Martial arts master

Martial arts master

Apart from obvious self-defence skills, there are a number of other valuable life lessons to be learnt through martial arts training. Seventh Dan Taekwon-Do and Hapki-Do master and father of two Vladimir Grachev has been passionately imparting this knowledge to his Ballito students for the past 10 years.

Balance, speed, coordination, concentration and discipline are all basic values we should be using every day, whether it be in business, at school or in our personal lives.

“Martial arts teaches you these and many other important principles. It also teaches you that while physical strength is important, mental strength is more so,” says master Vladimir.

Born in Kazakhstan in 1970, Vladimir started training when he was just eight years old. “I wanted to defend myself in a dangerous country. I learnt boxing, judo and wrestling, but I was always fascinated with martial arts. Only members of the special forces, police and KGB were permitted to do martial arts at that stage.”

Determined to follow his passion, Vladimir befriended a major at the nearby police gym, who allowed him to train there. “They were training for real world combat and I trained with them. Vladimir spent long hours in the gym every day and attained a black belt in Kung Fu by the age of 19. He spent two years as a special forces officer in the Russian army at the military headquarters in Moscow, after which he studied engineering. That was when he turned his focus to Taekwon-Do. “I always enjoyed the leg work and techniques in Taekwon-Do.”

Vladimir became even more focussed on his training and travelled to South Korea for months at a time to train under Grand Master Choi (who is a ninth Dan in Taekwon-Do and Hapki-Do). “This was very intense ‘ninja’ training. We were running up and down mountains, barefoot, in the rain and snow. I trained three times a day for two hours at a time.”

As the president of the Taekwon-Do foundation in Kazakhstan at the time, Vladimir met the South African federation president at the world championships in 2006.

“He invited to me to come to South Africa on a six-month contract in Johannesburg to help the team with their sparring techniques. While I was there I visited Ballito on holiday. I fell in love with the area and the ocean and, realising there was no real martial arts training in the area, I decided to move to Ballito and opened my club in 2007.”

Ten years later, Vladimir has produced a number of South African, World and European champions through his Ballito-based club. Now, he says, he is focussing on the Global Taekwon-Do Federation world cup, which will be hosted by South Africa next year.

With a deeply imbedded passion for the sport, Vladimir has sponsored a number of underprivileged students from local rural areas, training and grading them for free. He has also subsequently opened clubs in Stanger, Durban, Centurion and Johannesburg.

While not everyone is interested in competing, Valdimir says there is so much the ‘man on the street’ can learn from Taekwon-Do. In terms of self-defence he says he has amazing stories of local people, including women, who have trained with him and ended up using the skills they learnt to protect themselves in real life situations.

Ballito mother Linda Smit started training with Vladimir when he first opened his club and now holds a black belt in Taekwon-Do. “I never thought I would stay with the sport for so long, but it has taught me – and my children – so many skills. I truly believe that every child should learn a few basic self-defence moves. Taekwon-Do teaches them, first and foremost, to walk away from confrontation, but if they are attacked, they are capable of protecting themselves. There is also the fitness aspect, which is great.”

Vladimir offers morning and evening sparring classes, as well as female fitness and kids classes. “It all depends what you want to get out of it. We offer different training for different things.” First and foremost though, Vladimir says that his students learn to respect others, be courteous, loyal and trustworthy and act in the spirit of Taekwon-Do.

Get In Touch
Martial Arts Masters Academy – Daywood Close, Ballito / 071 685 8979 /

Text: Leah Shone



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