A goal not meant to be reached.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

Bruce Lee.

Sometimes you have to accept defeat. It was a simple choice in the end, worsen my snapping hip or walk away from Tae Kwon Do, which, because of the mechanics of what the martial arts was asking of my body, was sadly exacerbating the condition. No pain. I decided to stop before we reached that particular juncture. The hip is hardly snapping at all now, thanks to a brilliant sports physiotherapist and well – that elusive black belt was never reached. I spent three years on red belt. I showed tenacity and as the Tae Kwon Do Mantra says ‘indomitable spirit’. It was not meant to be. The longer I took – the more it eluded me. Something was pulling the black belt further away. Tae Kwon Do, to be very clear is a great martial art, but it in the end it is the preserve of the young(er).

I am not the most accomplished or heralded martial artist you will meet. I am not a ‘master’ in any martial art – not yet anyway. I AM on the journey. Maybe as Taoism puts it, I am on the pathless path. On that alone, I can share with you and we can hopefully grow together. But I have been training long and hard and it has made a difference. THAT is what I want you to experience too.  

So I said my tearful goodbyes to Tae Kwon Do and started White Crane Kung Fu and Tai Chi, which was continuously interrupted by first my father’s death and then one of my sons falling seriously ill. All these things are in the past now, thankfully.

While I decided I could not continue with Fuijuan White Crane, it was not for want of a truly brilliant teacher and advocate. I was thinking long-term and the need for an accessible club. I have just started learning Wing Chun. And so – without realising it, or maybe realising it a little, because of my research – I have crossed the Rubicon from a hard martial art, based on kicking and overpowering – to two inter-related southern Chinese martial arts, more closely connected with breathing, meditation, getting low, being grounded and working on using softness and excellent technique, rather than the power in your punch. This, I hope is the path to longevity, with many masters in their nineties and beyond. From too old for the class – perhaps I am now too young – or maybe I have regained some time – and no longer lost it! The key thing is to train hard.

Basking in reflected glory.

My son, back in 2019 became UK Tae Kwon Do colour belt champion in sparring. Guess who his trainer was on the day?

I am of course slow, but knew his strengths and what he had to do. So yes, I will bask in the reflected glory – even though my champion days are well – perhaps a thing of the past?

If I can coach my son to glory, then maybe I am able to help you to more moderate but no less honourable targets, right? Hopefully, right.

A Mindfulness Journey

My Mindfulness Journey.

I have attended a series of yoga courses over several years at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney, south London. I am an intermediate level Yoga practitioner. These courses entailed a lot of abdominal breathing and other Mindfulness-related exercises.

I perform the eight brocades Chi Kung patterns daily every morning, helping me to clear my head for the day. I also use the Insight Timer on my phone daily and either listen to meditation music or have a ten-minute guided meditation, most commonly a Yoga Sutra, so body scanning, or a Chakra balancing guided meditation.
I have been practising Chikung and Tai Chi for more than ten years and studied Tai Chi for many years at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre.
I also regularly conduct Pranayama breathing exercises, informing my Reiki practice and conduct Reiki on myself for at least five minutes per day.

I also attend the Pantera Tae Kwon Do club in London two-three times a week, which also entails ‘living in the moment’ and the application of various aspects of Mindfulness, being a mind-body-spirit activity and not a sport as commonly perceived in the West. I have been practicing TKD for more than ten years.

I run a weekly Mindfulness group for university staff and another for students and have been doing so for several years.

The Journey

The weapons I want to help you wield –and I am still learning myself – are the worlds of Yoga and the soft and hard martial arts. They have made me strong.

Too many of you decide as you leave forty behind and rush to fifty and beyond that it is time to give up on your body or worse your mind, but to collapse into a long, painful death. Wrong.

Your body is still capable of amazing power and strength and that in turn will feed your mind and soul to do likewise. It will take you longer, you will suffer more – but then the prize is greater and the victory so much sweeter. You are no longer 21. Reconfigure how you see all that.




Tae Kwon Do. The battle for blackbelt


Your weaponry.

If you have had some children, they are part of your weaponry. Play football (yes that includes the girls) and any other sport they intend whenever possible, as a supplement to your training regime, but not as a replacement for it.

Recent studies show you need to do more physical activity as you get older, not less, as your metabolism slows down and your propensity to put on weight increases. You should also watch your diet far more carefully. That’s another chapter.

Another key element in your armoury is the regular, disciplined practice of a soft and hard martial art, ideally a combination of both, ying and yang, if you will. That’s a massive oversimplification but, it will do for now. Me? I practice Tae Kwon Do with my sons and train in the same class as them. They are 14 and 12, at the time of writing and very dangerous.

Soft and hard, ying and yang. One my of Tae Kwon Do masters put it best and it is something I am currently trying to put into practice, as I endeavour to crawl to black belt, but crawl I will. You need to be flexible, that creates speed and then that converts into power. So one of the key weapons is your dexterity. You may not be flexible now but in time and with daily practice you shall become far more flexible than you currently imagine, regardless of at what age you start. It has nothing to do with it. But here is a word of advice on this issue and indeed for everything this book will advise.

Be patient. It will take time and for you – grey warrior – longer than the others. My Yoga-practising wife said something to me that has stuck with me. You are as young as your back. That, in many ways is true. The greater dexterity you possess here and elsewhere around your core – the younger you are.


To clarify further, my dangerous 14-year-old used to swim and his coach at the time (a former Olympic competitor) said to me, when explaining why he had not been selected for a competition: “It is nothing to do with how good a swimmer he is, but how long he has been swimming.” It had been a couple of months only. His precocious younger brother started earlier and was in that squad! It is everything to do with carrying on with your journey. I have been practicising Tae Kwon Do now for some seven years now. At first I could not hold my leg sideways above my ankle.

Now I can hold it for over a minute parallel with my shoulder. How and why? Time. There is no shortcut, no quick fix. You must be patient and practice regularly all that you do, and then it will come. You must not look for a quick fix and when progress comes – you may not even notice it.

Saturday 12th, January.

Third session in the dojang after Christmas and the challenge is on. Cardiovascular, full on, no breaks. And the key is fight not flight. Back in April, 2011, I would have stopped and gone to the toilet to wretch a little. Lovely. Those days are gone. Some six months ago I developed tendonitis on my left Achilles. These are micro-tears which can be caused by various sudden stretching of the tendons. So I’m a little apprehensive, training again in bearfoot, after six months of trainers. I want my team to come first, but I don’t want to re-tear that tendon! Movement is good, the more load I have put on it, the better it has healed and the physio is happy. Maybe I’ll write about the joys of tendonitis later.

No pain, no discomfort, but here is the test for this fifty something. Tendons tighten as you get older. This tendon seems to have healed. And I’m off!!!

I come first in my heat (just) and our team comes first also in the sprint relay overall. I am back – or rather my tendon is. Truth is, when the teams were then juggled we came second and third. But this is progress. I like it.

February 16, 2018.

A heartfelt thank you to Master Janitzio Moreno, Pantera Tae Kwon Do, London.

Dear Janitzio,

I was up until early morning on several occasions this week, working on my research bid. In days gone by, I would have given up. Instead by bid is now with the European Commission – and I even polished it several times!

I want to make it clear to you that my physical and indeed mental resilience in adversity is in large part down to how you have trained me. You solve lots of other problems with other students – and nothing is ever said.

Well I am saying it!

I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To change the immortal words of Jackie Chan in the Karate Kid (obviously the most important film in my life): “Life is Kung-Fu (correction).” “Life is Tae Kwon Do!” It truly is part of all I do.

In your debt. Now that I have given you that tribute/testimonial can I pre-grade next week please?
I might cry off today, but in my dobok anyway. Depends if this cough abates a little.

All the very best, Paul.



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