AFTER battling bowel cancer, a Cumbernauld martial arts expert has fought back to become the youngest person in the world to achieve the highest grading in Taekwondo.
T.K. Loh, who founded and still runs the Cumbernauld Taekwondo Club, was fighting for his life only five-years-ago when he had a major operation to remove a malignant tumour.
Now, at the age of 56, he has achieved the level of Grandmaster, four years before he would typically be old enough to be considered for the grade.
Grandmaster Loh said: "I think anyone who has cancer worries that it can't be treated and they could die. The mental discipline that Taekwondo has taught me was very important and I was also very fit because of my training. It was interesting to me being operated on, I thought: 'It's just a cut, I'll be back on my feet quickly.' But it was a lot tougher than I imagined."
In July, whilst in South Korea to introduce his children to the hierarchy of the sport, the former Asian and twice European champion was shocked to learn he had become only the 136th person to achieve the 9th dan grading in the world.
He continued: "I didn't know before we were there that I had achieved it and never expected it. Anytime I've come across a 9th dan, they've been older than 60. It came as a wee shock and surprise.
"They said they wanted to award it to me as I've achieved so much and one of the senior 9th dans has been over and seen some of my work in the UK and Ireland and said he was very impressed."
Grandmaster Loh manages a vast network of clubs through his Traditional Taekwondo Association (TTA), spanning from Inverness, all the way down to Cornwall, and across to Ireland.
All of the instructors have trained under T.K. himself and he regularly tours the country at weekends to ensure each club is maintaining the high standards he has set.
He added: "There's been a bit of a commercialisation of Taekwondo happening. People don't view it for the process of evolution that it is supposed to be and want to say: 'I'm this colour of belt or I'm this dan.' Some clubs have created belts and grades to let people progress more quickly.
"At the TTA we do it the traditional and eastern way. We stick to the original principles. All of the clubs are assessed and they have to come up to standard."
For more information on the Traditional Taekwondo Association visit www.tta-taekwondo.co.uk.