For a woman who packs quite a punch Ruth Chare has a surprisingly gentle handshake. For that matter she has disarming smile, too. She is relaxed and friendly. All of which she must have left in the changing room as she strode to three world tae kwon do championships. “It feels great to be a world champion and, yes, I did feel on top of the world. I didn’t stop smiling for a week! All my hard work paid off.”
There were umpteen other medals in her competitive career in a sport where success and expertise isn’t always measured in titles and trophies. Ruth is one of a handful of TKD sixth Dans in the country. There isn’t a seventh Dan. They still don’t come any better than Ruth . “I didn’t start until I was 24, which is late, and then only for the fitness and self-defence aspects. But within 18 months I’d won the British national green belt title and it all snowballed from there,” she said.
Before the story goes any further, however , we should explain Ruth, whose classes are at Northwich Youth Centre, is now Mrs Smith , has moved to Great Harwood where she is step-mum to Tim’s three children but is keeping her maiden name for professional reasons, She has time now for her other favourite pastimes of skiing, horse riding and gardening, after being made redundant from her work as an insurance underwriter four years ago.
“It was only when I won that first title it clicked that I was quite good at it. The following year I won the English, Welsh and Scottish titles. Moving up to blue belt, it took time to get among the honours again”.
“It took a few years to get to the top of the tree and into the England team, but that first World Championship, that gave me the most satisfaction. I was a lightweight, but fought at middleweight. I was first on had a lot of support and I fought well.” she said.
TKD has been good to Ruth on other ways. “It took me to Miami for one World Championship and around Europe” How many medals? “Too many to count” she says “I was known as a strong fighter, better at punching than kicking, I have knocked people out before now. But I don’t punch as hard as boxer. I have trained with them and they hurt. Our competition are intense.”
Typically, Ruth would fight five four minute bouts to win to become champion of the planet. “It might not seem a lot, but there is an intensity to it, like a major boxing match and there are team competitions as well. When I was competing at the top I trained six days a week and sometimes twice a day.”
Unluckily perhaps Ruth had chosen the International TKD code rather than the Olympic version of the sport. It hasmore exponents, but not the glory, though the two styles – hers fast and furious semi-contact, the Olympic style more combative.
“You have to practice not to hurt your opponent,” she said. Inclusion at the Olympics has given the entire sport a boost and the codes are edging closer together. But nowadays Ruth gets her kicks by preparing others for the success she enjoyed.
Student Vicky Jones, 20, has just returned from Canada with the British squad and is the national champion. Others show similar promise .
But primarily her classes are for self-defence, fitness and flexibility. “There’s discipline and manners and TKD instils respect. I get satisfaction out of passing on my experience to students and hopefully I put a lot of fun in their too,” she said.
Ruth’s classes at the youth centre (opposite Northwich Infirmary) on Mondays: Tigers (5-7 years old) 5.15pm, adults 6.15pm.