Meet the Port’s sport heroes: Teachings of a taekwondo Grand Master Robert Frost | Port Stephens Examiner

The martial arts have a mystical aura about them that even the most experienced exponents can find difficult to explain.

Robert Frost, an 8th Dan Grand Master who is expected to receive his 9th Dan when he turns 70 next year, has instructed thousands of students in taekwondo locally and worldwide. Yet he began his 40-plus years journey in Raymond Terrace.

“I was a country-born kid who grew up with Anglican-Australian values, yet there was something about the Asian philosophy of martial arts that appealed to me,” he said.

“It can be difficult to explain … I guess it’s a combination of the philosophical ideal, the physical training and the meditation. From the first day I was introduced to the sport I was committed.

“Over the years I have tutored and mentored thousands of people, second and third generations of families, guiding them to black belts … there is a responsibility that comes with that.”

So how does he explain the philosophy behind the sport: “With taekwondo you have to go hard before you go soft, the harder you go the softer you become and the softer you become the harder you go.”

Frost was born in Gosford, spent his early childhood in Morisset and moved to Raymond Terrace.

After finishing school at Raymond Terrace High he followed his dad, Kevin, into the butchery business.

“Dad was well known in the Terrace because of the business and eventually we purchased a property in Seaham where we raised cattle, pigs and later chickens. Prior to the supermarkets arriving in town, I remember Fridays and Saturdays customers would be lined up out the door of our butcher shop,” he said.

“I guess that was where I learned skills such as public speaking and customer service. I loved interacting with people.”

LIFE SKILLS: Robert Frost in his younger days. Picture: Supplied

LIFE SKILLS: Robert Frost in his younger days. Picture: Supplied

The Frost family became synonymous with butchering.

“Right up to dad’s death this March he would be stopped in the streets of Raymond Terrace by people he had befriended from years past.”

As a kid Frost had sampled many sports but nothing could beat the adventurous streak in him and his love of the outdoors, particularly horses and motorbikes.

“I started riding horses for fun and eventually I would compete in local shows, gymkhanas and campdrafts. We attended mainly local shows like Clarence Town, Stroud, Gresford and Dungog.”

At age 15 Frost progressed from riding horses to riding motorbikes.

“I started racing motorcross which took us to all parts of the state and into Queensland and at age 20 I was crowned Queensland unlimited motorcross championship while riding in Rockhampton.”

Frost was introduced to the martial arts at age seven by a family friend and while he dabbled in a bit of wrestling and boxing, his meaningful foray into the sport did not eventuate until his mid-20s.

“I had tried kung-fu (having been inspired by the Bruce Lee movies), karate and judo and was impressed with the Port’s best Karate men Aub Brookes, Ron Swan and Lennie Anderson.

“But it was a chance meeting in 1976 with an old friend who was performing a martial art demo at the Twin Rivers festival in Raymond Terrace’s William Street.

“He had a small class going at the Scout Hall in King Street, which grew over the years and the time came when the young instructors had moved on and we were in need of bigger premises.

“We had approximately 25 members with no instructor and no venue, so to avoid closing the classes down I took on the role.

“I got my black belt, we moved to the former showground hall, then the former indoor sports centre [now Raymond Terrace Library], before finally, in 1995, we set up in a storage shed just off Port Stephens Street [next to the Spinning Wheel Hotel].”

The hall was converted into a martial arts centre and is still used today.

Frost established the Toogee taekwondo club and was soon opening up centres across the region. During its peak the club ran classes for up to 500 students from all over the Hunter. Today Toogee runs about 25 classes with hundreds of students aged from three to 83.

And there are hundreds more students in Papua New Guinea where Robert has established another arm of his organisation.

In addition to taekwondo, many of his centres offer classes in other styles of gymnastics, cardio and strength exercises. There is also a ‘Live Longer, Live Stronger’ class for seniors.

RESPECTED: Robert Frost outside Toogee Martial Arts in Port Stephens Street, Raymond Terrace.

RESPECTED: Robert Frost outside Toogee Martial Arts in Port Stephens Street, Raymond Terrace.

Frost says he travelled overseas often to remain in peak condition and to stay active at his age, which unfortunately has had to cease over the past two years due to the COVID lockdown.

“I usually travel to PNG at least once a year and I’m often tutoring in countries like New Zealand, England, Thailand and the USA,” he said.

“All our instructors are certified annually to ensure they maintain their competency levels and are tutored in working with people of all abilities, including the intellectually and physically disabled.”

Frost paid tribute to the original instructors who influenced his training and were responsible for the spread and popularity of taekwondo in Port Stephens in the late 1970s – Brian Bambach, the late Dave Hardman, Peter Nicholls, John Tobin and Steve Norford.

“My main role these days is travelling to the various training centres and doing seminars for the students and conducting grading examinations (COVID aside).”

He is chairman of the Promotions Board of International Martial Arts Training and Accreditation Council and Patron of the Papua New Guinea Taekwondo Association.

Frost admits that the martial arts are not for everyone.

“Some take to it and some don’t. But for those that do there is much they can benefit. It promotes many valuable characteristics such as discipline, self-confidence, coordination and there is a strong self-defence element.”

As for understanding the mystic surrounding martial arts, well each student will have to make up their own mind.

We want to find the people in the Port’s sporting community who deserve the spotlight. Whether it’s a star athlete, a quiet achiever, a dedicated volunteer, we want to know who they are. In an email titled ‘Sport Nomination’, send the details including name, sport/club, a bit about the person you’re nominating and a photo to [email protected].

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