Master Ron Claassens...an inspirational martial artist
We loved training with Master Ron Claassens 6th Degree Black Belt at the Institute of Modern Taekwondo (IMT).
We gained great insight into traditional itf taekwondo.
And we took the time to find out about Master Ron's fascinating martial arts journey.
How old were you when you started training in martial arts? And why did your start.
I was 13 when I started training, that style was Go Ju Kai Karate with Sensei Merv Oakley in Brookvale, NSW.
I was a big kid and was being bullied and couldn't stand up for myself. I needed to develop confidence and improve my self-esteem.
How did your early training affect your life?
As soon as I started training I knew this was what I wanted to do. It was a very hard style, with the sparring pretty much full contact - no mouth guard or extra protection for your head or body just little canvas mitts to cover your knuckles.
Training was the same every night. So many push-ups and sit-ups. So many punches same kicks and Kata (forms). Then we would finish off with a sparring session where the senior belts got to give the junior belts a serious hiding.
I'm sure this was to see whether you had what it takes. I did! I wasn't going anywhere. This was character building.
I'm sure this is why I am the way I am, strong roots and strong basics to give good foundation.
And from there?
I did this style for more than 3 years then had a small break to do my HSC. I started TKD when I was 20 at Macquarie University with the Australian Freestyle TKD Academy (AFTA). I stayed with the AFTA for 16 years till I received my 4th Dan, then 2 years later it was time to move on.
I joined a like-minded master from Qld, who had also left the AFTA, and formed the Institute of Modern TKD (IMT) with 10 other instructors.
Have you trained in martial arts other that tkd and karate?
I have trained in most styles to add a modern approach to our style of TKD. Muay Thai and Boxing stand out as I train these the most, as these styles compliment TKD the most.
I trained in an amateur boxing centre in the country (Woodburn) for 8 months, and travel to Thailand every year to train Muay Thai at our sister Gym in Phuket.
I have trained Ninjitsu with Wayne Roy, JuiJitsu with Professor Don Jacobs and Grandmaster Jihan Jae, Kick Boxing with Bill "Super foot " Wallace, Benny "the Jet " Urquidez, Master Chiai Sirusute, Peter "Sugar foot" Cunningham and Maurice Smith.
I have also trained Kung Fu with John Dollic Shaolin Northern Long fist and in Hunan-China with the Shaolin monks Black Tiger form.
Presently I train Hapkido with Master Kevin Brown and Haidon Gumdo Korean Sword with Master Jang.
Wow! You must feel there are benefits to cross- training. What are they for you?
Following the footsteps of the great martial arts pioneer Bruce Lee
'absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is uniquely your own'
All styles have something to offer. But first you must Master a style to get a good foundation.
Why do you think you've ended up concentrating on Taekwondo-Do recently?
I love TKD! Kicking is my specialty. The ITF Hyung are very challenging and the WTF Black Belt Poomse are really cool as well.
I still like to do other stuff because to keep fit you must train. And to teach you must be taught.
Who are your greatest influences in martial arts and why?
My greatest influences in martial arts are the legends of martial arts movies Bruce Lee- Enter the Dragon, David Caradine- Kung fu series, Jackie Chan- Half a loaf of Kung Fu, Jet Li- Kiss of the dragon, Jean Claude van Dame- Kick boxer. Plus the legends of martial arts, my Modern day Masters, Grand Master Kwak TKD, Grand Master Lee TKD, Master Kim TKD, Master Kevin Brown Hapkido, Master Mat Geister Hapkido, Master Jang Haidon Gumdo, Master Kang Gongkwon Yusul.
All these guys inspire me to go on and keep learning, as there is still so much to learn.
Can you tell us more about your club the IMT? What kind of training do you offer?
We are an organization that has set up a strong curriculum, as well as a high standard and to maintain that standard, we have to adapt to new training methods and technology.
We offer a broad training- covering many aspects of martial arts, personal development, pad drills, fitness, flexibility, patterns, self defence scenario training with strong realistic sparring.
All styles and abilities are catered for.
We encourage students from other styles of TKD to come along and taste traditional TKD. The way it was taught to the army of North and South Korea by General Choi the farther of ITF, with a modern approach.
You have clearly dedicated a huge portion of your life to martial arts. To developing yourself. And others. What keeps you training? And what keeps you teaching?
To coin a phrase "Budo" the martial way is what it's all about.
To constantly improve oneself mentally and physically, whilst in the pursuit of excellence.
The path up Budo Mountain is long and winding with many distractions and tribulations along the way. It is the guidance of those that have traveled before you as well as the fellow travelers on the path of Budo that keep you going.
Also to give back what has been given to you, to so many and see how much TKD has enriched their lives.
This keeps me training, teaching, breathing. It's the passion in my heart.
It's much more than a hobby or sport.
It's a lifestyle.