Warwood Instructor: Taekwondo Both a Lifestyle and a Lifeline


“Master Phil” has operated Golden Sunrise Martial Arts out of one of the rooms of the Warwood Town Centre since 2018. There, around 40 students of all ages and abilities come to hone their bodies and technique in the “old school” way, as Lewellen says.
While some other taekwondo organizations have become more focused on sport and competition, Lewellen said he preferred to keep his dojong “old school,” allowing pupils to learn for self-defense, for sport, or for fitness purposes.
“(World Taekwondo) doesn’t teach punches to the head or things like that, they just teach sport style,” he said. “… I teach old-school. We punch to the head, to the stomach, to the legs. When you come in here, the first few classes, if you come in sparring, it’s going to be rough. But we’ll match you with experienced people so you don’t get knocked … out.”
COVID-19, Lewellen said, has impacted the business somewhat, with people somewhat reluctant to get into group settings. He keeps the dojong clean, and with the exception of Fridays, when students spar with one another, there’s plenty of room to keep distance between one another.
“Everything gets wiped down with bleach, and it gets mopped every day,” he said.
Lewellen has studied under instructors in several different states, from Georgia to Illinois to California, and then abroad in Korea. In the land where taekwondo was born, Lewellen said, he took the opportunity to earn his black belt.
“I was like, if I’m where it all started, I’m going to get my black belt, finally,” he said.
Lewellen was seriously injured around 2001 during his time in the Marine Corps. While Lewellen was in the United States, the driver of a truck he was in fell asleep at the wheel and went over an embankment, crushing the right half of his body. Over the next couple of years, Lewellen relearned how to walk and use his right arm, coupling 11 major surgeries with his background in martial arts to regain the use of his limbs.
“I started taking taekwondo to learn how to walk and keep my balance again,” Lewellen said.
Three classes a week are held at Golden Sunrise, with age brackets for under 10, 10 to 15, and older. Lewellen said the classes are serious when they need to be, but more often than not a fun experience for all involved. He invited anyone interested to come check out a class – the first one’s free.
“I’d rather see a smile on their face, feeling good about themselves, than anything else,” he said. “… Come have fun. That’s what this is about, and if you’re in it for self-defense, you’re in it for self-defense. If you’re in it to get in shape, you’re going to get in shape. If you’re in it to earn belts, you’ll earn belts. What you put in is what you’ll get out.”
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