Breese makes the grade

Taekwondo sixth dan black belt Hayden Breese at the Threshold taekwondo training rooms in Dunedin...
Taekwondo sixth dan black belt Hayden Breese at the Threshold taekwondo training rooms in Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Linda Robertson.
Hayden Breese is an extremely patient and well focused man.

Last Saturday, the Dunedin taekwondo exponent achieved his sixth dan black belt in Wellington —  after a gruelling seven and a-half hour grading process and five years of preparation.

Breese said the achievement made him a very happy man.

"This week I have been feeling really positive about the result and the journey I have been on — and not just what it has meant for me, but also the people around me," Breese said.

During the grading, the 40-year-old advertising and brand agency chief executive had to perform taekwondo patterns (sets of moves), sparring, board breaking, theory and oral tests and a self defence test.

He said the self defence test was the hardest because it involved four attackers coming from different angles at once.

"In that sort of environment it is really a survival mode mindset and when the body is under stress you have all the symptoms that go with it, like high heart rate and vision and hearing changes."

He said there was a real strategy and he needed to move fast and be clear headed while coming within inches of striking his opponents.

"It was touch and go at times both ways."

During the board breaks, Breese broke three 2.5cm pine boards with a punch and four boards with a spinning back kick.

"Once the movement of the body started it just flowed right through beautifully."

His body had to stand up to the force of the break and, like his fitness, it was something he intensified in training from about a year out.

"Just about every lunchtime I was breaking boards."

Breese had to undertake monthly fitness tests six months out from grading to prove he was up to the challenge and he was particularly pleased about an impressive eight minute prone hold.

He said skill, self belief and doubt management were keys to his preparation, and because he had been training five days a week and sometimes twice a day in the lead-up, half the battle had been won.

"You can’t allow doubt to come in as the body fatigues and how you manage those doubts gets you through."

Breese achieved the grade with just 2% off an A pass and he is the only sixth dan black belt in the South Island.

With just one taekwondo pattern left, Breese will have to wait six years to grade for his seventh, when he will hopefully earn the title "master".

Breese began taekwondo when he was 14.

He achieved his first black belt dan in 1996, and even after his second in 1999 —, when he also achieved the best overall black belt — he never envisaged being a master.

Now that he is one step away he said he will definitely go for it.

He said there were about four seven dans and four eight dans in New Zealand, but no nine dans in Breese’s chosen style. The former Taieri High School pupil said 14 people in total were graded from one dan up and he got just as much of a thrill seeing his Threshold student, Matt Clarkson, earn his first dan as he did earning his sixth.

With a wife and two young children, Breese said balancing family, work and taekwondo commitments over the past five years was difficult at times.

He said taekwondo had taught him discipline and confidence.

"The taekwondo community have an awesome belief system and they care about morals, which is a really powerful thing in martial arts and I think it has wider implications for how you live your life.

"The art is not about hurting anyone, but at the end of the day if you have that ability to give yourself half a chance of protecting yourself or others it is a great outcome."

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