BTC Black Team Championships

By Charlie Cox

Prologue: 1952

London’s docks are vibrant, tough and hectic,

With ships from every country to be seen,

Elizabeth departs on tour a princess,

But soon returns to take the throne as queen.

A South Korean brigadier general,

Is working on a brand new martial art,

With twists and thrusts and flying kicks and patterns,

Taekwon-do’s journey is about to start.



Sixty years later, with Queen Elizabeth II still going strong, a pageant involving over one thousand boats processing along the river Thames formed the centrepiece of her diamond jubilee celebrations. Some of the London docks were used to harbour these boats, but this was a rare burst of activity as they are mostly used for leisure purposes today.

The Royal Victoria Dock is the largest in London. It was once a hive of activity, swarming with boats and surrounded by warehouses. However, by 1980 things were very different. Containerisation had moved shipping out to deep water ports, leaving the Royal Victoria Dock disused and its buildings derelict. Regeneration in the 1990s gave the old dock a new lease of life. It is now used for wake boarding, and its southern side is festooned with luxury homes. The north quayside is now dominated by the enormous Excel Exhibition Centre, as well as many hotels and restaurants.

On the same day as the diamond jubilee pageant, members of the GTUK were in the Excel Centre to compete in the martial art that General Choi had been perfecting all those years ago. This was no ordinary competition. This was the British Taekwon-do Council (BTC) Black Belt Team Championships and virtually every significant ITF style Taekwon-do organisation in the UK was represented.

As if any more excitement was needed, the Excel Centre was just weeks away from hosting a myriad of sports competitions for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As this included the WTF/Olympic style Taekwondo sparring, there was even more incentive for the competitors to show ITF style Taekwon-do at its very best. Such is the scale of Excel that the martial arts exhibition that our tournament was part of only took up a fraction of the facility. It seemed almost unthinkable to explore such a place without an experienced tour guide.

Into this arena, in crisp new doboks, walked Team GTUK. The inclusion of Stuart Odell from the Scottish branch of our association (XS Taekwon-do) ensured that this was a truly unified GTUK team. Another thing that was clear was the strength in depth that we have; entering two female teams of four, and two male teams of six, a feat only bettered by the TAGB, which is a far larger organisation than our own.


The teams were as follows: –

Female Team A

 Daniela Bright (Captain), Rachel Agustsson, Sam Berridge, Alison Gartside.

Female Team B

 Jessica Barnes (Captain), Jade Barnes, Lianne Hatcher, Amy Ridgard.

Male Team A

 Gregg Simmons (Captain), Miles Westwood, Logan Bedingfield,

 Stuart Odell, John Bowman, Robbie Wells.

Male Team B

 Will Dewey (Captain), Misbah Rana, Steve Marshall,

 Chris Wilson, Ashley Corke, Brandon Barnes.


These competitors had all trained exceptionally hard for this event, and had made many personal sacrifices. Not least those who had slimmed down their already lean physiques in order to make their weight categories. They were also fortunate enough on the day to be supported by a coaching team with a wealth of knowledge and experience. This was made up of Mr Richard Auciello, Mr Darren Holmes, Mr Steve King and Mrs Kay Parker.

It was a particularly proud day for the Barnes family from Gloucester, with Jessica, Jade and Brandon all taking part. Jade had joined the team as a late replacement for Emily Reeson, who was unfortunately unable to take part due to illness.

A special mention must also go to Graham Peacock, who was the nominated reserve for both male teams. This meant enduring the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing whether or not he would be required to compete. He had ensured that he would fit seamlessly into either team by standing in for unavailable members for pattern demonstrations at the last full England squad training session before the tournament.

As it turned out, everyone was fit, so Graham represented the GTUK as an official instead. Nigel Bedingfield and Darren Twelvetree were also officials, as was I, which was a great honour.

We are indebted to the TAGB for taking the lead role in organising this tournament. It was great to meet people from so many different associations; there are always differences in approach, but the principals and passion are the same. It was also heartening to see the respect shown to our very own Master Oldham by the other masters and senior black belts present; it was clear that this was borne as much out of personal esteem as it was out of deference to his rank, experience and knowledge.

So, on to the event itself. This was purely an adult black belt team championship, so the standards were high from the start. Two teams were pitted against each other in patterns, sparring and destruction; an aggregate score from these three disciplines was then used to determine which team progressed into the next round. The weighting was heavily biased towards sparring, but a good performance in the team patterns was still vitally important to set the tone for the encounter.

The guidance for officials was to judge the team patterns on consistency and synchronisation between the team members, and not to worry about minor technical differences between different groups. All four GTUK teams had developed excellent team patterns with well drilled walk-ons, imaginative arrangements and exquisite timing, ensuring strong performances against all opponents. The walk-on of GTUK Female Team A in particular was a wonder to behold!

Sparring in this tournament was organised by weight category. To this end, each team had to have one competitor per category. This meant that each competitor’s opponent was predetermined, as it would be the person of their own weight. Whilst this took away some of the tactical interest, it did give opportunities for the lighter competitors to play an equal role to their more robustly built team mates. The lowest weight category for male competitors was so demanding that the only option available to the GTUK was to use junior squad members. Fortunately we were able to call upon two young men with experience and maturity ahead of their years; sixteen year old Robbie Wells, and Brandon Barnes who was still only fifteen at the time, showed how much they had benefitted from training in a combined junior and senior England squad. Both of them acquitted themselves admirably against opponents who were much older and had enjoyed international success over many years of adult competition.

All of the GTUK competitors matched this determination, with many of them winning their bouts. Several of the other associations clearly had well established competition teams, who had been together for a long time, and had the ring-craft to prove it. The fact that the predominantly young and relatively inexperienced GTUK competitors always challenged and often won in this company was a testament to their talent, fitness, hard work and coaching.

Following the sparring, each team was asked to nominate two members for destruction; one for the hand technique and one for the kick. The male competitors faced the particularly challenging task of a 360 degree jumping back kick through the equivalent of four inches of wood.

Unfortunately none of the GTUK teams made it into the finals of the tournament. In more than one instance, our teams had met eventual finalists early on, and had only been defeated by the narrowest of margins. However, the GTUK was still represented in the finals. Mr Darren Twelvetree was selected by the tournament organisers to be centre referee for the men’s final. This reflected both the excellent standard of his refereeing throughout the day, and the reputation for impartiality that our association has built up over many years. It is fair to say that the final was a high spirited affair, with elite competitors and their coaches keen to pounce on any advantage that they could, but Mr Twelvetree ensured that it remained a fair contest in the true spirit of Taekwon-do.


Team GTUK went into this tournament not knowing if they were ready to compete at this level. They came home knowing that the answer was a resounding yes. They may not have bought back any medals this time, but they bought back the assurance that they have all of the necessary attributes to win medals at major tournaments.

Watching the tournament, it was clear that the weapons – the kicks and punches – available to the Team GTUK were as sharp as any on display. The determination and will to win was also beyond question. To my eyes, all that is needed is the confidence and calmness that can only come with frequent experience at this level. That aside, there is no difference between our competitors and those who won this time; as Shakespeare nearly said, “If you kick them, do they not bleed?”

I’m sure I speak for everyone in the GTUK when I say thank you and well done to all of the Team GTUK competitors, coaches and supporters. You have made us all very proud!