After starting the MMU Taekwondo club in January 2011, Ross Sharman has seen the club grow from just ten members to over 40, win the 2015 MMU Sport Club of the Year award, win gold medals across a number of competitions and boast a 100% grading record, with over 150 gradings taking place.
Ross has been studying and practicing the art of International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Taekwondo for 17 years, is a 4th Degree Black Belt and is one of the youngest ever person to be a certified international instructor in Europe. Ross’ dedication to the sport has also been recognised by MMU Sport, as he was named Committee Official of the Year in 2015.
We spoke to Ross about his love for the sport, his dedication to the club and his new venture… the conception of the British University Taekwondo League (BUTL)!
Tell us a little bit more about your background in Taekwondo.
“I started my journey back in 1999 in Cardiff, and was taught by one of the all-time greats, Master Tony Vella 7th Dan, who graded me all the way from my white belt to my first black belt. I’ve taught clubs in Cardiff, Manchester, San Diego and Anchorage, and have a retired fight record of 64 wins and three losses. I also competed and won at the European Championships.
“I’ve been instructing for ten years now and have being running my own clubs and academy, Sharman Martial Arts, for five years. During my time at MMU, I have taught and run the MMU ITF Taekwondo club as a volunteer for the past five years.
“It’s been an incredible journey for me, heightened by having the opportunity to learn from and train with Taekwondo royalty, Grand Master Paul Liverside 9th Dan, Grand Master Paul Cutler 9th Dan, Master Edwards 7th Dan and Master Jones 7th Dan.”
Tell us a little bit about how the club at MMU and the journey you went through to set it up.
“The club has gone from strength to strength over the last five years, after I set it up in January 2011. The whole process behind setting up the club was aided massively by Phil Kynaston and Sarah Hadlow, who provided fantastic input and passion that really helped get the club off the ground.
“One of the best things about the club is that we’ve been able to hold six seminars so far, welcoming Grand Masters, Masters and World Champions to Manchester Metropolitan University. Hosting a seminar is a big honour, and it’s pretty rare for clubs, especially ones that aren’t that old!”
Why did you decide to set up the British University Taekwondo League (BUTL)?
“I decided to set up BUTL because I had always wanted to compete and represent my university at that level, and train a squad to complete this dream. Sadly, Taekwondo are not able to compete in BUCS, so we had no options.
“I think that competing at University level and being able to represent your institution is very important and should be an option for everyone. Setting up the league gives us and other university clubs a chance to compete, as well as networking and getting some fantastic opportunity to work together.”
Sounds like a challenge! How have you found setting up the league?
“It’s certainly been hard work to set up a whole new league with a complete set of rules, book venues, organise referees and match up 132 participants, but is something I am very passionate about and it’s fantastic that after six months, we’ve finally made it!
“A university-based league or competition for the sport has never ever been done before in any country, so for us to be the instigators and creators, it’s a huge deal and something I’m very proud of.”
What will the BUTL include?
“The BUTL will only include team sparring in its first year, with the hope of extending it to Patterns in the years to come. We have three match days coming up, starting with one in Leicester on Saturday 13th February, and each university will compete in five matches against five universities.
“For the first year, we have six universities taking part, as a way to test the water.”
What are your hopes for the future with BUTL?
“I really hope the BUTL gets noticed by other governing bodies, such as BUCS, and it’s recognised that Taekwondo can work in a similar way to other sports.
“I also hope that in the next few years, all twelve universities who practice ITF Taekwondo will be involved with the league.
“I also hope that our team here at MMU can bring home the medals but, most importantly, I want every practitioner to have a fantastic and fun time taking part in the league and that it makes their Taekwondo and university journey an enjoyable one!”
To find out more about BUTL, visit the brand new website.