Peterborough’s Martial Artist

The city nearly lost out on one of its leading martial artists and teachers when, 20 years ago, accomplished, prize-winning athlete Robert Taylor sustained a catastrophic back injury and was left unable to walk. After recovering – but completely abandoning sports – Robert finally rekindled his interest and went from strength to strength. He now runs one of Peterborough’s leading taekwondo, karate and kick boxing trainers, TASK Martial Arts, and we spoke with him to find out more...

You had been building a formidable reputation as a sportsman up until your injury, and started when you were quite young, didn’t you? 

I started doing martial arts in 1981, when I was ten years old. My dad was keen to get me into martial arts at the time, as were a lot of parents, to help if their kids were getting bullied, and he took me to judo classes to begin with, with a guy called Dave Lawrence who was big in British wrestling at the time, so I was really keen to go. A few years later there was a kung fu boom thanks to Bruce Lee. That got me interested in incorporating kicks into my fighting, so I moved onto a different trainer and began to learn karate.

I did that for a few years up until I was 16, then my best friend persuaded me to take up taekwondo – which meant I was doing three different martial arts, and really happy to have found the sport because as I am asthmatic I could never play football. By the age of 18, I discover that I’m actually pretty good! I start competing and winning, and by the age of 19 I was an instructor. Things were all going well like this right up until I was 31.

That’s when you got your injury?

It happened during a competition, and I ruptured a disc in my spine and sustained nerve damage. I went from travelling the world to laying flat on my back, unable to move, and having to give up everything – competing, training, the lot.

It must have been very hard – this thing that was the centre of your life, seemed to be over. How did you deal with that?

I was laying flat and I couldn’t move – I would look at all the trophies that I won, across all those years and thought, ‘What a waste of time’. My partner was pregnant with my son, my first child, and there I was laid flat, not even able to look forward to the prospect of kicking a ball with him because I couldn’t move my legs. I slowly got better – I healed up, which took me just over a year, and there was a short time walking with a stick, but I just had no interest in sport any more; no classes, no gym attendance, nothing. Just working full time in retail.

Did the thought of going back make you sad?

Yes, I was sad about it. I remember there was a competition in Nottingham, where I’m from, and all my old friends were going to be there. I wanted to go and introduce my son to people I hadn’t seen in years, and I was excited… but about half an hour in I realised I was bored, I had absolutely no love left for it at all.

So, what changed?

I’d moved to Peterborough and had started working for Sports Direct. I was walking through town when I saw a gym, and before I knew it, really, I was going in and looking round, thinking that yes, I could do a bit now and then, a few times a week – a bit of bench pressing, nothing serious. At this point, I hadn’t done any sport or any training for five years! Rob Reinaldo, the gym manager – who had just started to compete in bodybuilding – asked me if I’d like to come and watch a bodybuilding competition in Leicester, and watching that was the wake-up call, it blew my mind. The gym owner said to me, ‘I know what you’re thinking: that you’re in better shape than some of the competitors up on the stage, and that if you put in a bit of work you could be up there as well’. And he was right!

You literally went from strength to strength!

After a year of training, I entered the Anglian Open in Great Yarmouth – and I won! I had been offered full sponsorship if I won – and in all my time in martial arts I had never been offered full sponsorship – so after Great Yarmouth I made the call to say I’d won, and subsequently from the age of 38 until I was about 42, I was back working as an athlete, but this time as a bodybuilder. I won the British Championships, I won ‘Mr Peterborough’ a couple of times – but I was also 30kg over my natural weight due to muscle mass. It was then I started to get pains in my ankles…

Oh no! It must have felt like history was repeating itself.

I went to the doctor; she sent me for X rays and it turned out to be arthritis in my ankles. I was offered steroid injections or to have my ankle joint fused, but my one phobia in life is needles, and a fused joint would have had a knock-on effect on my lower back and being able to drive. I thought, ‘Why don’t I just lose weight?’, simply get down to a normal man’s weight – but I wouldn’t bodybuild anymore.

So it seemed as though it might be all over, once again?

One day in the gym I got chatting with a man who knew I used to do martial arts. He asked me to teach him, but it ended with him not turning up for his session! However, the whole thing was a bit of a light bulb moment – I realised that I could go back into martial arts, I could train and compete again, even though I was 44 at this point. I trained, I entered a competition – I didn’t tell my wife until the last minute because I knew she’d worry I would get hurt! – and I won it. It was then I thought, ‘He’s back – Taylor is back!’


I started training harder for the World Championships. My first one was in Norwich – I won four world titles there, and the following year I won further world titles. Up until that point, I’d only ever won European World Silver Medal, but since coming back aged 44, I began to win world titles because my mindset had changed – I’d experienced bodybuilding, I had my diet in hand, everything like that. So every time I fought in World Championships, I never lost. The last one I fought was in October 2022 in Italy, I was aged 51 – and I won that as well!

Do you ever think, ‘I almost gave this up? I almost didn’t have this because I almost walked away’?

I always knew that I could go back if I wanted, because physically I had healed. But… it was just my mind that needed to be in the right place, I had to want to do it again. And now your daughter is following in your footsteps? Elise competed for the first time in August, and she just started winning! It was all down to lockdown, really, because she spent the majority of 2020 with me in the dojo, one-on-one. Her baby sister, Eden, was born in September 2018, so was 18 months old when we went into lockdown. It gave my wife time with Eden while Elise and I went to the gym. Now, Elise has just turned eight but she’s beating ten-year-old girls in the boxing ring, and has loads of title belts already. Eden now five will enter her 1st ever competition next month in February and will hopefully carry on the Taylor winning ways.

And now there’s TASK – your own martial arts teaching centre.
Yes, that came about the end of 2017 – Taylor’s Academy of Sport and Karate, and I offer taekwondo, judo and karate. I’ve been (and remain) a gym personal trainer and fitness instructor since the 90s, way before any bodybuilding aspirations, and I’m also a qualified school PE teacher. I can also advise on diet and training because of my years spent bodybuilding. Because I’m older – and still competing and winning, aged 51 – I’ve got the kind of experience and perspective that not all instructors have, and I’m working at a high level. Just this weekend I’ve got England squad training in Rotherham, where I’ll be training 80 people, getting a new England team together for the World European Championships.
I still train every day, because you know what they say: use it or lose it

To find out more about TASK, to join or just discuss how martial arts training could benefit you, visit: or TASK’s Facebook site, at

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