I began Hapkido in early 1991 at the Sutherland Dojang under the instruction of my brother Master Scott Wetherell. Scott had been instructing at the Sutherland club for about 4 years.
Having played many team sports and national level Table Tennis through my teenage years, I was unsure initially whether Hapkido would be a fit for me, it had always been the thing Scott was passionate about.
When some of my mates showed an interest in starting classes I decided to give it a try.
It was an exciting time for the Sutherland club as it was expanding very quickly, classes were packed and training was always very physical.
At the time, I was completing my Commerce Degree at University and would train 4 nights a week. Hapkido won me over very quickly and I was hungry to learn as much as I could!
I was drawn to the variety of skills required and the constant challenge; whether it be falling, patterns, kicking, self-defense, weapons or sparring. Some may think that as the Chief Instructors’ brother, I could have had an easy road with plenty of personal tutelage, but in fact it was quite the opposite!
One of my earliest memories of training was standing front and centre of Grandmaster Kim in a grading at the original City Gym on Oxford St. He had a magnetic presence that filled the room and commanded respect. It was my first grading experience and such a nerve-racking, but inspiring night, one that reinforced my desire to continue and develop myself through Hapkido.
I progressed well through the coloured belts and achieved my Black Belt in 1993 at an end of year grading at Leichardt. Black Belt training was a new challenge and one that I really looked forward to.
I recall my first Black Belt training, which looking back, I was probably lucky to survive! I was sparring Greg Blandy, a legend of our association and I, as a cocky 21 year old, thought perhaps I could give him a bit of a run.
How wrong I was and it was at that moment I realised, that there was still so much to learn and that Black Belt was a whole new beginning. I rarely missed a class and to this day I believe that it is an integral part of being a Black Belt or Instructor. Master Kim’s words resonate in my head, “Throwing out self-ego without hypocritism, that is “Do””.
With Scott’s blessing, I began a small club in 1994 at the Sutherland Aquatic Centre. The experience of teaching gave me a new perspective on Hapkido and one that certainly refined my understanding of our art.
Having to learn to adjust my teaching methods and be able to break down and explain the techniques for individuals with different capabilities forced me to constantly examine, deconstruct and practise all levels and techniques.
It was an opportunity to establish myself as an exponent of Hapkido in my own right and I can honestly say that teaching has made me a much better martial artist than I would have been otherwise.
By the end of 1994, we had two Hapkido clubs in the area growing from strength to strength. Scott and I had a vision to open a fulltime Dojang for the Sutherland area, so we combined our clubs and the Sutherland Shire Self Defense Academy was born. Classes ran 7 days a week in a custom fit out factory in Kirrawee and it was a fantastic club to be a part of. We held many events and demonstrations to promote Hapkido in the area and many members of our club also started participating in a variety of All Style Tournaments, particularly enjoying the sparring competition and self-defense demonstration events.
1995 was a pivotal point in my journey. I had my first opportunity to travel and train in Korea, which personally, was an inspiring and extraordinary experience. Looking back I would also say it was a pivotal point in our associations’ journey.
It was a time when many of the clubs of our association also came together after experiencing their own expansion and growth and many firm friendships were forged amongst the generations. Not long after our return home I attempted my 2nd Degree Black Belt at the annual Hapkido Camp. It was a particularly memorable night as I graded alongside Master Kevin Brown who inspired us all with his talent and his tenacity, completing his 4th Degree grading with a shoulder injury.
Scott and I instructed and ran the Sutherland Dojang together until 1997 when Scott decided to hand the Sutherland club over to me. My classes relocated to a local gym 4 days a week where we continued training until 2008, when we moved to our current location at the Sylvania High School.
Scott and I after winning ISKA Millennium World Cup Demonstration Champions, 2000., Sutherland Club Members participating in the World Yongmoodo Championships, 2011
Grading and training highlights over the years that followed include:
• 1999 – 3rd Degree Black Belt awarded.
• 2000 – ISKA Millennium World Cup Demonstration Champions
• 2002 – Korea Tour
• 2003 – 4th Degree Black Belt awarded.
• 2009 – AHA Tournament Gold Medal in Black Belt Division Sparring and Patterns
• 2011 – Korea World Yongmoodo Championships, Pohang, South Korea. Bronze Medal in Heavy Weight Sparring Division and Silver Medal in Team Demonstrations.
• 2012 – 5th Degree Black Belt awarded.
Over the 23 years I have been training I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to learn so much from so many gifted martial artists. To have been able to train under Grand Master Kim, to count Master Brown as my instructor and also my friend, as well as the many other skilled exponents of Hapkido within our association.
My greatest influence still remains, in life and in Hapkido, my brother Scott. He was truly the most gifted teacher I have ever trained with and had a way of drawing the best out of his students, technically and emotionally. Scott passed away in 2009 and I constantly strive to honor his memory and instruct with the passion and insight he always approached his teaching with.