From education to employment

NHS project manager advocates health and wellbeing benefits of martial arts

Team UK members for the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) World Championships, from left to right: Cameron and Millie Bates, Gavin and Ellianne Reader and Joel Cassar.

 A Taekwondo instructor and NHS project manager is advocating the benefits of martial arts for the health and wellbeing of young people at school and in further education.

Gavin Reader, who is a 2nd degree Black Belt and has been a sports coach for two decades, has witnessed first-hand how the sport develops confidence, resilience, along with physical and mental strength, among their students.

Ellianne of Fishponds Taekwondo Academy performing at the World Championships.
Ellianne of Fishponds Taekwondo Academy performing at the World Championships.

The dad-of-three, who has also worked as a paramedic for several years, said: “I’ve seen young people come to the club and in a relatively short space of time, become much more confident in themselves.

“As a parent, I think it’s a great way to help your child build resilience and self-esteem, while improving their health and wellbeing.”

Health benefits of Taekwondo include improved balance, flexibility, stamina, strength and posture. Psychologically, it is reported to help develop confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

Fishponds Taekwondo Academy, which trains in Lyde Green Community Centre in Bristol twice a week, offers free lessons for a month so students can see if it is suited to them.

Gavin and fellow instructor Simon Herrington took up the martial art, which emphasises fast kicking techniques and is also said to promote physical and mental strength, seven and ten years ago respectively. They were encouraged to join when their young daughters signed up.


Simon, who has achieved the rank of 3nd degree Black Belt in the Korean-based martial art, said: “We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly club and have many parents who train alongside their children.

“It is suitable for a range of people – from students working towards world-class competitions to those who want to challenge themselves physically and mentally, while learning practical self-defence.”

Self-control and perseverance

Their team has also won several medals at the World Championships held in the Netherlands. Four students represented Team UK in the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) competition.

They returned from Amsterdam with silver and bronze medals for patterns and sparring in junior and adults’ categories.

Millie, Cameron and Ellianne – who are all 1st degree Black Belts, along with Joel Cassar, a 3rd degree Black Belt, competed in the championships.

Joel Cassar at the World Championships

Simon, who has been a senior project manager for 36 years, said: “We are very proud of our team who worked hard and performed well. It’s always nice to win medals, but it’s more important that they followed the tenets of Taekwondo, which includes courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.”

Gavin added: “They are a delight to coach as they are dedicated, hard-working and motivated to be the best they can be. It’s been incredible to see their development, not just in the martial art, but as inspirational young people.”

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