Pushing his limits

2013-09-06 00:00

JASON McCall (28) is heard by thousands of listeners every week as he produces East Coast Radio’s Drive with Damon from 3 pm to 6 pm, but outside the studio, he has a story of his own to tell.

He is a Taekwon-Do exponent. He took up the sport so that he could stand up for himself and keep his body in prime shape.

It started in his second year of studying media communications and English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus, where, as a small, fiery and frustrated 60 kg student, he decided to give the sport a try.

“I wanted something I could focus on. Something that would benefit me mentally and physically. I wanted to keep my body strong and was invited by an instructor to give Taekwon-Do a try,” he said.

He instantly made a connection with the sport and was “hooked from day one”. This was in 2004. Nine years later, he is still striving for greater heights in the sport, missing only 10 classes through the years.

“Arriving back in Durban in 2005, I joined the Stingers club in Pinetown and have been there since,” he said. “I train twice a week, doing two-hour sessions, with the main focus being conditioning, fitness, making the body hard through physical combat and technique, which is theory-based on a syllabus.”

McCall has recently returned from the Taekwon-Do World Championships in England with a silver and bronze medal to his credit. This was his second world championship, his first was in Russia in 2009.

“In Russia, I did sparring and team power, losing in the first round of sparring to a Ukranian. In the team event, we were 20th overall,” he said.

Not getting any younger, McCall zoned in on this year’s event, where he participated in individual power, sparring and team power.

“My goal was to get a medal for individual power. Along the way, I cracked fingers in my right hand and had no feeling in my right foot,” said McCall. “Sparring was immediately after completing my power campaign and I had to make a choice of doing one or the other.

“I finished third in the power, beating a former world champion from the United States. There was no way I could spar and had to pull out. It was disappointing, as I would have liked to compare myself to the competition, and had put in plenty of work and training.”

The next day, McCall returned for the team power, working through the pain to help the South Africans to second overall and a silver medal.

“That was a feather in our cap and was a phenomenal result. Wearing Protea colours and realising you are representing your country against the best in the world on the biggest stage of all can only enrich the pride and determination to produce the goods, which is what we did.”

Currently a second Dan black belt, McCall stopped grading to focus specifically on training, working at boxing, kung-fu, body conditioning, iron fist and Taekwon-Do ahead of the world championships.

“I took on extra gym work every day, doing specialised training twice a day for an hour-and-a-half in the morning and evening,” said McCall. “When it came to fighting, I took on some seasoned campaigners in the gym and was cannon fodder for them. It sounds rough, but it was what I needed to prepare for and reach my goal.”

With his hand, foot and body still tender after being pushed to the limits, McCall is taking a deserved break from Taekwon-Do for a while, focusing on a fitness challenge over 13 weeks where his body will undergo a physique transformation.

“It’s really to get a person into prime condition through following a stringent programme with mentors and trainers, ensuring all stays on track,” he said. “There’s no opportunity to mess up. Having done all the training for the world champs, I think I am at an advantage and have a certain degree of fitness and conditioning already in the bank.”

However, McCall has not lost sight of improving his Taekwon-Do grading, wanting to push through to third Dan soon.

“I’m taking a break from competition now to focus on more holistic training, the strong-body, strong-mind philosophy,” he said. “I should be quite far down the road with grading, but owe it to myself and my instructors to push on. There is no time limit to reach a certain level and it’s really in the hands of the individual, whether he wants to progress further.”

The world champs are every two years and McCall already has his sights set on Italy in 2015. He will only be 30 and, if circumstances allow, he will be proudly wearing his Protea colours once again.

“Much can happen between now and then, but I am happy with what I have achieved at this year’s world champs,” he said. “If the opportunity arises, I won’t need a second invitation, but it will involve another six to nine months of intense training.”

It’s in McCall’s nature to give of his best at whatever challenge he takes on, hence his success in Taekwon-Do. He gives no second thought to taking on opponents twice his size, and brushes aside any welts, scars or black eyes he picks up along the way.

“It’s all part of the deal. It comes with the package and, unlike most jobs, if I have a bad day at the office as such, I have the scars to prove it,” he said. “Funnily enough, the more punishment I take, the more it drives me on to never give up, to dig deeper. The adrenaline rush is incredible.”

McCall also has a touch of romance in his life to take him away from the world of kicks and punches. His girlfriend Caley is also into fitness, and is the perfect companion to keep him on the straight and narrow, ensuring he trains right and eats the right food.

But it was a poignant moment that McCall remembers most from his world championships this year.

“It’s great to be at the event and win medals, but, for me, the greatest moment was returning home and seeing the look on my Dad’s face at the airport,” he said. “It was priceless, and no words can express what he felt and how he looked.”

McCall’s Lifestyle

• Loves bonsai and has an aquarium at home.

• Enjoys reading magazines and newspapers.

• Spends plenty of time on the beach and is drawn to the


• He is learning to surf, but still has not mastered it.

• Doesn’t like cooking, but is working on it.

• He plays guitar, and enjoys classic rock and blues. John

Mayer is his favourite, especially his version of Crossroads.

• Enjoys curry and hamburgers.

• His favourite films include mysteries, superhero movies and

James Bond movies.

• His mother and father are his role models.

• Guiness, beer and whisky are favourite drinks.

• He has a passion for radio and has driven with The Stig,

skydived, and has been blessed with opportunities afforded

to a select few.

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