Taekwondo is an exciting martial art, which translates as “the way of hand and foot fighting” and was originally developed by an elite class of warriors centuries ago. It is a combination of combat technique, self-defense, sport, exercise, entertainment, and philosophy. It can be a powerful tool, which with proper training and discipline can positively shape one's life by implementing new strategies that can assist people in their short and long term goals, ultimately empowering them to take better control of their lives.

Don Ferguson is the founder and chief instructor of the Asia Pacific Taekwondo Academy here in Bangkok. He hails from All Over, Saskatchewan; his dad was an RCMP officer and the family tended to move around a lot, but they were predominately based in Sturgis and North Battleford, the latter being where he learned taekwondo. He’s been practicing the sport for twenty-five years now.

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When Don was young, he was fascinated by the martial arts, and was determined to learn either karate or judo — he hadn’t even heard of tae kwon do. The kung fu movies with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris plus Tom Laughlin in Billy Jack were a big influence, and he knew he eventually wanted to teach martial arts. When he was 11, he became hooked after seeing a visiting Korean master give a demonstration at the North Battleford Mall, he became the first student to enrol in the school that was opening up.

By the time he was 15, Don already had his black belt and was teaching at the nearby Cut Knife and Red Pheasant reservations. He soon started winning the Saskatchewan “provincials”, allowing him to go to the “nationals”. In 1988, he was the official Canadian Bronze medalist at the Olympic team trials losing a close battle to Raymond Mourad (13-time Canadian national champion and World Games medalist) and in 1992 he lost to Syed Najem at the Nationals who then went on to take the silver medal at the Olympics (Don had beaten him previously). Don also won the silver medal at the Can-Am Games in Winnipeg in 1989, and in 1994, while touring Thailand as a tourist, he won the gold medal at the Thai Nationals, being the only foreigner to enter the competition, competing in the featherweight division. (Taekwondo has eight different divisions and sometimes Don competes as a bantam or lightweight.)

Don started a taekwondo school in Swift Current in 1990, but after winning the nationals in Thailand (he hadn’t come here to participate in the event, he just happened upon it) and returning home, he started getting offers from Bangkok to come back and train people. So he moved here in 1996 and opening his gym at The Emporium Tower in 1999, before that he was teaching in international schools and fitness centres, mostly by word-of-mouth.

The Livingston family are a few of Don’s star students. Describing the experience, Ron Livingston says, “I’ve always been interested in taekwondo, and one day David, my five-year-old son, said ‘Daddy, I want to learn taekwondo’, so I looked around for a club and there just happened to be one above my old office on Soi Pipat. I took him to a few classes and since I always wanted to learn, I soon enrolled as well. And then when my daughter, Grace, who’s a year younger, turned 5, she started learning taekwondo too. The kids soon grew out of the competition there and we moved to the Asia Pacific Taekwondo Academy where we’ve have been for the past decade. We all have black belts, we train as a family and go to four classes a week. The only time I miss a class is when I’m travelling for work.

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“You are a totally different person three months after you start learning taekwondo; your coordination, discipline and attitude all improve. One reason a lot of my friends put their kids in taekwondo was watching the effect it had on my kids, it’s taught them leadership and discipline, which they display in all aspects of their lives such as taking leadership roles in schools and being captains of other sports. It’s helped keep our family together.”

Ron says Don has developed a good balance of learning, training and discipline in his program, “You have to be careful because you don’t want to train young kids to hurt other young kids,” he says. “The sport gives you confidence; you deal with situations better without it I’m not sure if could deal with the stressful situations in my job properly if I didn’t do tae kwon do.”

The academy has four full-time Thai instructors and five classes a day (private classes tend to be Wednesdays or Fridays, or after the group classes are finished). The retention rate is good, Don credits this to a good environment, everyone gets along, but he does say “it’s a little bit like keeping a garden, sometimes you need to pick out the bad weeds.”

Don has appeared in dozen movies alongside stars like Jackie Chan (The Medallion) Milla Jovovich (Ultraviolet), and Tony Jaa (Ong Bak), and in 
he just produced his own action film called Mystic Blade, which he’s sending out to selected film festivals now (mysticblademovie.com). He was also the main act in a live show called the Budo Gala in Switzerland along with Shoalin Monks, Jean Claude Van Damne and Bolo Yeung.

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Don also created and designed the academy’s logo “power and grace”. The yin and yang represents perfect harmony and balance. The colour black represents mastery and gold stand for prestige. The person in the logo is doing a flying side kick which is famed for its power and grace.

Though taekwondo isn’t a team sport, by training at the club you quickly become part of a real community. There are ten belts, and Don says you need to train at least twice a week to keep on top of it.

By the way, Don also does some great community work as every Sunday afternoon 60 kids from Father Joe’s Mercy Centre (seen above) descend on the academy to get some free training, which helps them develop their life skills.

Brazilian JiuJitsu Academy

Brazilian JiuJitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and self-defense system that focuses on grappling. BJJ was derived from the Japanese martial art of Kodokan judo. It teaches that a weaker, smaller person can successfully defend against a bigger stronger assailant by using proper leverage, technique and body mechanics. It’s a good way to develop strength, flexibility, endurance and focus (www.thailandbjj.com, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).
Contact info
www.asiapacifictaekwondo.com, www.donferguson.info, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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