In the bowels of the SU lies the University’s martial arts room. Used by only a few societies, the room frequently floods, as it is positioned almost underneath the toilets near the Cube, and a strong smell of damp lingers in the air. Hardly the arena in which you would picture a nationally acclaimed team practising throughout the week, yet this is exactly what Southampton University can boast.
Southampton University Taekwondo Club (SUTKD) represents the university every year in national competition and membership continues to grow as more and more discover the lightning fast action of this Korean martial art. The British Student Taekwondo Federation runs an annual student competition where university clubs from across the country meet to compete in the martial arts’ two disciplines; poomsae (patterns) and kyorugi (sparring). SUTKD consistently hold great presence in both thanks to the high standards of training under Master Vince Collins (5th Dan) and many other senior figures within the club.
Last year SUTKD took the national title and ended UWE’s 3 year winning streak. However, due to complications surrounding governance of the sport in the UK, SUTKD (whilst being part of the AU) is unable to contribute BUCS points, meaning that the achievements by this spirited club are frequently unreported, despite its ever growing membership. The very first University Taekwondo Championship took place in 1987, an event which SUTKD hosted and won, however it then had to wait until 1992 before its next triumph.
Unfortunately since 1992 the university team has not managed to reclaim the title, and it is only in the last few years, with some dedicated training and practice, that the current crop of members have brought themselves to a standard where they are not only able to compete with the best in the land, but also to triumph. After becoming national champions in 2010 and ending an 18 year winless streak, the team have successfully retained their title, demonstrating a hugely competitive spirit and will to win together.
The club welcomes everyone, regardless of standard, and encourages all to train and improve in a warm and friendly atmosphere, with the aim of going on to challenge nationally. In the most recent tournament, special mention should go to Booker Ogutu who entertained the entire crowd with his dominant fighting style and constant series of impressive kicks, Pip Simpson for her inspiring tenacity with which she stormed from 2-2 to a 9-2 victory and Declan Kiernan who, despite being new to the martial art, powered his way through no less than 4 fights to earn himself a much deserved gold.
Despite strong competition from many other universities, including Surrey, UWE and Kingston, all of Southampton University’s competitors did themselves proud with their spirited performances and high level of support for one another.
So next time you’re venturing into the lower levels of the SU, think of this dedicated team, working and training hard to bring national acclaim to the university, overcoming poor training facilities, and frequently overlooked as they don’t contribute important BUCS points. They deserve our applause and admiration.
[This article was written by Chris Shimwell and Jack Parsonage]