Interview with a Grand Master
Grand Master Orello Ellis IX Degree
Grand Master Ellis has been an avid Taekwon-Do (TKD) practitioner for over 40 years. This wonderful art was introduced to him by his friend’s brother in Oxford and he welcomed the invitation knowing it would be a vessel for positive energy. He had no serious ambitions for TKD at this point so it was treated just as a regular hobby for him to practice.
His initial influences in the world of TKD began with his first instructor Mr. Jerry Dash. Grand Master Ellis informed me that during these early years students were not graded by their instructors, so he was guided by the best teaches. Master Rhee took all his gradings, progressing him up to 5th Dan. Then our founder and pioneer, the great Grand Master General Choi Hong Hi 9th Dan, took him to 6th and 7th Dan. Can you imagine being graded by the man who created TKD? No place to hide any errors and certainly no blaggin through the theory!
I was surprised to learn from Grand Master Ellis that Grand Master Choi was a gentle teacher and didn’t make students feel worthless when errors were made and was very encouraging to the struggling participant. Grand Master Ellis also highlighted that these gradings were the real deal and super intense, especially with Grand Master Rhee, (the destruction King.) There was absolutely no mercy for the weak. Real hard wood and roof tiles were the standard kit for power breaking. Well, thank goodness health and safety swooped in during this modern age and saved us. Grand Master Ellis joked stating that most students today would not survive this old school level of grading now.
Grand Master Ellis had his first taste of competing when he was a mere green belt and was pleased to share that won gold medals in both patterns and sparring. This was a very encouraging start and inevitably he was bitten by the bug! Grand Master Ellis continued to participate in numerous competitions over the years, winning multiple medals in local, national, international and worlds tournaments as an individual and team member. These accolades were gained in sparring, patterns, destruction and special techniques. The number count of medals? Well, that’s a whole new article!
So, as I continued to interrogate the Grand Master he struggled to choose his favourite feature in TKD, so I had to be content he was an equal lover of each category. However I pushed for a favourite pattern (since he's so technical) and squeezed a response. The winning pattern was Moon Moo. This holds favourable memories for him in his 'hey day' gaining much success as an individual and team competitor.
The most rewarding achievement and TKD experience for Grand Master Ellis arrived in October 2012, suitably in the UK at the Brighton World Championships. Here, he was presented and promoted with the highest TKD accolade by our current ITF president, Grand Master Trajtenberg and awarded a certificate and the fabulous title of Grand Master. This was a great honour for Grand Master Ellis and 8 years in waiting! During this time he continued to teach and lead seminars globally.
There is no formal grading to obtain this rank and worthy participants are decided by a minimum of 3 Grand Masters on the ITF committee. They then notify the recipient and arrange the presentation.
(So what does the Grand Master do when he's not all serious and profiling a dobok?) In his regular day to day job he has worked for British Telecom as a communications engineer for many years. While in the world of other fitness regimes he's an avid cyclist (a hugely popular feature in Oxford) and frequents the gym. These additional activities have been conducive in enhancing his phenomenal flexibility and robust stature. When it comes to watching sports, cricket is definitely at the top of his list!
Inspirational influences outside the dojan include a range of activist greats that struggled for the greater good, in equality and humanity. These include Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Bogle, Malcolm X, Colin Powell, Nelson Mandela and most recently passed Dr Maya Angelou.
Grand Master Ellis has donated a huge part of his life to TKD and continues to teach his classes twice a week in Oxford, (Mondays and Wednesdays). He candidly admitted that he doesn't delve into the TKD encyclopaedia as frequent as most may think, stating it's a guide and that training is the essential key to learning. However for students and teachers climbing the rank, don't be using this as an excuse for not knowing your theory.
I asked Grand Master Ellis what he would like for the future of TKD and he gave an answer only a great lover of their art would say.
"I endeavour to see continued growth and development within ETA TKD and to see more passionate instructors that will produce top class students. It would be a positive and great change if the crippling politics in TKD was ostracised and authentic students and teachers train as we should, without restraints. Sadly as the year’s progress in these changing times, business is often the prime agenda in many cases and TKD is secondary, so student’s technical abilities suffer. I don't foresee this unbalance being corrected in a hurry. Despite this however, TKD remains to be an exciting art in unarmed combat for self defence, discipline, fitness, flexibility, self control, confidence and strength."
This was a great honour and opportunity to interview Grand Master Ellis and get inside his thoughts. This was not an easy task folks as this is a humble guy who needed to be poked and squeezed for answers!
I would highly recommend all serious TKD practitioners regardless of Kup or Dan to attend a class in oxford for a great technical experience with Grand Master Ellis. I like to call it ‘The Slice, Dice and Chew Sessions'. What does this consist of? You may well ask. Well, you’ll have to visit to find out!
Michelle G White, 2nd Dan
Thanks Grand Master Ellis, from all ETA TKD folks!