Now the whole family can learn powerful self defence

"Master Hicks" Interview Part 1

18 January 07


“ Special E-Magazine Interview ”
By Martin Rutter 2nd Dan Black Belt

Master Les Hicks is the Chief Examiner and Founder of the World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy. Les has been teaching the art of taekwondo for almost a quarter of a century and it is under Les’s guidance that the W.S.T.A. has grown to become a very large and successful Australian based martial art organisation.
Les is a quiet man with a reputation as a tough and skilful martial artist, he has a good a sense of humour & when speaking with Les his passion for Shim Jang Taekwondo and his desires for everyone to experience the art are immediately evident. Les is quite humble about his achievements and although he has spent most of his adult life developing & establishing Shim Jang Taekwondo he gives a lot of the credit for the arts success to his instructors and members without whom, he says, there would be no Shim Jang Taekwondo.

In this interview Les holds nothing back, he is quite relaxed and straight to the point with his answers.

Martin Rutter
2nd Dan Black Belt
Shim Jang Taekwondo (Aust)


MARTIN; Master Hicks you have many years experience in the art of taekwondo; could you give us some history on yourself and an insight as to how Shim Jang Taekwondo began it’s development.

MH; Well; I guess my initial interest in the martial arts began back in 1968 when I was only 8 years old, I happened to see a judo class at the Cessnock Police Boys Club where I had ,at the time, been getting some junior boxing lessons. My father enrolled me at the boxing gym because I was small for my age and he thought that boxing would be good for my self confidence, in those day’s (the 1960’s) there wasn’t much else around, especially out in the country area’s of NSW. At that time most people hadn’t even heard of taekwondo and there were only a couple of small karate styles training in Australia. I have a great respect for the skills that boxing training develops and to this day I still really enjoy going to the “fights” when my schedule allows it.

Anyway when I discovered the Judo classes as a 7 year old I was of course fascinated by their White uniforms, their technical ability and the discipline, Bowing etc that the instructor and students were displaying. So I talked my parents into signing me up for some lessons. That lasted for about 12 months and then my family moved to Baradine in the NSW central west where we operated a small cattle and wheat farm for the next 10 years or so. In 1978 at age 18 I moved back to Cessnock in the NSW Hunter Valley and worked first at the BHP steel mill in Newcastle and later as a supervisor at the ALCAN Aluminium Smelter at Kurri Kurri. In 1980 I married my very supportive wife Narelle and a few years later we had two children a daughter Danielle (Now 22) and a son Lee (20)

A couple of years before Narelle and I were married two of my friends had become interested in the martial art’s (Bruce Lee had just burst onto the scene and the whole country was in awe at his abilities) so my friends talked me into checking out a small independent dojang in Maitland. I stayed there for a while until in the early 1980’s I joined Instructors Peter and Vivien Dobinson who, at that time operated a class in Cessnock for Rhee taekwondo. I stayed with this school for the next 20 years, I taught hundreds of students and I was directly responsible for the establishment and management of various regions throughout NSW and QLD until 2003 when I decided it was finally time to officially establish the World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy. This academy has since gone on to become a very large and well respected self defence school and that is something I am very proud of.

Since my teens the two constant things in my life have always been my family & my martial art and I am very proud of both! I have been a Student of taekwondo for over a quarter of a century, I am fiercely proud of our art, its instructors and our members and like them I am a student who learns something new every day.

MARTIN; 25 year’s is a long time and I am sure you have seen a lot of different Taekwondo styles come and go over the years, why has Shim Jang Taekwondo become so popular ??

MH; Small independent Taekwondo groups are popping up all the time and are usually established with the best of intentions, sadly a lot of them struggle to exist and they often have to band together to create the illusion of size and strength (it all looks so easy from the outside!!). Of course this is a free country and we all have the right to travel our own path and freely express our opinions but “if you make a bed you have to lie in it”. In establishing and operating a martial art organisation there is a huge responsibility to your Instructors, your members and of course the martial arts in general.

Nobody has the right to give the martial arts a bad name so when I established the W.S.T.A. I knew that I had to dedicate myself fully to the task of making Shim Jang Taekwondo an art that our members and the martial art community would respect and admire. I do realise that it is impossible to keep everyone happy but we always make every attempt to do so.

Potential students should also think very carefully when joining a martial art, it is impossible for a good style to remain small, I believe that everything in life has only two ways to go “Up or Down” (Nothing ever just stays the same). In Australia if something is good we all want to be a part of it so in my opinion the only way to grow is to be fair, honest, reliable and provide top quality instruction to our members. If you want to learn a Martial art always look carefully, go with a strong school that is well recognised and has strong leadership without any political interference.
To master anything you must be prepared to devote you’re entire life to the study of you’re chosen field, I only have one life so I only have the time to study and develop one art, for me that art is SHIM JANG TAEKWONDO!!

MARTIN; Why did you see the need to establish the W.S.T.A ?

MH; No body “Owns” taekwondo, you often here people say “we are the real taekwondo” or “our instructor developed taekwondo” in most cases they need to say this to achieve some kind of recognition but at the end of the day Taekwondo is a universal art not unlike “Karate” that has (one way or another) been passed down from instructor to instructor over many years. Therefore we now have many variations of a fantastic art that truly is for all people. Over the last 3 decades I did not simply train in the art of taekwondo, as I have said in the past, for me it is a way of life that I adopted very early in my martial art career and since the early 1980’s I have been a fulltime teaching professional.

Taekwondo is 50 years old and I have been Training, teaching it, establishing classes, growing Regions and promoting the benefits of regular Taekwondo training to people from all walks of life for over half that time. I believe in what I teach and I am passionate about the art of taekwondo and its health & lifestyle benefits. I have promoted taekwondo with unswerving loyalty, devotion and dedication for over 25 years and I firmly believe that by founding the World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy I have made the correct decision for my Instructors and members. (I am very proud of our art, its instructors & our students.)
The W.S.T.A. does not allow other organisations to represent us, we stand alone for the people to judge and are very proud of our success.

I established the W.S.T.A. not for myself but for my instructors and their students so that they could have a future in the martial arts up to and beyond Black Belt level with a strong, but fair, independent Australia / New Zealand based organisation.
The W.S.T.A offers a complete Black Belt curriculum that enables all senior members to be a part of our “Family” and to simply enjoy the art, this enables them the opportunity to apply for promotion at regular intervals as they grow within the art.
The establishment of the W.S.T.A also gave me the opportunity to carefully select and appoint only those instructors that I believe had the correct attitude & the required technical skills that are needed to be successful in teaching the art of Shim Jang Taekwondo. To the others I said goodby !!

I am sure that ALL styles (Traditional or Multi-Style) have good things to offer, Good health, fitness, discipline, flexibility, co-ordination, self defence (the list goes on) Everyone should have some martial art influence in their lives. The style they choose is up to them but everyone on the planet should make the effort to find a class that suits their needs and start enjoying the benefits that the martial arts can provide!!

The World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy is about giving people an alternative, we choose not to compete in tournaments but rather to concentrate on the self defence and good health components of the art. (We are not anti-tournament or anti-sport) I simply believe that in today’s society we all need and crave the good health, lifestyle and self defence benefits that can be obtained through regular training in our art, therefore Shim Jang Taekwondo prefers to concentrate it’s teachings on sound basics, good quality techniques and devastating self defence manoeuvres in an exciting and friendly atmosphere.
The establishment of Shim Jang Taekwondo has enabled the art to develop into a fun and exciting activity that is ideally suited to men, women and children of all age’s shapes, sizes and fitness levels. It is a martial art that allows families to train together thanks to the disciplined structure of our classes and the expert guidance of our professional instructors.

We really do want everyone to experience our art so our training fees are very affordable, we have special family rates and in most cases our members have the added luxury of training up to 4 or 5 lessons per week for the one low monthly training fee. We do not shroud our prices in secrecy, they are on our website for all to see and compare. We have a “try us first” policy and we welcome anyone to come and try a couple of obligation free classes before they make a decision on joining.

MARTIN; Master Hicks you are the founder and Chief Examiner for the World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy, How did you achieve this position and how are Dan promotions achieved in Shim Jang Taekwondo ?.

MH; Anyone can receive a promotion and automatically think they are worthy of that level (you can even buy them on the net) but, in a large organisation like Shim Jang Taekwondo each higher dan brings with it higher expectations and until you have walked the walk and carried the weight of those expectations around, you are just kidding yourself and fooling others by wearing the stripes.

For me the martial arts is a life long journey, Senior Dan promotions are rare and only time, performance and assiduity can dictate these important steps. For me the martial arts is a life long journey, Senior Dan promotions are rare and only time, performance and assiduity can dictate these important steps. For 20 plus years as a Regional Instructor for the Rhee Taekwondo organization I served my apprenticeship, I established and managed over 30 centres throughout 3 regions in 2 states, that was then and this is now. I am in charge of the Shim Jang organisation and could, I guess, wear any rank I choose but we have strict standards and dedicational requirements that must be adhered to in order for the W.S.T.A to maintain its respect and integrity within the martial arts community.

In 2003 and after 25 years studying the art of Taekwondo I officially established Shim Jang Taekwondo and as such I am the Master Instructor of the organization, my position is clearly and unequivocally ratified by the faith that our instructors and members have in me to lead the organisation (I am a black belt student with over a quarter of a century of continual service to the art of taekwondo and this is the normal requirement for Master level within our organisation) What other organisations do in relation to Kup and Dan promotions does not concern me, Shim jang's promotional system must be fair to everyone in our organisation, (that's all that concerns me.)

I feel truly humbled to be leading Shim Jang TKD into the future but I also understand that if I don’t continue to perform it is only inevitable that one of my senior instructors will surpass me. The W.S.T.A. is not a dictatorship and Shim Jang Taekwondo must come before anyone’s ego, that way the art can and will survive forever.

Within the martial art world there are many different styles and organisations and in these organisations Black Belt promotional requirements can differ vastly depending on the Master Instructor and the type of art that is being taught, that is why we must be an independent organisation with the ability to set our own standards. In some styles Dan promotions only require a certain amount of training time, in others Black belts are graded on technique alone and can be an 8th Dan in 8 years !!, in others you need to be feeding funds to the organisation by way of seminars and umpire courses just to qualify, so It really depends on the person in charge as to what they consider the appropriate requirements for each particular level in their particular art. If promotional requirements are not “Fair Dinkum” the art will have no future and simply fade away (that is why a long history is very important when you are deciding upon an art to train in.)

In the World Shim Jang Taekwondo Academy we take our promotions and subsequent qualifications very seriously. Our Black Belts are graded on a combination of technical ability, time, dedication, loyalty and most of all their knowledge of the art & communication skills. In Shim Jang taekwondo we want our members to have plenty of opportunity in the art & our ranking system is very fair. We find that our dedicated members usually remain loyal to the art because whatever they need from the art we make a genuine effort to provide. Of course you will always get the odd student that is in a hurry, wants their name up in lights and thinks they have seen it all, my advice to them is that it is a “Free Country” and maybe Shim Jang Taekwondo is not for them. Our Dan promotions are fair and available to any Instructor or Black Belt member that possesses the correct attitude and has met the necessary requirements.
All Dan promotions are officially certified and issued under the W.S.T.A black belt qualification framework and successful applicants are issued with appropriate certificates.

MARTIN; Have you had experience with other martial art styles?

MH; Shim Jang is a unique taekwon-do style and in order to learn and master any art you need to spend as much time as possible studying that particular art. (eg; You can’t become a good electrician if you wander off and study plumbing) In my experience students that “Train Around” or bounce from one taekwondo group to another just to get higher Dan’s and feed their ego’s only become confused and never really complete their basic studies so in my opinion these people always remain a junior instructor within the taekwondo world no matter what dan grade they profess to wear. As I said previously if you want to become good at a particular style of taekwondo you must study that particular style otherwise you are learning something else entirely.
I do understand that sometimes there are genuine reasons for making application to join another organisation and we of course welcome anyone to join us as long as they have thought long and seriously about their decision.

I’m sure that all arts have something positive to offer but (I am not a believer in “Jack of all trades”) I recommend to anyone that is planning on learning a martial art that they look carefully and make an educated decision on what art best suites their needs. They should then join and apply themselves fully to the study of that art, this, I believe is the only way to become a competent martial artist and develop a correct martial art attitude. In Shim Jang Taekwondo we have many centres and an impressive number of black belt members that all have different strengths. We make all centres available to all members, therefore our students really have unlimited training opportunity with a vast array of seniors to learn from.

These of course are my thoughts, I have nothing to hide and don’t “OWN” anyone so if a student really wants to look around “go ahead” it’s a free country !!

If a Black Belt leaves our organisation and joins or trains with another organisation I genuinely wish them all the best and recommend that they stay there and work hard to grow and succeed within that organisation, if they ever want to return they must again make application for membership via the proper channels.

Pt 2 of Master Hicks Interview comming soon !!.