Striking out: Jonny May is one of Warwick's finest sportsmen. photo: Jonny May

Taekwondo captain to represent GB

It is fair to say that in the dizzying whirl of mainstream sports – football, cricket, rugby union and tennis – taekwondo is rarely in the spotlight.

It is a semi-contact sport revolving around punches, kicks and throws: one point for a punch, two points for a body kick and three points for a head kick. It is not a sport for the faint-hearted or slow-witted.

Interested? It transpires that one of Britain’s finest young competitors lies within Warwick University.

Jonny May, a second-year Engineering student, won the prestigious Tae Kwon-do Association of Great Britain (TAGB) men’s welterweight championships in December.

This effectively acts as a ticket for him to represent Great Britain at the European Championships in Davos, Switzerland, from 29- 30 March – an opportunity which could allow him to become a full-time member of the senior British TAGB squad.

May is no university student who has accidentally stumbled across his forte.

Trawling back through the archives, it becomes clear that he has succeeded at pretty much every level since he started in the sport.

British and world champion at under-14 level? Check. Double student national champion? Check.

As well as competing individually, second degree black belt May is the captain of Warwick Taekwondo, an intrinsically demanding role.

He admits that “it’s probably the only exec role which aids your own training. When you’re trying to drill certain techniques into other people, you tend to do them far more yourself.”

Nevertheless, he has been working hard ‘off the field’, too. He arranged for Warren Vice, arguably the greatest semi-contact fighter of all time, to lead a seminar for Warwick Taekwondo.

And as you would expect, May’s training schedule is testament to his ferocious commitment.

“In addition to personal fitness sessions, I train three times per week in Rugby and Kenilworth, as well as training up to four times a week with the university team,” he said.

“I also train with the TAGB national team in Loughborough every Saturday, although I’m not yet in the squad.”

If May were to break into the squad, he would receive crucial funding – costs for trips abroad can be expensive – and represent Britain on the international stage.

Winning the TAGB men’s championships gives him every chance, but the victory itself did not come easily.

“I got injured in the summer and so missed quite a lot of the lead-up to the competition,” he said.

“But when it came round to it, it was brilliant. It was the first time we took people from university down to a non-student competition – normally I just go on my own.

“The support of having a team around definitely helped.”

“Now I’ve seen what it takes to get the top, I know that with enough hard work and dedication I can get there.”

Indeed, Jonny’s progress can be measured by the fact that he overcame Liam Palmer in the semi-final – the opponent that beat him in the World Championships earlier in the year.

He then beat previous English champion Dave Shillabear in the final, acquiring a broken nose for his troubles.

But he admits that the opposition in Switzerland will be more of an unknown quantity.

“I won’t have heard of everyone like in national competitions, so that adds an element of uncertainty,” he said.

“If I get into my weight category, I’ve just got to go out and enjoy it – win one fight at a time and not get carried away.”

He did not make the final squad – which included eventual medallists Lutalo Muhammad and Jade Jones – but says that the experience acted as a formidable learning curve and confidence boost.

“Although I didn’t get through, the whole experience improved me so much. I’m more confident in my own ability, more able to adapt to different styles of fighting and my movement is better.

“Working with all of the GB coaches, athletes and nutritionists also made me have more of an athlete’s mindset towards my training, my diet and my mentality.

“Now I’ve seen what it takes to get the top, I know that with enough hard work and dedication I can get there.”

Which begs the question: like Elo du Luart and Charlotte Taylor, the fantastic triathletes that the Boar interviewed in December, does May want to pursue taekwondo as a career?

It turns out it is a pretty difficult task. GB Taekwondo run a trials programme called Fighting Chance in the lead-up to each Olympic Games, from which they pick 15 full-time athletes.

So were he to attempt to go full-time, he would need to wait until the trials for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Instead, May wishes to try and get into the aforementioned TAGB squad – a commitment which would be part-time, necessitating what he calls a “proper job” after university.

But for somebody who has achieved one success after another from such a tender age, you imagine he has every chance of making it to the very top.


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