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The University of Bristol Taekwondo Club is preparing to host a major inter-University sparring competition on 4th February at the Coombe Dingle Sports Centre. Guy Aglionby tells us more.

This is one in a series of match days that comprises the British University Taekwondo League (BUTL), co-founded in 2015 by Bristol Taekwondo Club’s ex-President Alistair Anderson.

The BUTL is the first league-based student Taekwondo competition, and in its debut year Bristol placed third behind Manchester Met and Swansea. The competition has doubled in size since last year with fourteen clubs now involved, and nine competing here next month.

This time round – armed with a force of 47 competitors and starting the fight on home soil – the Bristol club are confident that they’ll beat last year’s result.

Bristol’s fighters will face opponents from one or two other universities, with the rest of the matches to take place at tournaments later in the year.

Fighters are matched with opponents of similar experience, with fights ranging in length from a single minute and a half round for beginners to two two-minute rounds for more experienced martial artists. With four rings operating simultaneously, there’s guaranteed to be action throughout the afternoon.

The club in action

Taekwondo sparring has been an Olympic sport since 2000, and if you have seen any matches you will know that it is fast, tactical, and exhilarating to watch. Knowing when to attack and when to perform a counter-move against one’s opponent is key. Protective equipment includes a head guard, gum shield, gloves and foot protectors.

It’s not all sparring though; Taekwondo has a traditional side too. This consists of blocks, kicks and strikes, often practised in sequence to form patterns. These help build leg and core strength, and some people train just for these benefits. Pad work and drills complement both sides of the martial art and help improve general fitness.

The club itself has doubled in size over the past two years, welcoming members of all abilities; in fact, roughly half of the members had never trained in Taekwondo before they joined.

The club trains up to three times a week at the Students’ Union and around the university campus, and is fortunate enough to be coached by Mr Minh Le Van, a 5th Dan black belt, and Mr Phil Whitlock, a 4th Dan black belt and England squad member.

Of course, training is supplemented by socials such as the infamous graded bar crawl (in which everyone starts as a white belt, and has to drink their way to black belt), trips to Airhop and film nights.

All are welcome to spectate at the match day at Coombe Dingle on 4th February at any time from 12:30 ‘til 17:00, and entry is FREE!

Come along to see some brilliant fights and indulge in some good old-fashioned University rivalry. If it happens to spark your interest your first training session is always free — search for University of Bristol Taekwondo on Facebook.

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