Mark Farnham gets a real kick out of Tae Kwon-Do

Mark Farnham, a martial arts expert who has Tae Kwon-Do schools across East Anglia, is the latest to answer GAVIN CANEY’s questions

There’s lots of martial arts out there. Why did you choose Tae Kwon-Do? 

Initially it was the only martial art I could find when I was living in my home town.

In a lot of cases, people start martial arts because they get on with the instructor and it is their personality that draws in the student. This certainly happened to me. 

However, as time moved on I found that by luck I had chosen well and Tae Kwon-Do was the art for me. 

It is currently the most popular martial art in the world. It does not have ‘flowery moves’ and all of the techniques you learn have practical relevance.

Your schools (Mark Farnham Schools of Tae Kwon-Do) are so well known. Tell us a bit about your journey and growth? 

We started in King’s Lynn in 1987 with only a handful of students. As time went on we gained more. Some who gained their black belts wanted to teach their own schools and so we expanded. It is a full-time business running them and trying to attract new students.

What’s your favourite part of being an instructor?

Seeing my students achieving their goals is a big part of why I enjoy teaching; whether it is improving a technique, passing a grade, winning a title at a competition or even a personal challenge in their private lives. 

How would you sell the sport to someone who is thinking that they’d like to try it? 

We always offer the first session free. Beginners come along and give it a try, some people thank us but decide it is not for them but most return and join and start the long road of training and practice. 

Above anything it is very good at improving your confidence, which seems to be one of the issues we see from beginners and people who want to start a martial art.

On average, how long does it take people to progress through their belts?

When you start Tae Kwon-Do you learn basic moves and techniques. After a short time you would be looking towards your first grading (belt
testing), this could take up to three months-or-so.

The road to black belt is considerably longer with 10 grading tests over a period of about four years. 

Once you have gained black belt you are a 1st Degree (Dan). There are further black belt degree grades to take all the way to 9th Degree Grand Master, which would take more than 45 years. 

How much did you miss teaching during the lockdown? What did you do to fill the sporting void?

I have trained an average of at least one class a day for 36 years, so the lockdown certainly was a very unusual position to be in. 

I missed the classes and students very much, however I kept busy by providing all of my students with online classes every week. 

I also filled the void with stacks of DIY.

Are you back open in all locations? And how has coronavirus changed your sessions?

We have returned with nine of our 15 schools open. This is because the venues we train at are not open yet but more are opening every week. 

Our classes have changed quite a lot as we practice personal distancing of course and martial arts are performed at a closer range than this normally, so we have adjusted our training and teaching. 

What does the future hold for Mark Farnham and your schools?

Firstly, we will get our schools back up to speed with all classes running. 

Then, we will keep working and promoting Tae Kwon-Do throughout East Anglia, encouraging new students and old students to come and train with us.

A selection of students face the camera in a photograph taken before coronavirus forced Mark Farnham to temporarily take his classes online.

The facts are…

Name: Mark Farnham 

Date of birth: July 2, 1964

Grew up in: Downham Market

Secondary school:
Downham Market

Sporting hero: George Best

Location of classes: Fifteen schools throughout East Anglia – Bury St Edmunds, Downham Market, Ely, Huntingdon, King’s Lynn, Long Sutton, March, Mildenhall, Newmarket, Peterborough, St Neots, Swaffham, Thetford, Wisbech and Spalding.

• Mark is currently a Tae Kwon-Do Black Belt 7th Degree (Dan) World Master with the Tae Kwon-Do Association of Great Britain (TAGB).

• His schools were established in King’s Lynn on November 17, 1987.

• The Mark Farnham Schools of Tae Kwon-Do have produced more than 540 black belts and in excess of 14,500 colour belt successful grade passes.

• Farnham has had thousands of competition champions at first, second and third place as well as more than 100 world titles in his schools.

• In the 2000s, the schools provided half of the British squad (six men and four ladies) just from their Lynn and Ely schools.

Quickfire questions

Restaurant or takeaway?

Night in or night out?

Bath or shower?

Tea or coffee? 

Sweet or savoury? 

Summer or winter? 

Day or night? 

Cinema or theatre?

Favourite food: Chinese

Least favourite food: Raspberries

Favourite TV programme: Any British crime 

Least favourite TV programme: Friends

Favourite band or musician: The Specials

Least favourite band or musician:
Whitney Houston

Favourite film:
First Blood

Least favourite film:
Any musical 

Answers in italics