The South Korean martial art taekwondo is one of the world’s fastest growing sports. It’s also catching on fast in Huddersfield. One Birkby club, which began with a single class six years ago, now boasts hundreds of members. Hilarie Stelfox went along to find out why.
HE’S widely known in the Huddersfield area as Master Mosy, the taekwondo instructor.
But just six years ago the Iranian-born martial arts expert had only a single class at Fartown High School with a handful of members. Today Mosy Bagherzadeh heads a thriving club with around 400 students of all ages and from all communities.
His enthusiasm for the world’s fastest-growing sport is so infectious that the Birkby-based Premier Taekwondo club, which he founded in late 2006, runs 20 training and sparring classes a week for children from the age of three, families and adults. It even has its own women-only session, led by a female instructor.
And it’s expanding, with newly-opened branches in Batley and Mirfield.
It’s quite a success story for the 30-year-old, who arrived in Britain as a student of English and ended up making Yorkshire his home.
Taekwondo is a full contact empty-hand combat form with its origins in the many types of martial arts that existed in Korea and its Far Eastern neighbours.
Mosy, who now lives in Lindley but learned taekwondo from the age of 10 in his native Iran, says the discipline is incredibly popular in the Middle East.
“It’s the number one sport in Iran,” he said. “Iran has the world champion and it’s becoming much better known here now. When I first started teaching here a lot of people didn’t know what it was and used to get it confused with karate or kung fu.”
As with many forms of martial art, taekwondo is said to improve fitness, boost confidence and self esteem and teach discipline.
Initially, Mosy, who became a black belt 15 years ago, took his classes into schools in the Kirklees area – he still teaches in some – and says he was welcomed by both staff and pupils.
“For example, I approached a school in Dalton and said I wanted 30 students but they called me and said 97 had signed up. I had to go to the school twice a week,” he explained.
“Taekwondo teaches self control and self discipline. I’ve taught children with learning difficulties, light disabilities, bad behaviour, anger problems and shyness issues. It’s good for everyone.”
When he began teaching the martial art Mosy was working as a part-time chef and in hotel management.
Today he is a full-time instructor at the club, which opened its own premises in Linden Road two years ago and is now run by a committee of officials.
Mosy says taekwondo gave him the self-confidence to teach.
“When I compare myself to how I was 10 years ago I was very lacking in confidence and very shy,’’ he said. “Now I can talk in front of 200 people and I feel absolutely fine.”
One of the keys to the success of clubs such as Premier Taekwondo is getting whole families involved.
The Siddiqui family from Salendine Nook is typical of the many who turn out each week to classes.
“It’s fun, it’s exercise and we can do it together,” said mum Jennifer.Related content
Her husband, Ahmed, is a keen sportsman, and their daughters – nine-year-old Jamila and four-year-old Hanna – attend 12 classes a week between them.
“Originally it was Jamila who wanted to do Taekwondo,’’ said Jennifer. “I think we found out about the classes on the internet. We’d bring her along and we’d be sitting here watching and thought ‘why aren’t we down there doing it instead of up here watching’.”
She estimates her family hobby costs them around £100 a month, but she considers it money well spent.
Hanna is a member of the Lil’ Dragons – a section for children aged three to six – while Jennifer often attends the women-only class. They can all attend family classes.
“We are here five days a week,” she added.
The women-only class is attended by women from all backgrounds but has proved popular with members of the Asian community who want to exercise in an all-female environment.
As girls can also attend it can be a mother-and-daughter activity.
Of course not all parents want to join in. But they still believe in the value of martial arts. Carol Cato-Simpson from Birkby takes her nine-year-old daughter Charlotte to three sessions a week.
As a green belt, Charlotte is now entitled to attend advanced classes.
“I used to do a martial art called praying mantis years and years ago,” said Carol. “I think taekwondo is good for her. It has given her confidence an extra boost.”
Another indication of the club’s success is the fact that in a few short years it has trained more than 30 students from white belt to black belt standard. That’s a progression of 10 belts which is usually accomplished in four years.
Nine-year-old Luis Matheson from Dalton is one of the most recently-graded black belt.
His mum, Michelle Markham, said: “He is mad about taekwondo.
“He practices at home, asking me to hold the paddles for him to kick. He does a single and a double class a week.
“I think he’s more focussed in school now and it helps him to get rid of excess energy.’’
Luis says he particularly enjoys sparring.
WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) taekwondo is an Olympic sport and as such attracts an international following.
Mosy is not the only ‘foreign’ adherent to the sport in Huddersfield. Fellow instructor Master Mani Thapa, who lives in Cowlersley and teaches in Mirfield as well as at the Birkby centre, hails originally from Nepal.
He says taekwondo is a major sport among the Nepalese and the Ghurkas are trained in it.
At 48, he says he’s blazing a trail for older practitioners of the martial art. He came to Huddersfield in 2000 and joined a club in 2003. “I practised taekwondo in Nepal but hadn’t gone in for any grades,” he said. “When I came here I joined a club, started grading and now I’m a teacher.”
The origins of the sport go back nearly 2,000 years. It is based on a number of martial arts from Korea and the surrounding eastern countries.
It is the national sport of South Korea.
The word taekwondo is from Tae, to kick or smash with the feet; Kwon, to punch or destroy with the hand or fist, and Do, which means way or method.
For details of taekwondo classes check out www.premiertaekwondo.org.