For many years, I have seen the dedication and the passion that Mark Simmons has towards taekwondo, I remember having a conversation with him many years ago and it became clear that this was someone who knew what he wanted to do and where he was going, there was a certainty about him.
When I began Interviews With Successful People I thought he would be an ideal candidate to interview. I was intrigued by what was going on in his mind, where did his drive and passion come from? Who were the people he modelled and learned from?
Mark Simmons began training in Taekwondo from a young age and this started in Kent. His home club is with Kent Taekwondo Schools in Sellindge and Folkestone. When he moved to Manchester to begin university, he joined ultimate taekwondo and trained with Master Pete Johnson under grandmaster T.W.Shin.
He started competing in national tournaments at the age of 18 and for the next 5 years dedicated himself to training and competing. During this time he won many medals, including; a Gold in the Scottish cup in 2004 and silver in the London open during the same year. Due to injury, Mark had to retire from competitive fighting and now coaches the university of Kent Taekwondo team.
Mark then began stand up comedy in 2008 and has since reached 6 national new act competition finals, and now works on the Professions stand up comedy circuit.
•What Motivated You To Study Martial Arts
I started Taekwondo when I was 6 years old because my Father trained and he would take me to the junior class before his. He then went on to become an instructor so naturally encouraged me to train.
When I was about 12 other hobbies and distractions took over and I took a few year off of taekwondo. I think also because it wasn't originally my choice to do taekwondo and wasn't sure it was what I really wanted to do.
It was when I was 15 I decided to come back to Taekwondo and instantly enjoyed the training a lot more than before because I could get more involved in the physical fighting aspects as I was bigger and stronger and could be more effective. Fighting was instantly my main focus out of all the activities within Taekwondo.
Obviously the reason I started Taekwondo was because it was the choice of my father. He chose Taekwondo because he was impressed with the effectiveness of the kicking techniques being more powerful than the other martial arts at the time. He also had a very good instructor; which is one of the most important things when learning an art such as this.
•What Kept You Going During The Times Of Struggle And Loss?
Knowing that I was learning from these situations kept me motivated. If I was being beat, I would work out why this was and then add these skills to my arsenal.
• At The Beginning Of Your Career, Who Were The Most Supportive People Around You At The Time?
My father has always been very supportive of my Taekwondo. We would have extra one to one sessions whenever I wanted it and would keep me motivated all the way through these sessions. My brother also trains and especially at the beginning of my competitive training, we would train together a lot and push each other to our limits so we would get the most out of each training session. I think sibling rivalry was also important, as we were always at the same level wanting to be better than the other.
• Tell Us About How You Feel Before A Competition?
I always felt very nervous, this feeling never changed no matter how experienced I was. I think this is a lot to do with the structure of tournament competition, in that, until the day, you don't know who you're going to be fighting and therefore can't make any preparation. In these open national competitions you could be fighting anything from an average club fighter to a top international fighter.
• How Do You Feel After A Competition?
After competition I would always beat myself up no matter what the result. I would always go over any mistakes I made and what I could do better over and over again in my mind. If I lost I would want to work out where I went wrong and if I won I would be thinking about how I could win more convincingly.
• Where Does Your Drive And Passion Come From?
It comes from wanting to be the best. This is the case in everything I do, I can't help it. If I didn't have this feeling burning inside I wouldn't bother doing it. I can't really do anything just for the sake of doing it. There always needs to be a goal I'm trying to reach.
• Do You Believe In A Higher Power?
• Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
My inspiration came from the people around me, the better fighters and wanting to be like and better than them.
• Why Did You Have To Stop Competing?
A repetitive foot injury became too much of a frustration. This is a bad injury for a Taekwondo player as this is the main weapon in Taekwondo competition fighting. I would train hard for three months before a competition and then catch an elbow with my foot early on in the first fight. And this would either weaken me or cause me to stop fighting. Even if I won I wouldn't be able to progress because the foot would swell.
• How Did You Get Into Comedy?
I started stand up comedy around the same time as I stopped competing. I didn't ever make the link between the two before, but I guess I needed a new goal and re-directed my focus and obsession to comedy. I show the same personality traits when doing comedy as I did in Taekwondo competition, especially the nerves before a gig and beating myself up and analysis afterwards.
• What Do You Think Is The Most Important Elements To Being Successful?
You need to be driven and you need to REALLY want it, enough so that you dedicate everything toward that goal. And you need to be willing to sacrifice other things in your life to reach it.
You must stay focused and set yourselves short term goals leading to the ultimate goal and it's important to regularly re-evaluate these goals.
• What Are Your Future Plans?
I will continue teaching taekwondo and pass on my knowledge and hopefully encourage others to achieve further than I could myself. My main focus will be on stand up comedy, to keep progressing and become a top comedy circuit act.
Interview by Oliver J R Cooper
Although Mark could be described as an extravert when he performs on stage; during this interview I saw another side. I would describe this side as more introverted and laid back. There is a quiet confidence about him, and he has remained open and curious to life. I sensed lightness about him and how he didn't seem weighted down by the past or by life.
Views from Mark Simmons
Having known Oliver for a long time this made the interview very easy. He is laid back and doesn't force any questions, allowing you to answer naturally and honestly. I would recommend Oliver's interview technique to anyone and be happy to be interviewed by him in the future.
Blog - http://marksimmonshaha.blogspot.co.uk/
Twitter - twitter.com/MarkSimmonsHaHa
My name is Oliver J R Cooper and I have been on a journey of self awareness for over nine years and for many years prior to that I had a natural curiosity.
For over two years, I have been writing articles. These cover psychology and communication. This has also lead to poetry.
One of my intentions is to be a catalyst to others, as other people have been and continue to be to me. As well as writing articles and creating poetry, I also offer personal coaching. To find out more go to - http://www.oliverjrcooper.co.uk/
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