Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Taekwondo: So you want to be the next Jade Jones?

David Baker, Head Coach of Matrix Taekwondo was Olympic taekwondo star Jade Jones' first ever coach during her early years in the sport. In this blog he tells us about those early years and explains why any youngsters feeling inspired by Jade should get involved in taekwondo.

I first met Jade on Saturday 29 January 2005 at the Morgan Llwyd Sports Centre in Wrexham. Paul Green had come to do a Sport Taekwondo seminar for my club Matrix Taekwondo. You might not know the name but Paul Green is a ten time British Champions, multiple European Champion, World Silver medalist and Olympic quarter finalist.

Jade was doing a semi-contact style of Taekwondo with an independent taekwondo group in her home town of Flint so this seminar was her first try at WTF Olympic Taekwondo. I doubt whether Paul Green remembers Jade from that day but he now coaches her full-time at the GB Taekwondo Academy in Manchester.

Jade at the Paul Green Seminar at Morgan Llwyd Sports Hall in Wrexham

The next day on 30 January we held a competition at the Morgan Llwyd Sports Hall called the Anglo Welsh Taekwondo Cup (WTF). Jade’s Granddad, Martin, sent me Jade’s application form for the Paul Green seminar with a covering letter asking if Jade could take part in the competition the next day and if so would I be able to coach her. I agreed and remember her first match quite well. Jade really looked like she was enjoying herself and won the match. I remember saying to Martin afterwards that I thought she would be better suited for the WTF style rather than a semi contact style.

I didn’t see Jade again until 2006. Jade and Martin contacted me saying that Jade wanted to have a serious go at the Olympic style of Taekwondo and she started travelling the 20 mile journey from Flint to Wrexham each week to train with us. A few weeks later Olympic Bronze Medalist, Sarah Stevenson and her fiancĂ© (now husband and another of the GB coaches) Steven Jennings came to the Morgan Llwyd Sports Centre in Wrexham to do a Sport Taekwondo Seminar for Matrix Taekwondo. Jade came to this seminar and I could already see big improvements in her change of style.

As well as training for Sport Taekwondo Jade also had to learn a new martial art with new patterns so that she could get a Kukkiwon WTF Black Belt to enable her to compete at a high level. Jade and my daughter Danielle used to spar together in training and Danielle also taught Jade the new patterns. Jade did not complain about the extra work she had to put in. In fact Jade never complained about anything but I did notice a few times that Jade looked unhappy if the training wasn’t hard enough. She continued learning the new patterns and eventually got her Kukkiwon Black Belt at the UTA Dan Grading in Manchester headed by Grandmaster TW Shin who she had been doing extra training with to get ready for the grading.

2008 British Champions: Danielle Baker and Jade Jones
On the Sport side Jade had started doing well and was catching the eye at Taekwondo Opens in the UK as we travelled regularly to places like County Durham and Barnsley. Then it was time to go to Europe; so we went to the Dutch Open in Eindhoven. Straight away Jade was competing well against some of the best Taekwondo players in the World and Europe. We were very lucky to have Paul Green and his Father Brian Green working with Jade. At the British Championships in September 2008 both Jade and Danielle became Junior British Champions in their weight divisions.

It was time to move up another level so I contacted Sport Wales and arranged a meeting at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. We discussed Elite level Taekwondo and funding. Jade had now been noticed by the GB Taekwondo team and, with initial funding help from Sport Wales, she got a place at the full time academy in Manchester. Soon after Jade won Silver in the Junior World Championships and qualified for the Youth Olympic Games where she won Gold. In her first Senior World Championships Jade won Silver, which shows how remarkable this teenage fighter from Flintshire truly is. We will see Jade next on 9 September 2012 at the London Olympic Games. Whatever happens I'm so proud of her!

What makes Taekwondo such a great Sport?

Taekwondo is a Sport based on a Korean martial art. It is known for its kicks so with Boxing and Judo already in the Olympics it is the obvious choice to be included. It is very dynamic and energetic and you feel great after a good training session and even better after a good match. The training improves your fitness, stamina, flexibility, and confidence.

Why should people give it a try?

Taekwondo is not as well known in Wales, and the UK, as it is in other countries. The Olympics will introduce the Sport to more people in the UK and if Jade does well the Sport will have a bigger profile in Wales.

It has something for everyone; it is not just for people who want to enter competitions. We have the patterns and the traditional side of the art. It is a lot of fun and you get to learn something as well as the self-defense benefits.

Where can they go if they want to join a club?

If you are in North Wales visit Matrix Taekwondo.
For the rest of the UK you can visit the British Taekwondo club finder.