much soul searching and deliberation John took the difficult decision to leave the WKSA and join the National Korean Martial Arts Association (NKMAA).
Although this was a very hard decision, John now believes it was the best thing he has ever done for his school and his students. They now have a great deal more freedom and the syllabus is much wider including many techniques amd forms that are not taught in his old organisation.
However, he will always be grateful for the tuition and experiences which he gained under WKSA and his old instructor.
He now trains directly under Grandmaster Timmerman and has travelled to Canada several times for training and testing. GM Timmerman has also been to the UK twice in the past three years and stayed with KJN John so he could benefit from further training.
Since joining NKMAA John has tested sucessfully for his 6th dahn in Kuk Sool Hapkido and 5th dahn in Kong Shin Bup. He is the only Instructor in the UK, possibly the world, to have tested separately for master level qualifications in these two arts under GM Timmerman.
Since joining NKMAA John has continued to compete successfully in open tournaments gaining several more 1st place awards.
He is now the UK Director for NKMAA and in 2013 was honoured to be awarded the Director of the Year award by GM Timmerman.
Since opening the school, the classes have developed too. John now offers separate classes for 3 different age groups. Little Ninjas offer basic martial arts tuition to 4 – 6 year olds, then there are classes Youths (aged 6-15) and seniors, aged 16 and over. There are also some classes which mix Juniors and youths together as well as two family classes where children can train alongside their parents.
There are three syllabus levels for Little Ninjas, Youths and Seniors. Little Ninjas classes are for 4 to 6 year oolds and students learn tyhe basics of martial arts movements and make a start on the Youth syllabus. Youths may be awarded a Youth Black Belt which is similar to the senior but with red writing instead of Gold. Over 16s may earn a “full” 1st dahn rank and above.
The syllabus for the three levels are similar with a lesser equirement for the younger groups, but with the facility for students to retain their rank as they move through the age groups.
The school now boasts around 100 students and for the future John is confident this number will grow.
He is currently looking at ways to improved the training programmes on offer as well as expanding the schools area of operation. SO, watch this space for more news!
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