My name is George Ashiru, I am ranked as a 7th Dan International Master of Taekwondo (Military equivalent of Major General) - a combat art that I have practiced consistently since 1976, while in secondary school.
As a child, I was precocious indeed. I developed a sinus infection which affected my ability to breath properly. Before this, I had an accident in which my entire left arm and parts of my right arm were completely burnt, immersed in boiling hot water. It took several months of surgery at the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Lagos to begin the process of healing my melted skin. And several years of rehabilitation. These were the days when General Jacob (Yakubu) Gowon was the Nigerian Head of State.
David Carradine was a popular American actor in those days, acting the lead in the television series "Kung Fu", and I was an addict. It fascinated me that a human being could jump up or down from buildings, leap through walls and carry searing hot urns with the bare arms. That it was all film stunt did not occur to me.
I was a keen Church Sunday School acolyte. One Scripture that appealed to me was "Blessed be the Lord my strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight...". (Psalm 144:1)
David was one of my Biblical heroes, and like all little children, the story of his exploits against Goliath was the story of foremost prominence in our estimation.
This is the point that my fascination with martial arts started. I would watch Chinese Kung Fu movies, made popular by the late action star, Bruce Lee. I read materials about fitness and flexibility and begun a personal regime of training to overcome the insecurity that my damaged arms and breathing had brought to my situation.
In my first form, in high school, I met a few classmates that had similar passions as I had, and we begun joint workouts. It was a boys only Christian Missionary school. Our teachers were invariably members of the Clergy, many, Europeans. Soon, a new set of foreign teachers came into the school, including two Americans on some study programme. They it was, who began a proper programme of instruction for us, and we soon named the class "JOGS Hapkido Club". My class mate and cousin, Dele Okenla, was a prominent member.
What started as a hobby began to become a passion for me, and I took my training with me to all the schools I went thereafter. Taekwondo became the ice-breaker for me. Every new place I went, someone was fascinated by my practice of Taekwondo and immediately friendships were forged, most of which I ended up becoming teachers to my colleagues. I soon developed leaderships attributes and learn't also the responsibility of having people look up to you in every circumstance, for direction and example. I transfered to another Missionary school turned public school and continued training with gentleman called Emmanuel Ikpeme. There I won the election to become Senior Prefect, in 1980.
I continued my training in the UK, and soon became a Champion in many tournaments. My conditioning became useful as I also branched into athletics, becoming Leicester County AAA junior Men 110m hurdles champion as well as part of the senior men relay team. All these were in my teenage years in the early 1980s. Through my sports, I made many friends, and indeed fans, from different parts of the world, and was featured in a martial arts magazine for the first time in 1985.
While in the UK, I was also back to Nigeria a few times, during the Summer holidays, and won National tournaments. When I was later enrolled into the University of Lagos to study Chemical Engineering I established the now legendary University of Lagos Taekwondo Club. In this time I won more tournaments and was part of the first national team that represented Nigeria at the 4th All Africa Games in Nairobi, Kenya. My effort winning me a Silver Medal, earning me a Federal Scholarship. In 1988, I was also Taekwondo's first National Sports Festival Welterweight Champion, earning a Lagos State Government Scholarship.
Over the years, I also branched into several activities, which my fitness and conditioning gave a decided advantage. In 1988, Collegiate Mr Nigeria. 1990, World Youth Festival 100m 5th placing at the finals, representing Africa, at Crystal Palace Stadium, London. Many more years later, it was a similar story, of Taekwondo and me, triumphing over pain, sinus, burns, and limitations of the mind or those set by others.
Taekwondo has given me the opportunity of meeting many like minded persons all over the world and I am on first name basis with leaders in over 30 countries. Taekwondo provided me a platform to serve my nation, to mentor hundreds of youths and to launch my first ministry, "The Sports Prayer Group" in 2001. With both the Bible and Taekwondo and I could move into new territories of service to God and the nation. I was appointed a Chaplain for the COJA (Abuja All Africa Games, 2003), and my testimony featured in the 20,000 or more Bibles distributed by the Bible Society of Nigeria. 1000 of these Bibles were personally given out by me after counseling athletes at various sporting events
The Scripture that inspired me as I began the multitasking effort of running a business, family, ministry and sports is "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". (Phil. 4:13). In my later service of being Chairman of Ogun State Taekwondo Association, Board Member, Nigeria Judo Federation and member of Nigeria Olympic Committee Marketing Commission. All culminating in my role as the Team Manager of the Nigeria Taekwondo Olympic Team for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. I was inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame, in New Jersey, U.S.A, in 2009 and became the first African to be awarded 7th Degree by the International Taekwondo Federation. I am also listed in the World Taekwondo Hall of Fame. A vehicle of impact. By the vehicle of Taekwondo I have met and dined with Governors and sat with political leaders. By the vehicle of the Sports Prayer Group, I serve the country in continual intercession for the Nation, and athletes, and weaning many away from drugs, violence, and licentious behaviour.
What opportunities have Taekwondo presented? It has affected my entire life activities, given me victory over bodily limitations and provided a platform to forge life-long friendships, foster international relations and presented me with a unique opportunity to serve God through a vehicle that interests the young and youthful. After teaching over 1000 persons across 3 continents since I became a certified instructor in 1982, one might say that I became all things to all men that by this means I may at least show many the way of God. Now, through the same vehicle, other doors of service continue to open to be involved in the process of nation building, through the mentorship of emerging leaders and influencing of the decision making process of current governance.
Above all, through dedicated practice and humble learning, with God's irresistible grace, I am developing true character...indomitable spirit, perseverance, discipline, etiquette, and self control. The building blocks of the Fruit of the Spirit. I have become a better individual, family man and responsible citizen. A patriot.
I give all the glory back to the Lord.