For the last 54 years, Martin Hall has been at the forefront of Australian Taekwondo, from coaching during Australia’s gold medal winning 2000’s olympic team to receiving special recognition from prime minister John Howard for his contributions to the sport, Hall is a titan of the Australian Taekwondo scene.
Last month, Hall was officially inducted into Taekwondo royalty when he received his 9th Dan Kukkiwon promotion at a special ceremony held at the World Taekwondo HQ in Seoul, South Korea.
“I didn't know how many people were going to be at the ceremony and receive them and as it turns out, there were only two of us, me and an American fighter called Herbert,” Hall recalled of his trip.
“I knew him because he's a fighter like I was. And we had fought around the world before, so it was a real surprise when it was just me and him there, because it is uncommon for fighters to continue practising after they stop competing.”
“Let’s say there was quite a bit of celebration after.”
Receiving a “9th” Dan is the highest honour in Taekwondo, and is a gruelling process that requires martial artists to progress through rigorous black belt stages until reaching the coveted Grandmaster ranking. For Hall, receiving this honour is a culmination of a lifetime of dedication to the craft.
“Ever since I was 15 I wanted to do martial arts,” Hall said.
“The journey has taken me from white belt to colour belt to low black belt to fighter to coach to low down to high down to master to Grandmaster.”
However, despite the prestigious personal accolades, Hall sees his greatest legacy being what he is able to teach the next generation of martial artists that he trains. Since taking over the Brunswick Taekwondo Club in his early twenties, Hall has transformed the club, now Hall’s Taekwondo, into one of Australia’s premiere martial arts institutions upgrading over 4,500 black belts.
“That is the biggest achievement because these people train with us not like a normal gym where you are in and out for six weeks, no they train for a minimum of three years,” Hall said.
“Some of them are going for their 8th Dan or higher. That means you've been there forever.”
“I think that shows the team here is doing an excellent job.”
Hall said his journey to the top of the Taekwondo rankings had given him the ability to depart with knowledge and help people achieve their goals. He says this has always been central to everything that he does.
“I've always had the ability to share what I've learned with many people. And I'm still sharing,” he said.
“I think that the greatest gift is when you give to somebody else.”
“I still get up on Saturday and Sunday morning, I take all the black belts, 64 of them. Some of them are not used to it, but I love pushing them on those early mornings.
Hall hopes that more people will look to practising martial arts as a way of forging better habits and improving their own self discipline. He said his journey over the years had certainly confirmed how important physical excellence and practice was to achieving the same on the mental side.
“People don't realise that you cannot get mental toughness out of a book,” Hall said.
“You have to train hard. You can't get self discipline, unless you actually show up to training.”
“That's why it's so good. Most people run around trying to self improve but they don't do the physical side but it's all linked, your physical and emotional side and what you focus on.”