'Follow my footsteps and I'll follow yours'
AT FOUR years of age, Blake Murray began his taekwondo journey in the shadow of father Derek's illustrious career.
Eight years on, it was Murray Senior following in his son's footsteps, on a path leading all the way to South Korea.
The father-son combination represented Australia at the Mulimpia World Martial Arts Championships.
Against all outside expectations returned as world champions in their respective divisions.
Derek, a highly-awarded 2nd Dan Black Belt in taekwondo, is now a Senior World Champion in Haidong Gumdo - a form of Korean sword martial arts - in the papercutting discipline.
He was also adjudged the "best westerner” in the patterns discipline, taking gold against the best outside of Korea.
Blake one-upped his father to take out both the papercutting and patterns disciplines as a dual-Junior World Champion in Haidong Gumdo.
For good measure, Blake also returned to his taekwondo roots and earned a silver and bronze medal at separate competitions run concurrently with the Haidong Gumdo event.
The plethora of awards made for a heavier suitcase than the one Claudia Murray remembered when she dropped her son and husband at the airport two weeks earlier.
Claudia, herself a national-level taekwondo technical judge, said it was extremely rare for someone outside of Korea to leave with a World Championship title. Let alone a father-son combination.
But even more important than winning, she said it was a perfect opportunity for father and son to spend some quality time together.
"What an amazing bonding experience, to compete at the same competition and experience a new culture,” Claudia said.
"Derek works six, seven days a week, so to have that time to spend with his son was important.
"To get to do so while experiencing something they both have a passion for (was even better).”
At just 12 years of age, Blake is already a known-commodity in Australian martial arts circles.
"(Derek) always did taekwondo. Blake started when he was four,” Claudia said.
"We waited until after his first grading to show him everything his father had won.
"We wanted him to have that passion first, before knowing that.
"That then inspired him to become a Black Belt like his Dad, and now he's a 2nd Dan equal to his father.”
Having ascended to his father's level, Blake wanted to transition into a discipline which included swords.
"Derek thought 'well that looks quite good, I might have a go at that',” Claudia said.
The master had become the apprentice, and soon it was Derek asking Blake for advice in the back yard.
"Derek would say 'hey do you mind coming outside with me for half an hour?',” Claudia said.
"He didn't even consider competing (in South Korea), but he was going over there anyway (to support Blake) and, lo-and-behold, look what's happened.”
This was Blake's last chance to compete as a coloured belt, as he prepares for his Black Belt grading at the end of the year.
Claudia said it was important he experienced the Mulimpia before stepping up as a Black Belt, where the competition would become infinitely more difficult.
"We always knew he had to do this Mulimpia, we wanted him to have that chance as a coloured belt,” the proud Mum said.
"Next time he goes, he'll be competing as a Black Belt and you can imagine how many of those there are in Korea.
"But he was scoring 97s out of 100 from the judges, that's how good he was.
"Most kids at his age can memorise maybe four or five patterns. Blake knows something like 48.”
Now juggling high school, training and a new instructor role at his gym, Blake has taken on each new challenge like a sponge to water.
And the secret to the youngster's successes is obvious, according to his mum.
"I put it all down to blueberries,” Claudia said.
"He eats punnet after punnet of them, it's definitely the blueberries.”
Flag mishaps and minor celebrity status
AS a testament to Blake's rising star within the Australian martial arts ranks, he was awarded the honour of holding the Australian flag during the opening ceremony. But even the best-laid plans can fail when language barriers come into play.
"Because no one who could speak English went with him, he saw the flag was passed to someone else and thought, 'oh, I guess I'll just get another one,” Claudia recalled with a chuckle. "Next thing you know someone has given him the (United Arab Emirates) flag.
"I asked him about it and he said, 'Mum I was happy just to have a flag'.
"Some would have been upset, but for him it was just an honour to carry a flag.”
Sporting blonde hair and blue eyes, the youngster became an instant attraction in a country which rarely sees such features.
"He had an entourage of girls everywhere he went, wanting to take selfies with him,” Claudia said, recalling an annecdote from Derek.
"He had never experienced that attention before, he's a very quiet young boy.”