Master Ron Rees throwing David Beneke
Master Ron Rees is a martial artist of considerable experience and is one of the “original” members from the early days of the establishment of Hapkido in the Sydney area.
- Dojang: Wyong and Gosford
- Date joined: 1980
- Previous experience: Judo and Ju Jitsu as a boy
- Occupation: Typesetter by trade – currently hapkido instructor.
- Ed. Qual.: Graphic Arts Degree
- Family Background: 3rd and 4th Generation Australian
- Favourite Area of Hapkido: Ho Shin Sool – particularly momentum and Dab Bong
- Highlight of hapkido career: Six months full training with Sung Do Kim and Trevor Rant (4th Dan from England)
- Special Interests outside Hapkido: Painting, reading., swimming, bike riding.
- Ambitions for the future: Become a better hapkidoist and teacher.
My interest in the Martial Arts began at the age of eleven when I saw a photo of an older brother competing in a Judo competition. He was doing a really dynamic inner thigh throw and I thought it would be great to do something like that.
I started doing Judo and generally enjoyed it even though I usually ended up with a headache from all the falling on very hard mats. The problem was that there were few students small enough for me to practice with because I was so small for my age (about the size of an average seven year old).
My instructor called me aside after one class and told me that if I turned up an hour early for class I could join in a group that was practicing something a little more suitable for me. That was the way I was introduced to Jujitsu. wich I really did enjoy.
Master Ron Rees teaching what to do if someone grabs your belt from behind
I only trained for a few years, because to go for higher belt levels I would have had to go to the City at night, which was not really on for a twelve or thirteen year old.
I really did not have much to do with martial arts again until I was in my twenties when a friend was practicing for his 1st Dan in Aikido. Being able to some basic falls I was able to partner him a bit for his out of class practice, and to be useful he had to teach me a few basics.
Over the next few years I tried a few different martial arts, but none of them was quite the package I was looking for. When I was 28, I was looking to start something again and I had become interested in Taekwondo, I went to a few classes to watch and try it out. I probably would have become involved — I was quite impressed with it. On the way home I noticed the sign in front of the old Oxford Street Dojang in Sydney.
I vaguely recognised the name from some seminars I had attended in New York and the West Coast of the US when I was doing some mixed martial arts about a year before. The instructor at those seminars was Master Ji Han Jae. I also trained in some of his regular classes.
Master Ron Rees being thrown by Master Ji Han Jae
When I went upstairs to watch, Master Matthew Kim was preparing his most senior student — Warwick Ford — for a grading and so I got to see quite a lot of the art. I started training the next day.
Two things really stick in my mind from that time – training with Joseph Kim before class. (He and I were often the first there because I came straight from work) – and some of Matthew Kim’s bits of advice.
Master Kim was always trying to get me to cut back on all the running I was doing at the time – my flexibility was not good and the running was not helping. Another thing he was always telling me was “Don’t think, do!”
Master Ron Rees executing a break at his 3rd Dan grading
Master Kim was taking a group of fairly junior students for meditation one day; one of the group was a very cocky young man who seemed to be overly keen to get into fights. Matthew interrupted our meditation to talk to us: “I can teach you how to become invincible, I can teach you how never to lose a fight!” By this stage the young man was grinning from ear to ear. “I will teach you how to never get into a fight”, finished Master Kim, that grin was replaced by a look of stunned shock on the face of that young man!
I trained at Oxford Street for a couple of years, until my training was interrupted by an injury and by the onset of RSI caused by my work.
When I recovered Master Sung Do (Peter) Kim was about to run one of his full time courses. I gave up work for the next seven months to train and regain my strength and fitness. As well as training with Master Kim, my day-to-day training (four hours or more a day) was with Trevor Rant from England (a third Dan at the time), who was training out here. Trevor was 28 at the time and had done Hapkido since he was a young boy. He has a school in Norwich.
Trevor was one of the best kickers and sparrers I have ever known, but he also had great self-defence techniques. He was one of the greatest influences on my Hapkido. Trevor was relaxed to the point of seeming half asleep, but could burst into action with surprising speed.
Teaching front kick soon after we started full time Dojang at Wyong
During the time I was training at Sung Do Kim’s Dojang, Master Song came to Australia to teach Kumdo at the Strathfield Dojang. I did not do very much training with Master Song, but I spent a lot of time in his presence and learned a lot about being a martial artist. On several occasions I accompanied Master Song to demonstrations and things. One day I was sitting on the lounge reading a book “The Ninja” when Master Song walked in. I was treated to a lecture on the difference between Ninja and other martial artists. He explained quite a bit about the role such people had played during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
My best memories of Master Song are of him spending hours playing Korean chess with his friend in a small room behind the Korean church.
Master Sung Do Kim was a hard task master who insisted on high standards. We trained very hard physically as well as technically. He was surprisingly strong for his size and one of the most flexible people I have ever met. I remember doing one grading where among other things I had to break a total of 18 boards!
I trained at Strathfield for some time after the full time course, but my work and the need to make some money were making it hard to get to training except Thursday nights. Thursday was contact sparring night and as I was getting less fit and rusty it was very hard. Eventually I was hardly training at all.
Executing fireman’s throw
I returned to the Oxford Street Dojang and trained with Master Matthew Kim when I moved back near to central Sydney. Master Kim asked me to show him my side kick the first day back, then he remembered who I was, he also showed me several ways to jam it, then told me to think about how to prevent it being jammed. After six months work and other things got in the way again.
Finally in 1990 I got married and moved into a place that was in walking distance of the Oxford Street Dojang. Once again I started from White Belt and my wife Melissa also started training. When she first came in to watch Melissa’s comment was that I only did Hapkido to pick up girls – I was practising fireman’s lift throw with Marie Salsiccia at the time.
When we moved to the Central Coast at the end of 91 Master Kim gave me Richard Bridge’s contact details. However, Richard who I had trained with many years earlier, was no longer training regularly due to the recent tragic death of his son. We trained with Rick McClure at Gosford, and when I could get there, with Steve Dougherty at Lake Munmorah. Steve was (as is) a really enthusiastic martial artist with great teaching skills.
I started teaching at the end of 1994 at Wyong and was fortunate to have about twenty students right from the start.
We have had a full-time Dojang at Wyong since 1996 and I have taught about three times a day for most of that time.
The greatest thing about teaching martial arts is the people it brings you into contact with. Not just teachers and peers, but students as well. I have learned a lot from those who have trained at the Dojang, especially about myself. Among the many were Bec Rhee who was short on hands but long on personality (as well as others in the Rhee family); Eric Holfter who was long on experience and skill and low on ego; Mitchell Lanley who at the age of ten had a forty year old head on his strong shoulders; Stephanie Marks who from the age of seven trained with fanatic application and a sense of fun combined with amazing talent and ability; Josh Searle, who for his age is the most talented martial artist I have ever seen.
But of all the people I have trained with in the last ten years the one person who influenced me most is Tup Moekaa. All of the Association’s instructors have the greatest of respect for him, but (with the exception of his oft-time training partner David Beneke) none have seen the years of quiet work that has made him the martial artist he is today. His dedication to his art was proven by the tracks left in the carpet of the Dojang and the puddles of sweat on the mats.
Throwing Tup Moekkaa at a demo at CC Youth Club
The Central Coast Dojang has been built on the foundation of some very dedicated families: Eric, Nadine and Gordon Holfter; Phil, Mitchell, Nathan and Jordan Langley; Stephen, Stephanie and Alexandra Marks; Josh and Narin Searle; the Sutton sisters, two of whom (Mary and Anne) are attempting their 1st Dan this year. These people, together with many other families and individuals have made our Dojang what it is.
My main ambition as a martial arts instructor is produce some students who will go far beyond any of the current generations achievements. That is one of the reasons I like to teach young students. It takes a long time to make a really good martial artist. The ones I have known have all dedicated a lifetime to their art.