Melbourne-based Taekwon-Do master Spiridon Cariotis has been inducted into the Global Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame in an awards ceremony in New York.
The seventh Dan black belt, was recognised for his contributions to “the development, growth and advancement of Taekwon-Do as a martial art and sport”.
Cariotis is the founder and director of the Clayton based USMA school and has spent the last 45 years of his life training, creating tournaments, and helping others to develop into elite competitors who represent their country.
Speaking to Neos Kosmos about his Hall of Fame induction, he commented, “This for me was just fantastic, knowing that I was recognised for a lot of that work, and what is important is that what I was teaching is the traditional Taekwon-Do. So it’s the original Taekwon-Do that was recognised. So that for me was a very important thing to happen in my life.”
The Global Taekwon-Do Hall of Fame recognises practitioners from all the various factions of Taekwon-Do including the ITF and the Olympic sanctioned WTF.
As an instructor and practitioner of the ITF form, Cariotis can look back at the growing success of Australian Taekwon-Do competitors on the international stage at the two recent ITF World Championships as one of his proudest achievements. Prior to Rome 2014, Australian ITF competitors won very few medals at these championships. However that changed in Rome when Australia won 60 medals and the medal haul doubled to 120 two years later in England 2016. His own students from the USMA contributed approximately a third of all those medals over the last two World championships.
Australia’s growing success at these tournaments is understandably a source of pride for Cariotis. He speaks for not only himself, but also his students when he says,”Well the whole idea is to know you’ve done the job correctly. You’re working very hard to try and achieve something. That is greatest feeling of all. Those moments when they’re up on the podium receiving those medals will never leave their minds. You know conquering the world is a big thing.”
Despite the success, Cariotis expresses frustration by the lack of government funding for the sport he has devoted himself to, which relies instead on community support. He says by way of an example that there will probably be only about eight students from his own Clayton-based school USMA who will represent Australia at the next World Championships in Argentina next year.
“The reason that the numbers are not bigger is because, once again, they’ve never been funded by a government or somebody to help our students to achieve…Although it’s been said many times by the government that they will celebrate or help those that bring gold medals back to Australia, that has never been followed up. So it’s great for Australia to celebrate that we’ve won medals, but when it comes to helping the people that develop this, so we can bring back those medals, they won’t do it,” he said.
“In our world, it’s run on (community) goodwill, because nobody has helped us and we’ve never had government funding. Week after week, month after month and year after year, nobody ever knocks on our door to say thank you. I’m talking about all over Australia, not just Victoria. And I have no doubt all the other martial arts schools (not just Taekwon-Do) are in the same boat.”
Apart from helping to support more elite athletes to compete in International tournaments, Cariotis also believes government support would have community benefits as well.
“We also keep kids from doing bad things. We produce good citizens in our martial arts. The government doesn’t look at that. If everybody in all the schools did Taekwon-Do, with the way we teach it and carry our values, there would not be as much street violence because it teaches a strict code of respect between each other,” he said.
Cariotis also points as an example of the benefits of Taekwon-Do for students with autism.
“I have kids who have autism that come and train and yet when they’re told to come and do Taekwon-Do, there isn’t a government prescription…This is one part of it that the government does not support,” despite recognising the benefits of Taekwon-Do for some of these children.
In the meantime, Master Cariotis will continue to prepare students for World Championships in Argentina next year.
“They are doing a very intense preparation and hopefully we’ll get some medal outcomes in Argentina.”