When watching Paul Bozman teach taekwondo it’s clear he has a deep passion for the art form.
The 65-year-old can be found on most week nights in his gym in Prince Rupert, carefully guiding young students, instructing them on proper form and technique.
But more important than the ability to deliver a perfect kick, do 100 straight push-ups or break a wooden board with his bare hands, are the lessons he has learned after a life spent exploring the world, experiencing different cultures and developing a broad perspective on life.
“Travelling just broadens your scope of everything,” Bozman said. “Seeing Third World countries where there is extreme poverty and seeing how other people have to live makes you thankful for what we have here.”
Born in Yorkshire, England, Bozman moved to Canada in 1965 when his father, a machinist by trade, was offered a job in Edmonton at an engineering consulting firm.
“The economics in England were low at the time, and there wasn’t much opportunity,” Bozman said.
The family arrived in an ocean liner, landing in Montreal and then took a train across the country to their new home. Bozman, then only 13 years old, remembers being amazed at the natural landscape along the journey.
“I was just in awe of the scenery of Ontario,” he said. “It was so beautiful with all of the fall colours, it’s stuck in my mind all this time.”
A year after arriving in Edmonton, Bozman’s father was offered a job in Kitimat, and the family found themselves on the move again. They stayed in Kitimat for eight years before Bozman’s family moved back to Edmonton. This time, Bozman, then 22 years old, chose to stay in Kitimat where he had made friends and was beginning his own apprenticeship as a millwright.
“It was just time for me to do my own thing I guess,” he said.
It was during this period when Bozman was introduced to what would become his life’s passion. While on a trip to Vancouver in 1973, he saw a taekwondo demonstration being put on by a Korean group who were touring the world to promote the sport. Bozman was immediately impressed by the physical prowess of the performers.
“The high kicks, the flying kicks, the board breaking, it was just an impressive display,” he said.
Back in Kitimat, Bozman signed up for taekwondo instruction that was being offered through the town’s recreation department. He still remembers that first workout, which consisted of sprints, push-ups and sit-ups.
“It was hard work, but no pain, no gain,” he said. “I loved it, it was what I wanted to do.”
He continued his training over the years, maintaining his skills even as he moved from Kitimat to Prince Rupert 10 years later. It was during this time that Bozman received the inspiration to travel.
“I was in Eddie’s News and there was a travel magazine that talked about travelling to the Himalayas,” he said. “I decided I would go.”
Bozman spent the next year planning his trip, and in 1985 he began a tour of Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Korea. He still has a picture of himself looking down at a base camp from an expedition in the Himalayas, an experience he said pushed him to his physical limits.
“I could manage five paces before I had to stop and gasp for air,” he said. “It was bad going.”
Following his time in the mountains, Bozman was renewed by his time in Thailand and Hong Kong, places he said were so vibrant after spending time in the desolate beauty of the Himalayan mountains.
Bozman continued on to Korea where he stayed for a month to study and train taekwondo.
“It was more dynamic,” he said. “The training and style of taekwondo was much more dynamic, faster and streamlined in Korea.”
Bozman would return to Korea the following year to further his training, and when he returned to Rupert, he began teaching taekwondo at the civic centre. There were 19 total students in his first lessons, 6 in the children’s class and 13 in the adults’. He said his first time being an instructor was an eye-opening experience as he had assisted before, but this was his first time teaching people with no instruction.
“You have to be very clear and precise about what you’re trying to teach others,” he said. “You really have to understand the technique to teach and show someone with no martial arts background.”
Over the next 20 years, the club hosted tournaments that attracted clubs from as far away as Calgary and the Okanagan. In 2008, Bozman moved out of the civic centre into his own space on Second Avenue in downtown Prince Rupert.
“It was a lot better because I didn’t have to deal with the scheduling constraints anymore,” he said. “I was able to set the hours and size of the classes and it was way easier to teach.”
Thirty-one years after he arrived in Rupert and started teaching, Bozman said he still gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of something that has enriched his life and allowed him to meet with many wonderful people who have supported taekwondo’s growth in the community.
When asked how long he plans to continue, he said he enjoys it too much to think about stopping.
“That’s like asking how long a piece of string is,” he said. “I don’t know, but I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon, that’s for sure.”
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