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Taekwondo and Epilepsy



14 June 2018

Andrew Jackson writes about his journey towards receiving his Taekwondo Kukkiwon certificate at the world Taekwondo headquarters in Korea, and how breaking boards in Taekwondo is far easier than breaking stigma around epilepsy.

Andrew Jackson stands with his daughter in Taekwondo dress

Andrew and his daughter

My name is Andrew Jackson, and I have had epilepsy for 39 years since the age of 3 years old through having measles. Nine years ago I had a severe and life-threatening seizure known as Status Epilepticus which I nearly lost my life too, and I was admitted to hospital for six weeks and still having seizures while in the hospital which was due to working long hours.

The most upsetting part of my stay in hospital was missing my daughters first Christmas - due to her being so young she wasn't allowed in the ward. Thankfully, my son was allowed in the ward. I can remember on Christmas Day of that year crying all day. My journey with British Taekwondo came about one year later in 2011 when I was allowed to drive again. I found a nearby club Woodhall Spa Taekwondo at St Hughes School (now known as Spartans Taekwondo). I went to watch, and then the following week I decided to become a member.

Andrew ran the Woodhall Spa 10km for Epilepsy Society

Even though my co-ordination is useful, in lots of other areas I did struggle with some techniques and exercises which is due to the part of my brain that was affected by the Status Epilepticus. Therefore it took me longer to learn techniques or patterns than other people. I always aimed for manageable goals such as passing the next grading, and after lots of hard work, in 2014, I finally gained my Blackbelt. November 2017 I was delighted to pass my 3rd Dan grading. I also completed the Level 2 coaching course and this May,  I received my Taekwondo Kukkiwon certificate from Korea; the Kukkiwon is the world head quarters for Taekwondo.

Unfortunately the memories that I remember the most vividly  regarding my epilepsy are being bullied at school from the age of seven years old until I left at 16 , this was because my epilepsy had give me a lack of confidence.  Epilepsy has affected my mental health and I have had anxiety and depression issues in the past which can come on very quickly. I remember one day at work all I could think about was what had I done to suffer from epilepsy: it felt like my brain was over flowing with information and almost feels like you can’t think of positive things as you are so confused with negativity.

My parents and family have and still are very supportive and I know how they said they struggled in the early 1980’s with having very little knowledge of epilepsy. I will never forget how my parents and wife have supported me. My seizures are controlled by medication and can work and drive, I appreciate how lucky I am.

It is because of this that I believe that breaking boards in Taekwondo is easier than breaking the stigma around epilepsy. Although difficult at first, I now can break the black belt boards. I wish that breaking the stigma surrounding epilepsy and mental health was as easy.

Taekwondo has been a great help to me with my condition, and it can help others as there are so many benefits to be gained through our excellent sport – patterns, fitness, coordination and also meeting new people. I have two of my children who have taken up and also enjoy our great sport.

My favourite saying is: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's learning to dance in the rain."

I'll always have epilepsy but I never want it to hold myself back from the many things I enjoy doing in my life. I am number 76 on the epilepsy brain and tissue organ donation register and I hope my donation will help with further research and improvements in epilepsy and how it's treated in the future.

You can find out more about our Epilepsy Society Brain and Tissue Bank and how you can register to donate your brain for research at the end of your life.

The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Epilepsy Society.