Belgacem's School of Grandmaster Hee Il Cho's Tae Kwon Do
Belgacem's School of Grandmaster Hee Il Cho's Tae Kwon Do

News & Articles


By Karim Belgacem


Our school is very busy now with High Red Belt students and black belts. With this in mind I thought it would be appropriate to document exactly what I expect from people (children and adults) who are looking to grade at that level. 


From experience and through conversation I have found that some people simply do not realise the huge difference in commitment and preperation that is required to move from the coloured belts to a black belt. 


It is NOT a case of continuing on with your two classes a week, waiting a year, and then expecting to test. The following is a list of commitments you should be making to give yourself the chance of being put forward for testing. 


1) Attending (and training with intensity) at least 10 coloured belt classes a month under my instruction.


2) Attending 2-3 black belt classes a month.


3) Showing a commitment to improving your fitness, conditioning and strength away from the school (maybe by attending our Saturday morning conditioning class which is open to people twelve years and above).


4) Showing an ever growing maturity to ones training and a full understanding to what is personally required to pass the test. As an Instructor to someone preparing for a black belt grading their should be very little requirment to motivate and continually press someone to train hard. Even for children this is part of the test. Is the child able to show the maturity and understanding of just how important hard and consitant training is? If they are not ready then a little longer time should be spent at their current grade.


5) Showing consitant improvement in theory knowledge and understanding.


6) Putting the grading as high up ones list of priorities as possible. This is often not the case as some people do not fully understand the expectations. An example - I am 110% behind every parents desire that their child should place an extremely high importance on education. If it is exam year and a child cannot attend classes then I support the decision completely. Don't, however, expect to grade that year. Some are able to fit it all in and that is fine. There will never be an issue at my school if someone wants to wait longer before testing. 


It is also worth stating my complete support of our students pursuing other interests at the same time as they train in Tae Kwon Do. Whilst training for the black belt sometimes these need to take a back seat. If you do not attend football or rugby training for example because you are at the Tae Kwon Do school then the chances of you getting picked for the team dramatically reduce! 


The same goes here. If you cannot commit to what is required then you cannot expect to produce what is required on grading day. 




The black belt grading day should be the best day of your Tae Kwon Do journey; well at least one of them. 


It is of vital importance that I do everything in my power to maintain the integrity and standard of the black belt.


I am not willing to let the art or YOU down by putting you on the floor unprepared.


Assuming you pass the grading it will be a once in a lifetime experience to grade for your black belt. It deserves a once in a life time commitment, a once in a lifetime mindset and a once in a lifetime focus.


Well... all until your next grading when we get to do it all over again! 


MMA Champion GSP Teaching Traditional Martial Arts

By Karim Belgacem


So many people nowadays want to be fighters and not martial artist. Young males especially (although certainly not exclusively) come to Muay Thai gyms, boxing gyms and MMA gyms to become fighters; having never even considered the possiblity of being a lifelong martial artist. A fighter's career is short. Whether you are a professional or an amateur you will be able to fight to the required standard for no longer than ten or so years. 


If you go the other way and learn to be a martial artist first and then a fighter you will have a mental, physical and spiritual base that you can always return to.


One of the most famous mixed martial artists of all time George St. Pierre said it best when he said "There is a difference between a fighter and a martial artist. A fighter is training for a purpose: He has a fight. I'm a martial artist. I don't train for a fight. I train for myself. I'm training all the time. My goal is perfection but I will never reach perfection."


Martial Arts can be for life. It is not a selfish thing like fighting is. It is about giving back all the things that have enhanced your life to others. Fighters need to be selfish. They need to only concentrate on themselves and being in the best possible physical shape. Where many go wrong is that they neglect to enhance their mental and spiritual capabilities leaving them unable to develop in any form when their physical capabilities begin to wane - which they absolutely will.


Martial artist should by defination be able to fight! In most cases not as well or as strongly as 'the fighter' but they should definetly not neglect this side of things either.  What the martial artist will understand, however, is the absolute necessity to work on all areas of their development. 


The martial arts is the root from which many aspects of fitness and combat come from. One of the most obvious ones is fighting! If it sprouts seperately from the main root then it is weak and will die quickly. If it grows naturally from the martial arts and all its traditions then it will always have a source of replenishment and strength. 


To me, the martial arts comes first. BEFORE the fighting... and AFTER the fighting. 


People should be martial artists not just fighters.


Martial arts and all of its many, many facets allow for growth, development and enrichment through every stage of ones life.


Not just through a short career. 




By Andy Gillan


“Oh my God! You’re Scottish.”


 The girl behind the counter seemed pretty excited to meet us.


“Where’s your skirt? My Mom & me go to the highland games every year on account of our family being Scottish”. The young African American waitress beamed at us a perfect toothy all American smile. 


I guess Still Game hasn’t made it over to the Pittsburgh ex pat scene yet as she didn’t bat an eye as she jotted Jack, Victor & Isa on to our cardboard Starbucks cups.


It was the last morning of our trip before heading back home and the last time we’d have morning coffee & pastries at our usual table in the corner.


Funny how quickly new habits can form. It’s been a busy wee table. Mr. & Mrs. Belgacem & I have entertained Teddy, Kenny, Axl, Duffy, Izzy, Gilby, Slash & of course Jack, Victor & Isa during the course of our stay...



To read more please click here.


By Stewart Evans


Setting up your own diet


For the purpose of this article I shall focus on most people's main goal which is weight/fat loss but I will touch on maintenance and weight gain just to show that the principles are just the same.




This is the first step to the new you, we need to work out your Basal Metabolic Rate, in basic terms this is the amount of calories your body requires to function and sit in front of a TV, nothing more, nothing less.


Now there is a complicated mathematical way of working this out, however our good friend the Internet has bags of online calculators to do it for us. I suggest myfitnesspal application, download this as it's very accurate and will help you in your diet goals also.


Step on them scales, input your weight, age, height and gender into the calculator or app and it will work out your numbers.


Now simply throw those scales away, we don't need them anymore and we certainly don't need their negativity in our pursuit of greatness!


Next step is to work out your personal goal (as stated i’ll concentrate on weight loss) this is where the good old macros split comes into affect -


Typically a split for a specific goal will look a bit like this 


Weight loss:

Carbs = 20%

Protein = 50%

Fats = 30%



Carbs = 33.3%

Protein = 33.3%

Fats = 33.3%


Weight gain:

Carbs = 40%

Protein = 40%

Fats = 20%


So for weight loss you want a high protein, lower carb but moderate fat intake, these splits aren't 100% guaranteed to get you your goals but won't be far off it, you will eventually get to know what works for you 


Eat More To Lose Weight!


You have probably heard this saying before and it is spot on...


A healthy daily intake for the average female is around 2000 kcal per day and around 2500 kcal for a man.


Shocked? There's not many people manage to eat the recommended intake daily due to life and work commitments to name a couple of issues. When we do eat our daily recommended intake it's normally because it's takeaway night or we are binging on sweets watching our favourite TV. 


Let me explain how eating more loses more...


Your body adjusts to daily food intakes every 4 weeks, no matter how many kcal you put in there the body will adjust to it. So start off by shoving 2000 kcal inside your body and it will adjust to this in 4 weeks time, you probably won't gain any weight in this process as it will be healthier and more macro tuned to your goal.


So 2000 kcal will now be your "baseline" or "maintenance" intake level.

Any less than this you lose weight. Any more than this you gain weight. It's that simple.


If you drop this to 1900 kcal you will lose weight, workout twice per week you will lose more. Once you slow down losing you have now given yourself great scope and tools to carry on your journey. Add another day to the gym or drop your intake to 1800kcals, so on and so forth.


This is where most people fail, they think that if they eat 1000kcals per day and gym 5 times per week then they will lose lots of weight, it's only logical, it's not and this is the most common mistake to make as you have exhausted all scope or tools to lose anymore yes?


4 common causes for a fat-loss plateau


Going too low kcal


So many people slash their calories way too low when dieting for fat loss. I can see why they think it will work: if a small calorie deficit leads to a little weight loss, then a big deficit should mean faster weight loss, right? Wrong. If you cut your calories too low, too fast, it will really damage your ability to lose fat sooner or later. A few things are likely to happen: your body will stop co-operating, it’ll go into what’s commonly called “starvation mode” and actually hang on to fat, you’ll mess with your hormones (many of which control fat loss, hunger, cravings, etc) or you’ll find it just too difficult to stick to the diet that you’ll slip up, over eat, maybe even binge, and end up with no deficit at all. In fact you could even end up overeating, all through trying to under eat!


Solution: It’s far better to create a small calorie deficit, and stick to it nice and calmly over a period of time. No stress, no drama. No hunger, no cravings and binges, no ups and downs. Just a sensible healthy fat loss diet you can stick to. The weight will continue to come off (and if it does slow down, you have plenty of wiggle room. If your calories were already way too low, where would you have to go?)


Too much cardio


The other side of the low-cal coin is often doing too much cardio. Don’t get me wrong, cardio has a place in (some) fat loss diets, and is a great part of a healthy lifestyle. If you enjoy cardio, do it! But don’t go crazy, hammering the cardio day in day out, just to “burn” calories. Don’t get into the mindset of burning off calories through cardio, subtracting the number on the elliptical machine from your day’s calories, and obsessing.


Solution: Use cardio as just one of the tools in your fat loss toolbox. Keep it in reserve to give your weight loss a jolt when it starts to slow. Consider using HIIT and interval style cardio rather than endless sessions of long, slow cardio. Not only is it pretty boring (in my opinion anyway!) but it won’t be as effective as intervals in the long term.


Doing too much too soon


Cut calories, eat clean, do cardio, put your weights up in the gym, oh and hey why not pop a fat-burning pill for good measure… Lots of people throw absolutely everything at their fat-loss right from the start, thinking that it will all combine for faster weight loss. What actually happens is this. Your poor body gets overwhelmed, burned out and exhausted. The symptoms of stress start rearing their ugly heads, and your fat loss actually slows down or stops. And guess what? Because you used everything at once, you don’t know what to remove and what to keep in.


Solution: Add things in slowly. Start with solid nutrition and a small calorie deficit. Train with weights to build and maintain muscle. Get your sleep and stress in order. Then add in a little cardio if you really think it’s necessary. Review, measure and adapt as necessary. But give everything a fair chance to work before moving on. Oh, and don’t even bother with the fat-burners!


High stress, bad sleep 


If your fat loss has slowed, and if you are having trouble shifting fat from your belly, I bet your sleep isn’t as great as it could be. Or I bet you’re stressed at work, having relationship problems, worrying about finances or feeling overwhelmed. Hey maybe it’s your diet which is causing you stress! Whatever the cause, bad sleep and high stress levels are absolute killers for fat loss and often lead to plateaus (the irony is that this leads to even more stress… !)


Solution: Easier said than done, but you really need to find ways to manage your stress (or at least your reaction to it) and sleep better. Go to bed earlier, don’t take your phone or tablet to bed. Make your bedroom dark, peaceful and cool. Take time out to walk outside, meditate, do whatever works for you as stress management. And most importantly, do not stress about your weight loss!


By Andrew Gillan


The Aims to Achieve



Driving in the car on Friday night, Tom & I are late – again. 


It’s been a long hard day. The progress meeting at work did not go well. The Client’s Engineer sat across the table from my boss & me along with seven others, project managers, contract engineers & solicitors. The representative from the Client’s bank is talking. I don’t really hear what he is saying, I’m not concentrating. 

The Engineer has just finished dressing us down like two school boys and I’m seething inside. He is not a reasonable man, he also represents a project management team who have mismanaged this scheme so badly that it will cost his client at least an additional four million pounds to complete the project. 


I understand what he is doing he wants to divert attention from this huge blunder by criticising us. But understanding his tactic doesn’t make it easier to take. 


To continue reading click here.


By Karim Belgacem


The benefits of training in Tae Kwon Do are far too many to document in just one article but I will pick just a few of the ones that I see as the most important. 

Better Health

'Better Health' is inclusive of better physical health, better mental health and better spiritual health. 

A fast paced Tae Kwon Do class (inclusive of punching drills, kicking drills, patterns etc) should target all of the main muscle groups. These include your core, arms (both bicep and tricep side), shoulders, legs (quadriceps, gluts, hamstrings and calf), pecs etc. 

What is will also do is work on both your anaerobic (short burst) and aerobic (stamina) breathing and help you to develop better lung capacitiy and heart conditioning. 

Mentally a good Tae Kwon Do workout should help to clear and focus the mind. Ridding you of stressful feelings and thoughts whilst at the same time releasing endorphin chemicals through your body to give a great feel good sensation within your mind.

Spiritually Tae Kwon Do can make you feel more centred, balanced and focussed. By improving your physical and mental health your spirit, self confidence and general attitude should all improve and continue to improve the longer you train.

Overall, Tae Kwon Do is a fantastic addition to  support or elevate a healthy life style. 


Better Flexibility 


Better flexibility could have been included within the Better Health section but due to the difference stretching and flexibility work can make to people it deserves a seperate sub-heading. The main benefits that flexibility will bring to someone studying Tae Kwon Do include; Better posture, decreased chance of injury, increased blood flow, lessened muscular pain, increased delivery of nutrients through the blood stream and many many more.


People studying Tae Kwon Do will do some sort of stretching within most classes. Sometimes it is included as part of the warm up and sometimes as part of the cool down. You may also find that on occasions a full class can be dedicated to stetching such is its importance.


Your flexibility should definitely increase whilst training in Tae Kwon Do.


Self Defence

Tae Kwon Do will not make you invincible during a physical attack or confrontation. No martial art will do this but what it will do is to give you increased confidence, awareness and reaction time if you are, indeed, attacked. 

I often speak to my students in class with regards to 'self defence' and a good Instructor should reiterate to their students to be direct, confident and committed when confronted with an aggressor or attacker but to please understand that no technique is guaranteed 100%.

If you are able to avoid or flee from an attack then this is always the best route to take

Training in Tae Kwon Do will however, as stated above, increase your confidence and ability to deal with many situations better than if you have never trained.

I understand that this is not the romantic ideology that many hold of the martial arts but it is the message I send to my students. 

Keep it real!


Martial arts have been available to people - in one form or another - for centuries.


The number of people studying Tae Kwon Do throughout the World at this moment is above seventy five million and each of these people - men, women and children - are improving many areas of their lives due to there participation.


As I stated at the beginning of this article the actual number of benefits that studying Tae Kwon Do can bring are far too many to count which just goes to show how important a part it can play in someones overall well-being.


By Karim Belgacem


On Saturday 8th November an AIMAA Team from Belgacem's School of Cho's Tae Kwon Do travelled to Cupar, Fife to take part in the Global Tae Kwon Do Federations Scottish Championships.


The team had another very successful day picking up the following medals - 


Ruiri McKimm - Scottish Champion

Charlotte Smith - Scottish Champion

Calum Weir - Scottish Champion


Max Morrison - Silver

Ben Mackie - Silver

Chloe McKimm - Silver

Gerry McKimm - Silver


Gerry McKimm - Bronze

Natasha Ramage - Bronze

Ryan Easton - Bronze.


You can view picture from the day in our gallery below.


Please remember that all students are strongly encouraged to join the tournament team and represent your school and association.



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