I was trawling through old documents in my father’s suitcase when I had stumbled upon something I hadn’t even considered in years. A copy of the Camden News Gazette dated 12 years ago. The contents of this article represent to me one of the principle life lessons I learned at the tender age of eight – how to avoid getting your arse whopped six ways to Sunday.


This delicate copy I held between my two hands was a significant personal memento I had forgot even existed. Judging by its creased, worn condition, my dad clearly had gone to great length to preserve this piece of family history. So much so in fact it was any wonder I found it at all under the mountain high pile of crap he had placed it with. Looking at this article, to say a deep sense of nostalgia overcame me doesn’t really sell it. I had not prepared myself for this trip down memory lane especially when it involves everyone’s favourite pass time activity, me making a fool of myself.


The picture in question features a grainy black and white photo where my brother and me are standing either side of, Master Rienzi Trento, our esteemed Tae Kwon-Do Instructor.


Above it is a line in bold that reads: “Youngsters Learn That They Can Tae Kwon-Do It”


With that headline I’m left wondering why couldn’t I have exploited this genius on my news days? I wish I could say that cheap punny headlines were his only specialty, but his second grievous sin was totally butchering my last name, “Hassabale” instead of Hassabala.


Anyway I digress, this embarrassing life lesson as you could have guessed involved some other kid beating the shit out of me, but as you also will have noticed there is a medal around my neck. It certainly wasn’t for participating. In actual fact that year I had won the tournament in my age category. I beat out everyone to place first and for a time it was the happiest moment of my life.


Inevitably it all went belly up the following year. I placed second. The horror! I had spent an entire year convincing myself that I was the best 9 year old this side of Camden, an undefeated warrior who was destined to overcome any opponent.   Only in the years ahead would I realise my error in lacking the hunger to win. But as the saying goes:


 “Complacency is a state of mind that only exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained” (Vladimir Nabokov)


The day of my dethroning went as normally as it could, I had done enough to get in the final. My opponent in the semi final was a fair few inches taller in height but was easily overcome. My opponent in the final was anything but.


I remember it had rained that day; the moment perfectly encapsulated as this pathetic fallacy much like my performance with “pathetic” being the operative word. Sommers Town Community centre the venue ironically was very grey and subdued that day. As the referee waved to start, this seemingly nice fellow nine-year-old kid transformed into this brute unrelenting creature. I got a kick off before the spawn of Satan came with his barrage of blows knocking me firmly to the mat.


I could go on, but why would I? The lesson in case you were wondering was not so much avoiding the beat down, but recognising how beneficial the added element of hunger can help in all walks of life. Tae Kwon Do disciplined me and one moment of glory was my undoing. At least that’s what I tell myself at night. So however painful reliving that moment was I wouldn’t swap it for the humbling lessons it gave me.

Taek Kwon Do It