Interview with Warren Vice

Warren Vice is a 5th Dan Taekwondo fighter with the TAGB (Taekwondo Association of Great Britain). He is recognised globally as one of the most successful taekwondo fighters ever, not least for his show-stopping, electrifying and relentless kicking skills which pretty much always find their mark! He is also known for possessing a humble, sincere, down to earth, easygoing and friendly nature.

Some of his achievements with an unprecedented number of victories (and the medals to go with it!) include having won the World Championships 19 times as well as multiple European, Welsh, Scottish and British National (and other international) tournaments. To crown those glories he has also been awarded the TAGB International Fighter of the Year Award on several occasions.

Today he continues to enjoy competing whilst passing on his knowledge, expertise and experience onto the new generation. He is an inspirational role model and coach for many taekwondo students having gained the solid respect and admiration of his team mates and peers over his incredible 17-year competitive career, and continues to go from strength to strength.

This is a compilation of some of Warren’s career highlights, created by Alex McColl.

Read on to find out more about this exceptional martial talent that is Warren Vice!

Hi Warren, so, let’s start off by asking you, when were you born? Where do you come from originally?

Hi Raj! Well, I was born on the 23rd of June 1983. I’m from Norfolk, in the UK.

What’s your height and weight?

I am 5’ 10” (1.78m) tall and weigh 12st 6lb (80kg).

How did you first get started in the martial arts, how old were you?

Well, when I was six years old, I was getting bullied a bit at school, my dad wanted me to get into martial arts and I started training in 1989, there weren’t many clubs or instructors who would teach kids that young back then!

Who were your main and most influential teachers/mentors?

My teacher was Mark Farnhan who’s a 6th dan now. After about two weeks of starting, my dad started training too!

Double flying kick!

Is it true that it was Jackie Chan also inspired you a great deal in the martial arts?

Yes! My dad had all his old school videos like “Drunken Master” and “Master With Cracked Fingers”, “Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow”, “Police Story”, “Project A”, he was really into them, I used to love all those films growing up, I still do to be honest! Jackie was a big inspiration! I loved Project A, because it had Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung who had of course all grown up together at their Peking drama academy.

Did you train in other styles as well as taekwondo?

Not really, I’ve dabbled in a bit of kickboxing, but just to help people out. Mostly it’s been with the TAGB (Taekwondo Association of Great Britain, which is the biggest martial association in the UK with 30,000 members) it’s only through the TAGB that I’d fight any other style. At the Clash of The Titans in 2009 we had the best martial arts teams get together; for example there was Shorin-ryu karate, lau gar kung fu, freestyle kickboxing, as well as taekwondo. We actually won the tournament. It was a twelve man team; we had two people at each weight category.

What level have you attained by now?

I’m a 5th dan. I should get my 6th by the time I’m 33, so I’ll probably be one of the youngest at that level. I got my black belt when I was 10.

Where do you rank currently in terms of competition?

I am currently the world champion; at the last contest I entered four different events and won all four, four gold medals over two days of one weekend. The second two I won with a broken hand too – broke my knuckle- in the second round of my individuals! I’ve won the World Championships 19 times. I started competing when I was 15-16, in the lightweight under 64kg class and won that division in 2000 and in 2001 I won the world cup. If it gives you a perspective, there’s no one who has won as many medals as I have, I hope there will be someone in future. There’s usually always someone younger, hungrier and better, so you just learn to enjoy it while it lasts! I’ve been with the England squad since 2000 under the TAGB.

What kind of preparation do you undertake before entering a tournament?

I’m part of the England national squad, so I travel most Saturday’s to England Squad’s training. At the moment I’m teaching everyday of the week, and also doing one-to-one lessons, so I’m not doing a lot of my own personal training. The mind stays sharp when you teach, but the fitness level needs to be consistent with that. So after squad training I’ll do my own fitness training during the week. I’m used to training four times a week.

Warren’s back split kick hits the mark!

Who are some of the top TKD fighters in your view right now?

There are quite a few good Argentineans, Polish, and Dutch coming through these days. In the UK there’s Tyrrell Belony, who’s tall and slim and has got the perfect build for TKD, the England team captain, Gordon Fern, he’s been doing it a long while, he’s inspirational and always training hard. Joseph Schembri, Welsh captain , and James Jimmy Watson, the Scottish captain, really phenomenal That’s the great thing about the TAGB, they have a wealth of good fighters, even the younger ones, Scottish, Welsh and English all coming through now.

What are some of your favourite moves you like to perform when you’re fighting?

Well, I’m always trying different things, here are a few:

  1. Back kick.
  2. 540 degree twist.
  3. I love spinning kicks, and landing them in competition, (not just in the gym) is really gratifying. Also a front hand jab, basic, but it works!
  4. A well-timed reverse-turning kick to the face does the trick, or a 360 degree kick that elates the crowd, I like to please them too.

I enjoy it because I’ve got the freedom and confidence to try different things and inspire people. I get a lot of messages on Facebook, phone calls and people approaching me at competitions, and because of my experience I’m not one of those people who need to be isolated or “in the zone”. People are usually around me having a chat while I’m waiting for my fight! I don’t worry, I just enjoy it.

You are well known for your lightning quick moves, can you tell us more?

When it comes to speed, it’s about being acutely aware and reading people’s movements. I can pick up what someone’s doing and adjust to it. A lot of it is about timing, it makes you look quick. It’s really all a game like tag or chess, you can use the adrenalin and nerves to your advantage you can bring all of that to positively influence your game.

Will you be representing GB in the 2016 Rio Olympics?

Olympic Taekwondo is a different style to what we do. If you can imagine for a moment the two different styles of rugby. The WTF, (World Taekwondo Federation) have changed and adapted to our style where they score more kicks to the head, but we’ve always been doing that, we’re well known for the head kicks. The WTF is full contact to the body, but not full contact to score. Anyway, as with all martial arts, instead of picking at faults, I tend to appreciate the level of difficulty shown. I’m known for the taekwondo I do and I love what I do and with whom I do it!

Warren Vice’s legs -always on the up!

Can you name some of your top kung-fu movies for us?
I’d say

Have you ever done any work in movies or commercials?

Nothing like that, yet. I would love to someday though! One of my friends Ben Wright (who’s on the stunt register) does a lot of stunt work on the superhero films and has doubled for the likes of Captain America, Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman etc. Another guy a little more senior is Michael Lambert who’s a brilliant stuntman/actor who worked on such movies as Jet Li’s Unleashed and with the JCST (Jackie Chan Stunt Team), he does a lot of choreography these days on movies such as Batman Begins.

So you teach now, how long have you been doing that?

Well, I’ve been assisting in teaching since I was ten. But properly for about three years, I took over two clubs that had twenty members to just over a hundred now. I will be opening up more clubs this year teaching pure TAGB Taekwondo.

You’re well known for the speed and flexibility of your leg strikes. Can you reveal how to get really flexible legs?

Constant stretching! If you want to be flexible, you’ve got to stretch. A lot of people think I’m really flexible, but truth is I’m not. Those that really know me, say it’s more because I’ve got the heart to fight and do what I need to do. To have flexible hips, you’ve got to practice the box splits, keep practicing doing it. If there is a certain move you want to do, you’ve simply got to keep practicing it, there’s no secret or easy way, not that I’ve found anyway.

When I train with the younger guys in their early 20’s we’ll practice all the spinning kicks and so on, and after that I’ll still probably be feeling it for the next three days whereas they might be okay by the next day! Many instructors don’t spend much time warming-up when they teach, then they do things like kick when cold and wonder why they’ve pulled a hamstring – you need to warm up!

What’s one training tip or exercise you could give us?

Put 100% in because you get back what you put in! You can still have fun during class and have a laugh etc, but when it comes to the moves, don’t be half-hearted, do them properly. There are no shortcuts! People try to tell you about shortcuts, but hard work, dedication and experience is what really counts the most.

What’s are some of the injuries you’ve had and what’s your attitude towards that?

I’ve had a broken hand, broken noses, and broken knuckle, twinge in my back nerves, all sorts. When you’ve got the adrenalin going though you just don’t feel it. A fight I had a few years back went to a draw, the Polish put up their heavyweight world champion, I was the middleweight and I was nominated as one of the best fighters. It was my fault, I bent down as he brought his leg up and his knee just caught me and broke my nose. I just went to the side, straightened it up and carried on. I ended up winning; we won the world championships then, a middleweight world champion against a heavyweight champion. So, even when things like that happen you don’t feel it, you just get on with it. Most physical injuries are done more so in training than in competition, as in the latter you’ve got pads and you’re protected to an extent.

In competition

What’s the most daring stunt you’ve ever done?

There was one guy fighting for Wales that I fought, I kicked him in the head and he caught my leg with my foot getting stuck behind his head, (not sure what I was thinking but) I brought the other leg up and kicked him on the other side of the head. Obviously with both legs up you’ve nowhere else to go but down! I looked at the footage afterwards and was relieved because I could’ve broken my neck! When you’re fighting for your national team you’re not going to try anything too crazy because you’ve got your responsibility to the rest of your team mates!

What special recuperative remedy would you recommend for people living a physically intense lifestyle?

I think you’ve just got to chill-out and do what you enjoy. When I get back home, I like to spend a night in with my wife or go to the cinema, do something on the computer or watch football. So, whatever takes your mind off training and gives your body a chance to relax. No one can go 24/7 all the time!

Tell us what kind of food you eat that helps you to stay in tip top shape?

I do like food, almost anything goes (so long as it’s not moving)! I don’t drink (alcohol) much at all, and I don’t smoke. Pasta and things like that are generally fine, I don’t go in for all those fancy powdered shakes and so on, I’d rather just drink water or Lucozade. Taekwondo has always been a hobby for me and although I try to be a good ambassador for the sport, I don’t have too many rules when it comes to food, besides my wife will tell me I need to diet and eat healthier if I’m piling on the pounds!

What goals are you working on to fulfil at the moment?

I just (recently) won the British Championships, I also won the International Fighter of the Year Award, I’ve won that about five times over the last 14 years, and that one is quite important. We’ve got the English and Europeans coming up this month, Clash of The Titans coming up (important as everyone wants to beat us, so we really have to be the best we can be!). I also want to take my teaching further, so I’m opening more schools this year, definitely want to grow and develop those. I still like doing seminars so I’ll travel and do those when requested.

Vice and co bringing home the trophies

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

Ideally I’d like to establish my own Warren Vice Academy and move a couple of my clubs into that academy and have a taekwondo centre running full time. I’d like to work with a good team who could teach as well.

What’s a geeky thing about you that not many people know?

I love Lego! I keep buying it and I have loads of it, I love Star Wars and Hobbit Lego! When I was younger I couldn’t afford it, now I can. Even my students would get me vouchers to use at the toy store! I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I also play on PS4! Geeky enough?!!

What’s your favourite music?

Keen on anything, I usually listen to the radio; I sometimes get some upbeat tracks from iTunes for my classes. My wife is also is an adept pianist so she plays all kinds of things that I like too!

What advice would you give to a beginner considering taking up a martial art?

Make sure you find a reputable school, do a bit of research, and make sure you join a school or organisation that offers the best they can!

Gratefully, I’d like to mention for example the legendary Master Dave Oliver, (8th Dan) one of the pioneers in the UK and chairman of Taekwondo International. Master Kenny Walton (8th Dan) who’s the national coach and my coach and you’ve also got Master Ron Sergiew. Master Paul Donnelly is known for his high section twist kick which is absolutely awesome! Master Sergiew used to be well known for his flying kick demonstrations where he’d jump over car and do a flying side kick. These masters like my coach Kenny Walton are the type of guys who would have no restrictions; they’d go everywhere and fight everybody in any and all styles!

Have you ever given thought to how you’d approach martial arts with your own kids in the future?

I would be supportive and get them into it if they wanted to practice, never by force. I find the kids who do best are those that have the support of their parents who watch them practice, get their grades and compete etc. My youngest student is 3.5 years old and recently got his white belt and can even speak one to ten in Korean!

What are the three main values you keep closest to heart, what kind of warrior code do you live by?

Treat everybody as an equal. Everyone is different yet everyone is there for the same reason. Enjoy life and what you do, don’t worry too much, look on the bright side of life. People who always see the glass as half empty can be irritating! If you want anything in life, work hard for it and remember there are no shortcuts for dedication and perseverance. Give it 100% commitment.

Time to get geared-up!

What special message do you have for readers of Kung-fu Kingdom and your fans who follow you around the world?

I’d just like to say a big THANK YOU for all the support! If no one was interested in what I was doing, I wouldn’t be doing it! I win on a regular basis, but the reason I’m doing it is to better myself and also hopefully at the same time inspire others. Most people want to watch me fight, so the constant support from people is not an ego thing, it’s about appreciation and others gaining something from it. I try to keep my students happy, it’s not about the trophies anymore, it’s about inspiring my own students.

Tell us a warrior-wisdom quote would you really like to share?

My motto is: Dream, Believe and Succeed. That appears on my t-shirts. Dream it first, believe in yourself, then go and do it!

What’s the best way for readers to find out more about you, what’s your website address?

They can go to warrenvice.com that’s the place to go to, I can be contacted there. Also via the Sefton TKD page on Facebook.

Thanks so much Warren for your time and being so willing to share so many unique and refreshing insights into the TAGB and your own martial arts practice we really enjoyed this! We wish you all the very best now and in the soon future!

Not at all Raj, thank you. It’s really my pleasure!

LINKS

Warren Vice Website
Sefton TKD Facebook Page

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Raj, a wing chun student, enjoys spending time studying various aspects of the martial arts, from theory to practically applied skills. He enjoys interviewing prominent and dedicated martial artists from all over the world, who have something inspiring and stimulating to share. He also manages projects in terms of filming, reviews of movies/books and other quality features.

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