On the 29th of February 1988 my Martial Arts Journey began, my twin brother Mark Koina Sa Bom Nim had started in November 1987. The first lesson was at “Lennons Health Club” in Kippax a building replaced now with apartments. In this first lesson I have strong memories of Gerard Donaghue as the instructor and Julie Garbode Sa Bom Nim as a 1st Gup. It began with Tang Soo Tao the art formed by Master Robert Caputo in 1974. Master Caputo trained and lived with our Kwan Jang Nim HC Hwang in Korea before arriving in Darwin, Australia in the 1970’s.
I started with a good friend, Jeffrey Miller, who tested for Cho Dan around ten years later than I a clear demonstration that we are always welcome back. At Lennons we became accustomed to the Green Shag Pile carpet and the mirrors on three walls of the Aerobics room we trained in. I vividly remember seeing one green belt in class learning Pyung Ahn E Dan and thinking that I would never be able to do that!
I sat every testing with Jeffrey Miller until Red Belt. With my first testing at the Belconnen Community Centre, the same day the Mark Koina Sa Bom Nim amd Andrew Brown sat their 8th Gup Testing. Shortly after this classes stopped at Lennons and we moved to St. John the Apostle Primary School in Florey. It was at this point that regular classes were taught by Glenn Sa Bom Nim.
As Red belts (3rd Gups) we were all expected to assist in junior classes. When the Dan members were away (an annual event) the Red Belts were expected to run all classes. It was an early introduction to running the Dojang and Instruction. This was the beginning of a deeper understanding of all that we had taught and a glimpse of the understanding that comes from teaching others.
Just prior to our Cho Dan Testing in 1992 with, Andrew Brown, Mark Koina, Natasa Dukic and Anthony Manning, Kriton Glenn Sa Bom Nim made the decision to leave Tang Soo Tao and form a new school Tang Wu Do. This testing was held at the Belconnen Community centre, an interesting connection of firsts when I look back. Our Cho Dan Testing and the first testing in a new organisation.
Testing for E Dan in 1994 was memorable for the training starting before sunrise travelling to various locations around Canberra and learning a new Hyung to present the next day. Who can forget meditating in the bush and discovering that your focal point on the mountain across from the river was in fact a wombat that up and moved as the sun cleared the horizon. As well as performing fitness requirements in ways that made them more difficult than the cho dan candidates performing theirs.
2002 was a busy year for us, Glenn Sa Bom Nim spoke to his senior students and we decided to formalise our connection to World Moo Duk Kwan. A small group of use attended SEALS in Darwin deciding the night before to sit a testing grading us formally into the Moo Duk Kwan. This was the year of my Sam Dan testing in Tang Wu Do and the rank that was recognised in transition to the Moo Duk Kwan. It was an exciting experience, being introduced to the Standarised Il So Sik, Ho Sin Sol and
Yuk Ro Hyung and then performing them a few days later in a testing.
In 2003 the Australian Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation Incorporated. The result of many hours of work to create a constitution and the merging of two organisations that each trace their lineage through Master Caputo back to the Moo Duk Kwan.
Attending the 2005 Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa in Sok Cho Korea was my first attendance at a Moo Duk Kwan Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa (testing with Andrew Brown, Derek Koina SBN, Julie Garbode SBN, Master Gillian Dean, Rick Diaz SBN and Roberto Fontora SBN – the Dan Bon after me – to name a few). It was an amazing experience with an amazing group of Sa Dan Candidates. On this occasion I was unable to attend the 60th Anniversary as I had recently changed work places.
In 2007 I attended SEALS in Canberra and was involved in the organisation of the event.
In 2010 I travelled with Mark Koina Sa Bom Nim to test for O Dan in Ramona California forming a second group of friendships the likes of which are only formed at Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa’s (Richard Wilcox SBN, Ernie Medina SBN, Rodrigo Cruz SBN, Gabriella Brown SBN, Chuck Smith SBN, Marylee Hendricks SBN and Scott Ridlon SBN). In 2011 I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to the US and train in San Diego with Kenyon Sa Bom Nim.
After this I have been fortunate enough to travel a little more regularly. In 2014 my senior student (Master Mark Ross) was intending to sit his Sa Dan Testing so I planned travel to Ramona California to support him and the other three candidates from Region 3 Australian (Jim Keho Sa Bom Nim, Matt Heal Sa Bom Nim and Mick Gillespie Sa Bom Nim). A few week prior to departure Master Ross was informed that his leave application was denied and was unable to attend. At this stage I decided to attend in order to reconnect with fellow candidates from 2010 and luckily trained with Chuck Smith Sa Bom Nim, Rodrigo Cruz Sa Bom Nim and Richard Wilcox Sa Bom Nim. The following year was the 70th anniversary so I travelled to Seoul to attend the Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa and the 70th anniversary, this was the year that Master Ross sat his Sa Dan testing and I was pleased to be able to support him and witness this event.
In 2016 I was able to sit my Yuk Dan at the Korea Ko Dan Ja Shim Sa with Craig Connor Sa Bom Nim from Perth. This provided an opportunity to reconnect with some members whom I had not seen since 2005. After testing I was able to travel to Hawaii and spend some time with Richard Wilcox Sa Bom Nim in Maui. The following year the opportunity presented itself to travel to Europe. While in England I was able to attend class in Preston and train with Hedges Sa Bom Nim and catch up with Master Gillian Dean.
This year promises to have great opportunities locally (well in Melbourne) with Kwan Jang Nim attending SEALS.