My Weekend: Bree Corrigan

Times Online, September 13, 2007

Before telling you about this week’s intriguing solicitor, I have a confession to make. I like Swindon. There it is, out of the way from the off. I spent six years living near the much-maligned conurbation and quite a few of them were spent training at Walcot Amateur Boxing Club, itself in the shadow of the rarely mighty Swindon Town FC. Boxing at Walcot resulted in many improvements to my life, albeit a few black eyes and bruises, and has left me with an unswerving loyalty to all things Swindon.

So when I realised that I would be interviewing Bree Corrigan, a solicitor with Swindon firm Lemon & Co, about her love of Taekwondo, I felt assailed by conflicting emotions. One the one hand, I would have to suspend my natural bias and ensure that I was not overly favourable to Corrigan simply by dint of her happening to be Swindon born and bred. On the other, a strangely evangelical feeling crept up inside me. It is best translated by the urge to persuade Ms Corrigan to abandon Taekwondo and get herself down to Walcot ABC.

Corrigan is all smiles and self-confidence. She specialises in family law and has been at Lemon & Co for seven years, during which time she worked her way up from secretary to solicitor. Respect. This only grows when her achievements in martial arts are taken into account.

Corrigan has attained a black belt in Taekwondo, a Korean combat sport literally meaning ‘the way of the feet and fist". It took her a little over three years to do so, with the black belt coming just six months after she qualified as a solicitor. She has since gone on to acquire a first "Dan" (the experts-only grades taken from black belt on), and is currently training for her second. All this, at the same time as qualifying and now working as a busy family solicitor.

“I’ve always been quite sporty and used to play a lot of hockey,” says Corrigan, who seems very much one of those people who takes things in her stride. “I was looking for a new sport and had just split up with a boyfriend. I can’t explain why but I’d always found martial arts fascinating, so I emailed various clubs in the area and ended up joining Wootton Bassett Taekwondo Club. It’s worked out brilliantly – I’ve met loads of new friends and I love every minute of it.”

Much of Corrigan’s training entails mastering elements of the Korean language, but if this sounds rather daunting the 31-year-old has never had any doubt about the joy of Taekwondo – especially after the family courts close on a Thursday afternoon. “The gradings can be nerve-wracking, a bit like going before a judge, but it’s always great to get down to the club, not least when the courts close. Family law can be very stressful and training after a hard day is a great form of stress relief.”

That said, Corrigan is not enamoured of this particular martial art because it’s an antidote to the law. “I’d have got into it anyway,” she says, “it’s a really graceful thing to be able to do and I’m proud to have got a black belt. Everyone knows what a black belt stands for.”

So too, Walcot ABC, I say – it’s the best boxing club in the Western counties and has turned out an array of top-rated amateurs in recent years, one of whom, Jamie Cox, recently turned pro with Frank Warren. Corrigan has indeed heard of Walcot. Evangelism springs within me and I suggest that she sounds just the kind of person to enjoy training at the club. I reassure her that the fairer sex have ventured through its doors, and not merely to pick up young male offspring.

Corrigan laughs. Taekwondo is usually known as a kick-based discipline but a recent hip injury has made her “much handier, if you know what I mean”. I do indeed. So will she try boxing at Walcot? “I’m not sure,” she chuckles, leaving me to ask a question as applicable to Taekwondo as to boxing – isn’t it a little odd pursuing a sport which involves inflicting harm on people? “When we’re sparring, it’s not taken personally,” she says.

As if to prove the point, she is a bridesmaid to not one but two of her regular opponents at the club. Meanwhile, Corrigan will doubtless pursue her second Dan – and I’ll warn the Walcot crew that they’d better be on their guard if a female solicitor wanders through the doors.