Customer Focus: Kuk Sool Won of Liverpool

About Carl Barrie

I was introduced to Kuk Sool Won when I was 10 years old thanks to my mum. She had been to a fitness class and Kuk Sool Won was the next class. She watched for a few minutes and just knew that I would love it. Mum was right; I attended my first class and absolutely loved it.

I always remember that first class with a smile. My instructor said roundhouse kick, I thought to myself, I know this and performed some sort of spin with a kick and almost fell over; it was quite embarrassing!

Kuk Sool Won gave me a lot of confidence. It awoke a passion inside me. I was very eager to learn and worked hard under my instructor. I also practiced what I had learnt at home.

I entered my first tournament as a blue belt. I was 11 years old and it was the most frightening experience in my life. We had to travel to Norwich. I tried my very best and was thrilled to receive a bronze medal for sparring.

I have since entered every WKSA tournament held in the UK (winning many medals and Grand Champion) with the exception of 2004 when I unfortunately broke my ankle. I was upset but it didn’t deter me. I had 2 metal plates and 8 screws inserted into my leg and was back training as soon as I could. I returned to competing the following year.

At brown belt level, I started assisting my instructor with teaching in class. I loved teaching; it fuelled my passion and also gave me an insight into becoming a full time instructor.

In 1995, I promoted to and received my 1st degree black belt from Kuk Sa Nim in Norwich. This was overwhelming for me; it fuelled my passion more than ever. It gave me the confidence and belief that I could do anything. I knew one day I would have my own WKSA School. Somehow I knew I would be doing this for the rest of my life.

In my final year at secondary school, I told the careers officer I wanted to become a martial arts instructor. I was advised to think about other careers!!! But I had my ambition. Attaining my black belt had given me more confidence and self belief. I wanted to become a full time instructor and start my own WKSA School. I knew I could do it and that it would take a lot of hard work, sacrifices, focus and dedication.

When I left school, I worked from 8 – 5pm at a factory on the Liverpool Docks. I cycled to/from work. Then I had a routine of shower, eat, stretch and cycle 10 miles (and back) to class to train for two hours, 3 nights a week. I also trained at my local gym for the other 2 nights.

About Kuk Sool Won Liverpool

After receiving my 3rd degree black belt, I decided that the time was right to start my own WKSA School. I combined this with 2 jobs at a time, from factory, bar, office and security work. It wasn’t easy but I had a goal that I was working towards.

My school began to grow and I was able to work part time. Eventually I was able to fulfil my dream of becoming a full time Kuk Sool Won instructor. This was a wonderful feeling, I had my dream job. That’s when the real hard work began.

My fiancée KSN Natalie (who has just started her 3rd degree testing) and I started running our Academy 10 years ago in a rundown leisure centre, with 25 students. After 2 years the cleaner casually told me that the gym was getting knocked down the next month.  My heart sank. I was stopped in my tracks. We quickly found our next location in a local school, but the price for hire had doubled!

After years of getting the mats out, putting them away, cleaning the floor before every class and the inconvenience of being closed every Bank holiday and 2 weeks in the summer holidays, we’d had enough. We moved to our own full time premises which had holes in the roof and it was so cold, but it was ours. The layout had doubled so we needed to grow or we would go bust.

In 2008, Kuk Sa Nim asked me to host the following years’ UK tournament. I was honoured. Liverpool has welcomed over 500 competitors per tournament, from all over the UK and Europe. We are hosting again for the 6th consecutive year running and hope to welcome more competitors to our City.

I fulfilled another burning desire in 2012 when I promoted to 5th degree and attained Master level. Aged 32, I was a Master! Another huge ambition realised.

On 27th September 2013, Natalie and I were proud to announce the birth of our beautiful son, Theo Alexander Barrie. The happiest day of our lives! Theo is now 8 months old and I can’t wait for him to join us on the mats.

It’s been a challenge – running our ever growing school and bringing up our little boy but it’s well worth it. I know Theo will one day love Kuk Sool Won just like we do. It provides the best start for any child… I should know!

I am extremely grateful for the continued support received all from my family and friends. Many thanks for helping me fulfil my dreams.


I chose NEST because I was stuck on 30 students for far too long. A fellow Master who had joined NEST recommended them to me, he couldn’t praise them enough saying he thought they were amazing. I think most of the WKSA Instructors are now with NEST.

I booked a meeting with Gerard – his service was 5 star. We joined NEST that day and it has proved to be a great business decision.

We have attended every NEST network meeting, where we get so many ideas and a chance to mix with other Martial Arts Instructors from all over the UK/USA and from many other styles.

We have made many contacts and listening to the speakers has really helped us to structure of our classes and shaped the way we think in business. We have reduced our cancellation rate to 2% as a result of the guidance we have received and changes we have made.

The NEST V4 system is very simple to use in our every day work.  It flags up student’s birthdays and we can send them a card that day. Also any failed payments are dealt with via NEST which takes the hassle away from us and keeps the relationship good with our clients.

Gone are the days of handling money and chasing students up asking for this month’s payment. NEST dragged us out of the cave.

We recently moved into our current 5,200 sq ft facility located on a main road. I didn’t know the best way to have my outside signs done, but knew this was a vital element in making my business a success.  The NEST Marketing Consultant talked me through everything, providing excellent advice and I really appreciated their experienced approach.

Our Academy has grown so much – we currently have 185 students and are growing steadily.

With joining NEST we now have our full time premises with no holes in the roof and it has doubled in size again. If we hadn’t joined NEST we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today and we would like to thank Gerard, Joy and the NEST team for their key role in our continued success.

(Interview from June 2014 )

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