A Glasgow martial arts team were crowned champions at a top tournament.
With 97 points, 47 medals and first place overall, RAM Taekwon-Do annihilated the competition at this year’s United Kingdom Taekwon-Do Association (UKTA) Scottish Championships.
The city-based team, previously named Merrylee, was led to victory by master John Reilly, seventh dan.
The championships took place on May 28 at Ravenscraig Regional Sports Facility and hailed the team’s first competitive comeback since Covid-19 hit.
Master Reilly, who has been an instructor for almost three decades as well as an international Scottish champion and coach for the national team, told the Glasgow Times: “When lockdown struck, we lost quite a lot of members.
“Although we instantly took our training online, we appreciate that doesn’t suit everybody and there were a lot of members that kind of drifted away over that period.
“We probably lost about 30% of our membership.”
As lockdown began to ease, master Reilly said the club was “getting bombarded with people wanting to start.”
Eventually, once life began to resume to some level of normality, the team were able to get back into the dojang, interact with one another and finally compete once more.
At May’s championships, RAM were just one out of 25 schools competing, and the team ranged from the ages of seven all the way up to 52.
The 25 competitors within the team, both new and old, competed in a range of individual events in which a significant amount of gold, silver and bronze medals were taken home.
Winning first place by 36 points, and 47 medals between only 25 members, the team came to do exactly as they wanted to do – win.
Master Reilly said: “It was a major target of ours not just to go in and represent and perform well, but from a personal stance as the instructor my goal was for the guys to win the championships which I was absolutely delighted that they did.”
Though the team have won the championships numerous times before, master Reilly stated this time it felt different.
He added: “Having all those years away made the victory.
“That, coupled with the fact that so many of the guys were new and it was their first one, so there was a real special feeling and element to that part of it. And similarly, the guys that have been with me for many years, for them to have a lull and come back strong it was absolutely fantastic.”
Malky White was one of many competitors who struck gold at this year’s UKTA Scottish Championships.
The Southside-born 31-year-old said he always had an interest in taekwon-do and took it up to lose weight.
He began his journey in the sport back in 2011 with master Reilly at Merrylee and has stuck with him ever since.
He told Glasgow Times: “I found a flyer for the club in my local and it happened to belong to an amazing instructor, I feel very lucky and fortunate.”
Mr White’s competitive comeback to the Scottish Championships saw him return with a bang.
As well as gold in third and fourth-degree patterns, he also picked up gold in heavyweight sparring.
His impressive successes added six points to RAM Taekwon-Do’s overall tally.
He said: “This was the first tournament where I was competing with my daughter there.
“My wife was also competing for the first time since having our daughter, so that added a new feeling to the usual competition day.”
Mr White said it was “amazing” to see so many first-timers take to the mats and bring home some medals.
His next goal is to be selected for the European Championships in Italy next year.
He added: “In a few years I’ll be eligible to sit my fifth dan grading, so I will also be preparing for that.
“The good thing about martial arts is that it requires you to constantly grow and evolve. Master Reilly always keeps us on our toes to make sure we’re never falling behind and constantly growing, as martial artists and people.”
Rebecca Reilly flourished at the UKTA Scottish Championships.
The 16-year-old daughter of master Reilly began the sport at just four-years-old.
She said: “I got into taekwon-do through my parents.
“My dad is a seventh dan master and is the school instructor, and my mum is a fifth dan, so I was never going to be able to avoid getting into it. You could say that I was sort of born into taekwon-do.
“My two younger brothers train as well, which makes it more special to me as it has become a family sport, something we can all do together and bond over.”
The teen started training at her dad’s previous school, Merrylee, and in 2018 when it became RAM, Rebecca like many others became part of the extended family.
She said: “I couldn't ask for better people to train with.”
When competing at this year’s Scottish Championships, she certainly brought her A-game.
She competed in three events - patterns, sparring and special technique - and won big in each.
She said: “I was delighted to win gold in all three events that I participated in. This also meant I was crowned the overall junior black belt champion.”
These impressive victories meant that Rebecca raked in nine points for the team.
She said: “I really enjoyed competing in these events. I love the adrenaline rush I get when competing.
“Towards the end of each event when the category starts to get smaller and it is only medallists competing, the nerves are higher. But I feel so excited and determined to try my hardest and at the end when they announced I won the gold I felt so relieved and happy.
“It’s the best feeling when you win a competition, and you feel accomplished that all your hard work has paid off.”
The teen is heading to the London Open this month and has two more national competitions later in the year.
She added: “So far this year I have been the overall champion at the English and the Scottish Championships, so my goal is to continue this trend at the next ones.
“I’m also hoping to attend the European Championships in Italy next April if I’m selected to represent Scotland.”