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William Johns shares his lifelong dedication to learning and mastering martial art Soo Bahk Do

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Soo Bahk Do black belt William Johns.
Camera IconSoo Bahk Do black belt William Johns. Credit: Laurie Benson

William Johns has been a Soo Bahk Do black belt for more than 50 years, stumbling across the martial art while living on an airbase in Anchorage, Alaska in the 1970s.

Mr Johns is one of the most senior Soo Bahk Do masters in Australia, despite only moving to Albany in 2012 after marrying his wife Azar, and completing the majority of his training in the US.

“I literally stumbled across it,” he said.

“I was flying a kite and one of my friends came and said there was a karate demonstration at the gym.

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“Because my father was in the military, we were living on an airbase.

“I saw the demonstration, and I don’t know if I thought that it was a solution to bullying or not, but they looked so confident and powerful, and I didn’t feel that way.

“So that’s probably what attracted me to it initially.”

Soo Bahk Do black belt William Johns.
Camera IconSoo Bahk Do black belt William Johns. Credit: Laurie Benson

His father’s military career meant the family moved across the US in his formative years.

“My father was military and we moved a lot,” he said.

“I came here from Washington State to marry Azar, and I’d come over here to visit her family.

Soo Bahk Do black belt William Johns.
Camera IconSoo Bahk Do black belt William Johns. Credit: Laurie Benson

“But Azar’s mum fell ill so we came over here, and we decided to stay.”

He says the art has not only taught him valuable skills in self-defence but also instilled a long-lasting sense of confidence in himself.

“You learn how to be physically confident with yourself, which is important,” he said.

“Soo Bahk Do is a traditional martial art as opposed to a fighting method.

“It was founded for individual development, character development, and that’s what I’ve gotten out of it.

“I’ve gotten the confidence where I can physically handle myself, and that gives me the confidence to be gentle.”

Training for Soo Bahk Do took place while he was still living in the US, undergoing a minimum 13 years to achieve a mastery level and receive his black belt.

“I primarily trained with my instructor who was in Springfield, New Jersey,” he said.

“For most of my career, when I was teaching just south of Miami, I would fly up to New Jersey and train with him.

“Most of the time at that level is very lonely, it’s spent by yourself on the floor, practising and training, and not much instruction is needed.”

William Johns earnt his belt in 1976, receiving it in the mail as he still lived in Alaska at the time.
Camera IconWilliam Johns earnt his belt in 1976, receiving it in the mail as he still lived in Alaska at the time. Credit: Supplied.

“They go according to the seasons, so white represents the purity of snow, and orange is the sun hitting the snow,” he said.

“Green is the growth of spring, and red is the heat of summer, they’re usually very skilled at doing jump spinning kicks and everything.

“And the black belt is actually not black in this art, it’s a deep blue called Midnight Blue.

“It represents the midnight skies of fall, and black is a colour that you can’t add anything to.

“It represents an endpoint.

“And the philosophy of the art is that we’re always growing, and we’re always learning.

“We don’t wear the black, we wear the dark blue to be humble.”

Training for Soo Bahk Do took place while he was still living in the US, undergoing the minimum 13 years to achieve a mastery level and receiving his black belt.
Camera IconTraining for Soo Bahk Do took place while he was still living in the US, undergoing the minimum 13 years to achieve a mastery level and receiving his black belt. Credit: Supplied.

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