The prospect of recruiting new members to Olympic level in tae kwon do at the recently opened K-Fit TKD school in George Town is not an idle boast.
On Saturday K-Fit TKD held two seminars at the school just off Shedden Road for members who were instructed by Sensei Nardu Debrah, the New York-based martial arts icon.
He was invited by Master Steve Graham, chief instructor at K-Fit TKD, who is a 7th degree black belt in various styles of tae kwon do and Korean karate.
The seminars were the first step toward grooming members to reach the pinnacle in tae kwon do, with Olympic qualification being the biggest motivation. They were well received, and Debrah was impressed with the enthusiasm of the students.
K-Fit member David Reid, a black belt in tae kwon do, is realistic about creating Olympic-level athletes at the school.
“It takes years and incredibly hard training and dedication,” he said. “But somebody’s going to make it, and I think that a country like Cayman would possibly have someone make it quicker than somewhere like the United States with such a huge population.”
Reid reasons that the small classes and high level of one-on-one instruction the students receive from Graham and the other instructors will help them progress faster and achieve Olympic level far quicker.
Gioser Gonzales, a qualified physical education teacher and instructor at K-Fit, has worked as a P.E. teacher at North Side Primary, Bodden Town Primary and Clifton Hunter schools.
The 34-year-old Cuban has lived in Cayman on and off for 11 years. He was born into martial arts as his father is a black belt in karate.
Gonzales moved from karate into tae kwon do because he prefers the extra agility needed. He made the Cuban tae kwon do national squad.
“Tae kwon do is a wonderful sport,” Gonzales said. “I encourage anybody to come and hang out here a little bit and see how interesting it is.”
Master David Leider is another very experienced tae kwon do exponent who is qualified to instructor level. He is also an international referee and officiated at last month’s Pan American Games.
Leider is from Texas, where he has his own tae kwon do gym. He bought a house in Cayman four years ago and wanted to get involved in the tae kwon do scene here. That led to meeting with Graham, who helped him become an international referee for the Cayman Islands.
A tae kwon do 5th Dan, Leider is skilled in Israeli and Filipino martial arts forms too.
“I see a lot of untapped ability here,” he said. “There are a lot of Caymanians who are in good shape that need an outlet, looking for something to do, and this is something they can do for a long time and take it to the highest level of international competition.”
Leider is also involved in para-tae kwon do, for athletes with special needs. Last year he went to Moscow to referee at the Paralympics World Championships in tae kwon do, and he was in Europe earlier this year officiating there.
Leider is also on the committee to promote para-tae kwon do in the United States and throughout the Caribbean. He hopes to get para-tae kwon do at the next Special Olympics World Games.
He said, “Tae kwon do is a great avenue for somebody to create a career, travel the world and possibly go to the Olympics.”