Birmingham

1st C.I.K.A England International Championships

CIKA England blue background

After recently joining Junior Lefevre’s C.I.K.A: The Ruach karate team gathered their competitors to make the journey from Birmingham up to Liverpool for the very first C.I.K.A England International Championships on Saturday 14th May 2016.  The prospect of joining the C.I.K.A was exciting, especially being directed under the guidance of Junior Lefevre Sensei.  I had read an interview that he did on the web not long before and he spoke about winning competitions in both kata and kumite.  Being brought up in a rough part of town in Belgium coupled with bullying at school; he had overcome struggles in life to become successful at karate.  What I particularly liked was the honesty in the interview when talking about kata.  He mentioned how he was not technically the best at kata, but he always put in 100% effort and the judges could see that he was fighting in his kata with every movement.  I found that inspiring and it helps to show others that you don’t always have to be naturally gifted to succeed, but continue to work harder than everyone else.  The link to the full exclusive interview by Jesse Enkamp can be found here. (opens in new window)

lefevre_jutsko-400x242.jpg

Image from karatebyjesse.com

 

The C.I.K.A event was made extra special for two reasons, not only was it the 1st C.I.K.A England event, but in addition  Junior Lefevre Sensei was also in attendance to referee and brought with him a Belgian International team to compete along side the other competitors.  It was a long day that started with us meeting at the Cocksmoor Woods Leisure Centre at 6.45am in time to arrive for an 8:30am start at the Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool.

We arrived in good time and I proceeded to take a look at the facilities which offered 4 tatamis in addition to a good seating area for spectators and enough room for competitors to keep warmed up awaiting their respective events.  On arrival it was also nice to see that there were events for disabled karate athletes.  I have followed quite closely a gentleman by the name of Ray Sweeney via Facebook who is moving mountains to include disability karate in to the mainstream and the work he is carrying out is to be honest absolutely fantastic.  More information on the Disability Karate Federation (which is a registered charity and the largest karate organisation for disabled people) can be found at www.disabilitykarate.co.uk

dfk-logo

The turnout was pretty good, especially for the first C.I.K.A England competition and there were a confirmed 350+ entries.  It was nice to see that the competition had attracted a lot of attention with competitors from different countries, of which included Belgium, France and Denmark amongst others.  There was also a fantastic turnout from Ireland and the clubs representing from just over the water did themselves proud.  Specifically looking at our club Ruach we had a team of 10 competitors who travelled up together to take part.  What I found from this event which I hadn’t quite appreciated as much in the past was the spirit of togetherness that was amongst the team.  Within our group we had karateka from multiple Ruach clubs dotted all over Birmingham and the West Midlands and all of varying grades from 8th Kyu upwards.  Old, young, first competition or 100th, we were all there together as one representing Ruach and it holds a nostalgic kind of feeling that I can’t quite explain.

fb_img_1463233301022.jpg

With a lot of time before my first kumite match I found myself helping out the newer members and giving some advice about what to expect.  I see myself nowadays as more of a coach than competitor and feel a great sense of fulfilment helping the newer generation, almost to the same level as taking part myself.  This new responsibility bestowed on me however doesn’t come without its’ downfalls as I feel that I have an extra pressure by means of responsibility to do well within the tournament.  I mean, how can I positively critique our newer, less experienced members and help them to succeed if I go out there and take a beating myself?

The below video from my individual kumite match will kind of sum up what I mean…

 

It can at times feel a bit embarrassing.  I find myself questioning  what my fellow team mates will think about the fact that I’ve been well and truly beaten.  I wonder if they feel that they cannot use any advice I give as my own loss has shown that I’m no good myself perhaps.  These thoughts will play on your mind, but self negativity will get you nowhere.  A quick regroup with myself to gather my thoughts and I know what I can offer.  You see the thing is it’s not if you get knocked down it’s how you get back up that matters.  If I have to take a beating until the cows come home then so be it.  I only have to prove something to myself and fortunately for me I’m not a quitter.  That’s what I’ll pass on.  Full credit to Pete Watson my opponent in that fight above though .  He caught me with a cracking ushiro mawashi and I felt that for some days after.  He went on to become silver medalist at the first C.I.K.A. event in that category.  A feat that was made even more special in that he fought on with a fractured arm in the final.  Another non quitter and he has my full respect.  I wish you every success in the future Pete.

wp-1466575353802.jpg

I need to pay tribute to a former work colleague of mine who started up karate on my advice and since then hasn’t looked back . Joining Ruach only 1 year prior  he has gone at it full throttle with his son in law and full credit to them for their achievements and hard work that they’ve put in. It happened to be their first competition and not really knowing what to expect they entered both kata and kumite events.  I watched with part horror and part excitement as they fought their respective kumite bouts.  Not only can kumite competition be daunting at any level it is made even harder getting up there for your first competition; particularly as a 7th kyu fighting a black belt!  The thing is it is totally different to training.  This time you have somebody in front of you that’s looking to win and although it’s in a safe(ish) environment, it could never in my opinion be classified as safe as you would be training with fellow club members.  Both Tony and Richard did themselves proud.  They were beat, but more importantly they gave it a go and they didn’t back down.  It shows a lot about a person’s character to just sign up and I hope this will be the beginning of many competitions for them.

On to Tony’s kata performance and he amazingly got through two rounds to reach the last four and pick up a joint third bronze medal.  I watched in awe how this yellow belt got up there, did his kata and did it like he meant it.  Technically both were about the same level, but Tony’s aggression and determination in his kata got him through and that served as a gentle reminder to the interview of Lefevre Sensei only days before.

dsc_0164_3.jpg

 

In total Ruach managed to go home with approximately 5+ medals and everybody enjoyed the day thoroughly.  The event finished early evening and it was great to see the Ruach family competing together and generally just enjoying themselves.  One final mention must go to Jason Netherton who did a brilliant job organising and hosting the event as the face of C.I.K.A and to our Sensei Gary Beggan who works tirelessly blood, sweat and tears to teach us and motivate us to get involved in the competitions.  It may seem some as just a competition, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s a confidence booster, an achievement for some just to get up there and a chance to make new friends, it’s about life skills and through karate we have that in which to thank.

Until the next competition my friends…

 

 

Advertisements

Seminar: (Karate Nerd) Jesse Enkamp 10th October hosted by Tipton Shotokan Karate Club

DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!

It’s a phrase I’ve heard thrown out quite a lot over the years.  Whether it be the time I accidentally bumped in to that blonde Jane Ellison from Brookside many years ago in a Liverpool bar and more recently thanks to social media; I now know who Ronnie Pickering is…

The term isn’t one of my favourites to be honest, It leaves a sour, lingering taste of  self righteous, ego boosting that the user projects on to themselves.  A term that airs a sense of “I am better than you, my self, is better than your self.”

Image of Ronnie Pickering

NOT COOL!

Rock, paper scissors

COOL!

So who am I?

Most of you won’t know me, I’m a soon to be 31 year old guy whose been doing karate for many years.  I haven’t won national titles, I’m not an England International, I’m not someone that you’ll find much out about if you type my name in to Google, (I’ve tried.)  I have a regular job working my backside off to pay the bills just like any other regular bloke and in my spare time I write a blog.

If you’re in the karate World there is a guy however that you have probably heard of. Not because he’s been shouting the question from the rooftops like Mr. Pickering, moreover he’s just a hard working successful bloke that helps us karate nerds feel proud to be just that, karate nerds!

Saturday 10th October gave me the opportunity (thanks to Sensei Beggan) to train with arguably one of the most famous karate practitioners in the World.  He’s not only a national champion in his field, creator of the highly sought after Seishin Gi, but is most notably known amongst so many karate-ka due to his insightful blog Karate by Jesse. (opens in new window)   Enkamp “san” officially makes being a karate geek cool and I was privileged to be able to attend his first ever UK seminar in Oldbury hosted by Tipton Shotokan Karate Club.

We arrived for our 3 hour session nice and early, eagerly anticipating the start and what would be in store for us.  The group of 60 or so were in full force, some sporting their karate nerd tshirts just prior to the event.  The atmosphere was friendly and jovial which I think reflected the persona of Sensei Enkamp that comes across from his website.

After a good thirty minute warm up with partners, Sensei introduced us to the lesson plan looking in to the concept of Rei.

Rei

  image of rei in kanji

Rei can have many different meanings and different kanji can be used, however the one we were referring to was that of bowing, and etiquette.  Sensei Enkamp initially pointed out that as the whole body is connected when we perform rei, then it was important to look at not only the feet and ankles, but knees, back and even neck.  It was fascinating to see how much Sensei could show us on one subject and I feel that he may have only touched the surface in the three hours with plenty more to show given half a chance.  At one point whilst Sensei was having us work on flexibility in our ankles, our mission was to lay back on the floor. From this position we were to roll backwards (legs in the air behind our head) before projecting ourselves forward and landing on one foot, the other sticking out like one of those traditional Russian dancers. See the video below and you’ll know what I mean. In fact these Russian dancers would have had a serious advantage if they’d have come down to the seminar!

My effort was just that, an effort.  It may have resembled a hippo at times crash landing from the sky occasionally during my ascent to the position, but hey, God loves a trier!  Below you can see Sensei Enkamp landing how it was supposed to be done.

Image of Sensei Enkamp's ankle flexibility Russian style!

Oh and if that wasn’t hard enough Enkamp Sensei would swap legs from that position, just for good measure!

Throughout the seminar Jesse San kept us entertained with different exercises and partner work that utilised the whole body whilst drawing our attention to some key concepts for body mechanics.  I faired pretty well with the “trap your partners hand under your body test” and elements fort this concept reminded me of previous seminars with Sean Roberts Sensei (opens in new window) albeit differently explained.

A memorable moment during the seminar included the Japanese version of rock paper scissors whereby partners interlinked legs and played rock paper scissors.  The winner gaining an opportunity to stretch the partner’s legs towards a split like position until they gave up.  Just another example of a fun way to incorporate stretching and flexibility in to lessons that Jesse Sensei managed to incorporate so well.

There’s so much more that Enkamp Sensei showed us that I cannot possibly write all here.  All I’d advise is that if you get the opportunity to train with Sensei then grab it with both hands.  If you missed the 1st UK seminar you may still have a chance of getting a ticket for his 2nd one at Shenley Leisure Centre in Milton Keynes on the 7th and 8th November.  Click here for info

I’d finally like to thank Jesse Enkamp Sensei for such an amazing seminar that I’m proud to say I was apart of.  Also to Tipton Shotokan Karate Club for again providing amazing seminars with great karate exponents.  Finally I’d like to thank Susan Dixon for whom took some great photos that I’ve been given permission to use in my blog.

I’m happy to say I got a picture with Jesse San doing it how it’s supposed to be done, karate kid style!  Daniel LaRusso eat your heart out!

Karate Kid style

If your reading this Jesse San, how do I go about buying a signed copy of your book if at all possible?  I was hoping to purchase one at the seminar, but found they weren’t on sale 😦

Finally: A word of advice to anyone attending a Jesse Enkamp seminar, take a pen and paper, you’ll remember more and score some kudos points!

SEMINAR: KARATE KID MR. MIYAGI’S DRUM TECHNIQUE EXPLAINED!

I apologise for the lack of additional material on the site.  Since I last wrote I have acquired a black and tan Jack Russell, moved house and subsequently not found the time to fit everything that I wanted to do in to my schedule, including the updates to this site/ blog.

Incase you’re a dog fan, here she is…

Image of Lucy Jack Russell Terrier

In the same period of time; I have recently purchased my 3rd laptop charger as the dog has found it somewhat a caviar addition to her other food including socks, shoes and tshirts.  I do write again however in good spirit and pleased to say that my karate training and desire to increase my knowledge remains strong.  Anyone who thinks I’m making up the laptop charger issue I’ve also enclosed this for your viewing pleasure…

image of laptop charger

You may or may not have read my previous blog post from last year regarding a seminar with Sean Roberts Sensei, but Sunday 16th August gave me the opportunity to once again train with this Shotokan karate legend.  Sensei Roberts who now lives in Hawaii has spent a lot of time with Minakami Sensei who again during a 4 hour session based at both Cocksmoor Woods and Tudor Grange gave me the opportunity to work on karate back to it’s basics.

If i were to try and summarise the objective of the lesson in a brief sentence it would be:

To attack and defend using the body core (torso) by retracting, extending and retracting back to the original position.  This might seem like gobbledeegook so I’ll try and elaborate further….

If you have space and are alone (or in front of others and you won’t get embarassed) then stand up.

Now, If we were to think of the core of our body it would be the torso, the centre of us.  Now remember that our limbs are just extensions of our torso.  When we relax our arms they dangle to the side of us.  Now I want you to twist your body violently left to right and back again multiple times in quick succession.  What happens?

If your arms fling out in mad directions then congratulations you’re doing it right and you’re human!

Image of Sean Roberts Sensei explaining the body mechanics

So what does this all have to do with karate?  Well what if there were a way to control the limbs from the torso when it was engaged correctly?  What if the arm position on engagement of the torso were able to utilise the limb to perform blocks and strikes?

In karate, most karateka would be taught to twist the hips to utilise the power before punching out.  Imagine that but a step backwards.  Our arm not using energy to punch, but our arm merely being an extension of our torso and once that is engaged correctly it will fling out to attack or defend as one with our whole body.

I’m not kidding anyone now when I say this is hard.  Whether it is because we’ve been taught for so long to engage our body in a certain way that unlearning makes it more difficult I don’t know.  We then have to factor in that this isn’t just for one block/attack…  If we recoil the body correctly it will snap back the limb and a swift engagement the other way with our torso will be able to send the other arm or leg into action.

Image of Sean Roberts Sensei Seminar August 2015

After two hours what had we learnt?  I believe everybody in the seminar understood the explanation, but when it came down to applying practically the words in to motion it became difficult.  My determination was undeterred by one sentence from Sean Roberts Sensei,

“You’re getting the hang of it.”

This isn’t something that is learnt over night.  This is something that I can take away and continue to try and engage in my karate.  For some it will work, others it won’t.  It’s up to us as karateka to listen first and foremost to the knowledge and take on board what we can use whilst discarding the rest.

Image of Sean Roberts and Ronnnie Christoper Sensei

I went home with so many questions I wanted to ask and reaffirm my understanding of the concept, but had not asked at the time.  I then found my answer in the most unlikely sources like a light bulb shattering from a power surge through the mains electricity board…

Mr. Miyagi and the karate kid!  If you’ve seen it then no doubt you’ll know what I’m talking about but if not he once spoke about a drum, the small hand held drum with two pieces of string either side no more than 3cm-4cm and attached to the end of these pieces of string were a wooden ball.

So this was Mr. Miyagi’s family secret and at the time it made no sense.

If we were to twist from the drum handle left to right and back again, the string whips round and hit the balls on to the drum.  So, can it be that the drum is the body’s torso equivalent and the string are representative of the limbs?

To me it seems that this “drum technique” actually has real life value and wasn’t just wish wash for entertainment purposes after all.  Have a look below and judge for yourself.

And if that doesn’t convince you, this bloke is showing showing it how it’s supposed to be!

Please note the Miyagi explanation to Sensei Roberts’ teaching is my interpretation solely.  I’d welcome your thoughts on

this.  Happy karate-ing all!

Happy birthday to me!

Happy Birthday

Well… not me as such.  My own birthday was in December when I finally left the 20’s and hit the big 30.  Instead today marks the first anniversary of the Shotokan Karate Training website.

It’s been quite a year if I look back.  In a nutshell I’ve started to enter tournaments again, attended new seminars, met new karate friends and for the first time put my thoughts down in writing for the purpose of this site and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.  I’d like to say a thank you to everybody who has supported me with this over the last year and also followed the Shotokan Karate Training page on Facebook.  Without your support it wouldn’t be worth doing it.

I’d like to give a special thanks to Tipton Shotokan Karate and Matt Price Sensei for the seminar and content Matt allowed me to upload.  Also I’d like to thank my own club Ruach, Gary Beggan and Ronnie Christopher for their teaching and opportunities to enter various competitions.  In addition to this Sensei Sean Roberts who came over from Hawaii.  There were some extremely mind boggling lessons there that i;m still trying to implement in to my karate,  I’d also like to mention World Champion Luke Howard for his time for the interview for the site it is much appreciated.  I musn’t forget old friend and Sensei Tom Davies and his South Staffs club along with student Louis Powell for the excellent Kyu grading syllabus material permission to upload.

Finally I’d like to thank Sensei John Johnston for his publishing of my material to a wider audience stirring up quite a good debate earlier on in the year and the invite to Birmingham University to take on some of his students.

Here’s to another successful year and I hope to see you back to take on the journey with me.

Matt Cromwell

Competition Karate: Just One Big Friendly?

Sunday the 23rd November saw Birmingham University’s karate club led by John Johnston Sensei invite a few of us from Ruach karate clubs for a Kumite event.  So after making some apologies to my Dad on his birthday (sorry Dad), I jumped on a train to go join up with 5 others making up a team of six to fight for a couple of hours against some of the Birmingham University bunch.  During the build up in training the week before, the word “friendly” was mentioned by our Sensei and upon arrival on the day, John Johnston Sensei also reaffirmed this concept of a friendly between the two clubs.  This word had, and still has left a sour taste in my mouth due to what I can only relate as a personal failure to grasp this term when thinking of semi contact karate.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say all semi contact martial arts as a collective.

Image of new friends: Ruach and Birmingham University karateka hosted by Sensei John Johnston

I write with the vision that relaying my thought process on web space will aid in answering some questions and finally give my brain a much needed break.  What differentiates a friendly and non-friendly with regards to karate, specifically in a semi-contact setting?  If I took one definition of a “friendly” from Google, I could probably put this to bed (but that would be too easy wouldn’t it?)

Friendly: “A game or match that does not form part of a serious competition”

With this definition then yes:  The event was not part of a serious competition.  There were no medals to be won, just a fight to try techniques and give us a chance to fight others.  There were winners and losers, but not a competition in the way we’d usually look at it.  So what’s still bugging me?  If we exclude the medals, then in my opinion there were to be no difference between this “friendly” event and a serious competition.  All techniques in both “friendly” and “non friendly” concepts are semi contact.  We are never out to hurt or injure our opponents in this event, nor any competition in the past, present or future.  So the point I make; What is the difference (bar a medal or trophy), that constitutes this “friendly” label when our attitude, aggression and control of technique never changes?

If I look at friendlies in other sports and take football for example then this gives more understanding.  The idea of playing a match with no bearing on league tables nor any points towards competitions.  This could be argued to bear a resemblance to karate by giving an opportunity to try out new techniques whilst not sacrificing anything from mistakes.  However this is where I find a big difference with regards to “mainstream” sports vs karate and the hint is in the highlighted word above.  When I go to karate, I am “doing” it, not “playing” it.  Because of this single word it changes the concept of karate for myself and the result being that the term “friendly” in this context doesn’t seem to compute.

 

It could be argued that karateka or martial artists start for many different reasons; Some to get fit, some to learn self defence, some to learn discipline, others to make friends to and some to compete in competition to name a few.  However for all these reasons, the question I ask is why choose karate or why martial arts in particular over something else?  The reasons can be transferable in all non-combat sports, all bar the one of self defence.  For this reason I can’t see martial arts as a friendly.  After all, the only time martial arts doesn’t become a friendly is when you’re faced in a real life dangerous situation.  So thinking about it, I guess all karate competition must just be friendly, right?

Now I dare hazard a guess what some of you may be thinking, I’m starting to see it to as I type.  A feeling that I believe martial arts not to be classified as a sport, that karate is supposed to be traditional blah blah blah.  If you’re thinking this about me then I’ll save your breath.  I don’t much care for the politics.  I don’t much care for the reasons why people start, whether you prefer traditional, competition, no competition.  Whether you like to focus on bunkai, kata, kumite, both or all.  Don’t take it the wrong way, but I really just don’t care.  To me if you’re involved in martial arts and train hard then you get my respect for whatever reason you decide to do it in a similar essence that armed forces would show each other respect for serving his or her country.

Remember my opinions are my own, as are yours.  I send my thoughts out to make a better understanding for myself.  A chance to reread back all these thoughts and emotions going on in my own head that until I make static just seem to shoot past to quickly for me to grasp.  I would like to hear your opinions and after all, respectful discussions with reasoning are what we are about.  A chance to learn from each other, the choice we have as individuals to use what benefits us and discard what doesn’t, but to discard respectfully.  Why can we do this?  Because we are karateka, we are martial artists and we are disciplined to know that respect is brought up in us to become the best self we can be.

I won’t drag over this anymore, but will add that I’m happy to have met John Johnston Sensei.  He helped me very early on sharing some of my blog posts to you all and created great discussion, in particular with regards to my thoughts on another blog post of mine Is Karate Developing a Soft Persona? (opens in new window).  I take great enjoyment in reading his own blog around adaptive karate that can be found at Adaptive Karate Blog (opens in new window)  Sensei Johnston, like Sensei Beggan is doing his bit to help others and pass down his knowledge so that karate can continue to live strong through generations.  I’m thankful for meeting the Birmingham University karate club students and being given the opportunity to develop my karate.

November has arrived and further along my journey I travel, new techniques, new clubs, new ambitions in the aim to develop a better self and transfer karate discipline to aid me in a real life existence.  It’s a long way to go, but as Maslow would say, everybody tries to achieve self actualisation, although nobody will.  I best keep going forward.

 

Times change, time to adapt: From KUGB to everything else

I realise it’s been a while since my last post. In fact the whole site has unfortunately had a bit of a go slow with regards to updates and for that I apologise. It feels like I’ve hit the time again that I once remembered as a teenager entitled “Not enough hours in the day.” In the past this used to be a case of two rugby training sessions a week plus match day whilst adding in karate 3 or 4 times a week. Add to this a sprinkle of badminton training and a bit of scouts and before you know it something had to give. I wish I was in that same position; Instead I now find myself juggling not only hobbies that I love, but work commitments in order to pay the bills and a new venture in band practice. I guess with this I notice that times change in day to day life and coincidentally so has my karate.

From the age of 7 all I’ve known is Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) and whether this is due to an ignorance on my part or not feeling the necessity to have to venture further afield than within those 4 walls, I don’t know. My knowledge of anything external was unknown. People I would call as the greats consisted of the likes of Sensei Enoeda, Andy Sherry, Frank Brennan, Ronnie Christopher, Terry O’Neil to name a few. In fact I could probably have just grouped any instructor from the Red Triangle from back in the day to just one collective to save writing space. The competitions for me consisted of the Central Regions (usually held at Grantham or Chesterfield), the coveted National Championships held at the NIA in Birmingham and occasionally the student championships. In these times I had some moderate success with a few third place finishes. I was never a renowned great at karate and never will be, but I give my all and most importantly I learn from competition and any mistakes. It’s comforting to know that karate isn’t about you vs everybody else, it is you vs yourself. A personal development and acknowledging that you can only be the best that you can be.

Anyway to get back on track, the KUGB set up for me worked well, maybe it was for an ignorance that I didn’t see anything outside of this organisation. If it wasn’t for my training club’s directional change outside of the KUGB then I would still have been just as ignorant. Never had I heard of the names Wayne Otto, Junior Lefebvre or anybody else. I’d go as far as to say that my mind has a problem with change, the thought that there is something different to KUGB and to be able to accept it. I lived in a comfort zone that the KUGB was the biggest Shotokan karate organisation in the UK. I was fighting to 1 full ippon, if it’s over it’s over. Back then there were no mitts, a gum shield and a groin guard and your karate then separated the “men from the boys”.

Image of Ruach Karate club group photo at Paul Campbell's open karate competition at Ellowes Hall School in Sedgley. (Left to right: Dave Farrance, Matt Cromwell, Russell Dobbins)

Ruach Karate club group photo at Paul Campbell’s open karate competition at Ellowes Hall School in Sedgley. (Left to right: Dave Farrance, Matt Cromwell, “Not stated”)

Now I find myself almost lost in a world of karate sport.  Competitions with 3 full Ippons to decide the winner.  With this allows room for error and a completely different style of competition to what I was once used to.  Another thing I’ve noticed has been the difference in control and no longer is there any room for moderate contact.  I’ve entered two competitions so far and been disqualified from the first in the team Kumite before being beaten very fairly by Wales and European squad member Luke Howard (another unknown to me until after the event.)

Another item on the agenda?  All this equipment I’m having to carry around (borrowed at the moment).  Blue mitts, red mitts, white mitts, this colour belt, that colour belt, shin guards, foot guards.  A weight training session has definitely been ensured by just arriving to events!  I find myself questioning is it a ploy for money as these pads aren’t cheap when looking at sets of 3 different colours?  I really don’t know,  so what can I do about all these thoughts spiralling on through my head?

I guess I could moan about it.  Make excuses and put it down to a different kind of competition that’s holding me back, moan about the costs and argue the politics.  Or better still?

Embrace the change.  My old KUGB is not coming back unless I want to relocate a good 25 miles away.  This organisation to me may be gone forever, lost in to a vortex that unless I chase will be a thing of the past.  Relocating isn’t an option, leaving Ruach karate clubs isn’t either so I’ll stay here and think positive.  What have I gained?  A chance to broaden my karate horizons, learn that there are other practitioners out there that aren’t just KUGB.  A chance to pit myself against karateka of all different styles.  Longer rounds or more explosive rounds owed to more points giving an opportunity to improve my stamina further still.  The added bonus to experiment more with techniques knowing that a failed attack may not have worked, but I tried, I experienced, I learnt.  The multiple opportunities I now have to enter tens of hundreds of competitions all across the country.  A chance to build my mat experience up even further.

So, I may have lost the KUGB, but I’ve just started to appreciate that I’ve gained a lot too.

 

Ronnie Christopher: Thank you

Over the years I’ve been taught by many instructors in the art of Shotokan karate.  All of them having different teaching styles and all bring something new to offer, but one in particular will always stand out above the rest.  It was and still is his club that I train at today 22 years on and although I don’t see him as much as I used to, the techniques and advice he has given me stay with me.  What makes him so great isn’t just the number of National, European and World titles he has won, but also the down to Earth, good hearted nature within which you feel comfortable in his presence.  The fact that he is approachable is shown by the feeling that you get with the mutual respect in conversation.  There is no me and you, but a sense of equality.  If I try to explain it better I could only liken it to when you go on a night out and you see the small minority of door men or bouncers as you were giving it the big “I am.”  This attitude comes across as cocky, negative and can spoil a night out just because some idiot wants to use their job as an excuse to show off and cause trouble.  Being able to handle yourself looks a lot better and gains a lot more respect when it is kept on the quiet.  When you are at your best, you don’t need to prove anything to anybody except yourself.  This is Ronnie Christopher, a man I’m proud to call my instructor, somebody I’m proud to say that I’ve been taught by one of the best in the world.

I remember turning up for my first lesson at 7 with you standing in front of me, me with a pair of shin protectors (God knows why) telling us how karate is for self defence only and showing me how to clench a fist properly.  Over the next few weeks you started started to show me my first (Kihon) kata and more techniques, but you didn’t just teach me karate.  You taught me my left and right!  You used to say, step forward with your left leg!  I’d duly oblige before you told me you meant my other left.  I still remember years ago you saying which hand do you write with? Before I’d even lifted my hand you said to me you write with your right so the other one is your left.  I use this still today when I pass down what you have taught me through teaching and it’s amazing to think how these little mannerisms have stayed with me all these years.  These are things that will live on from generation to generation when we both inevitably draw to the end in the circle of life.

Confidence is something that I lacked as a child.  Even today I struggle to find the balance between confidence and not appearing to be cocky, airing on the side of less confident as to not offend others, but within the dojo or competition it is a different story.  You always believed in me and when you tell me I can do something, I believe you.  Sometimes I think you have more faith in me than I have in myself.  It’s really hard to explain in words what you have done for me, but for everything I am eternally grateful.

You may never end up reading this, but if you do then I’d like  to say from the bottom of my heart; Thank you for believing in me, thank you for inspiring me and it is an honour to call you a friend.

A journey starts with a single step

When I sit here trying to think of an interesting way to start a blog for this site it is very difficult.  The fact of the matter is that the personal blog aspects that WordPress utilize for people to show their creativity were in fact, not the purpose of what this WordPress set out to achieve.

Putting together this site (albeit it very new and a working project) was for me to try and create a complete reference guide for Shotokan karate, a complete reference utilising every part of what it had to offer using personal pictures and sourced videos and texts from across the entire web.  I wanted something that anybody from beginner to black belt could look up on the site and go right! I understand now and it makes sense.

The fact of the matter is trying to source information and the ability to film your own can be tricky.  If it’s sourced then are their copyright implications?  Are these offset with disclaimers and credits to the correct people? I don’t know.  When recording my own material with the equipment i have to hand ,does it make for good enough demonstration to be of benefit to you the viewer compared with other “multi camera” sequences that can be found?

These questions have delayed somewhat the construction of this site.  For if it isn’t fit for purpose then what is the point of it at all?

One thing I can offer whilst I ponder that question are my experiences and how the main sport I took up has helped me grow as a person over the years.  I do not claim to be an expert, I do not claim to be the best, but what I can try to offer are a few words that may mean something to you, something that you might relate to.  If I end up offering comfort in a few words on a webpage to one person then this will make it all the worthwhile.

I started karate when I was 7 and what seems like an eternity.  Funny, how the 22 years have passed since my very first lesson, but nowadays every year seems to fly by faster than I can catch my breath.  My interest came about after hearing of another boy doing it in my class when I was 6 years old.  At the time he was the fastest runner and the most popular boy in the infant school.  I wanted to be like him and so I asked my parents if I could start too.  At that time we were in a transitional period of moving house, so I was promised that once we had moved they would take me.

It’s amazing to think back at the things I can remember so vividly when I was so small and now I struggle to tell you what happened last week.  Back all those years ago I do remember that this popular lad used to pick on me, bully me if you like; something that would go on through my whole school years up to the age of 16.  He set the standard for what I was to endure for the next 10 years of adolescence.  I often used to think back years later about my resentment to that boy for how he treated me, smashing up my Mechano car that I’d spent so long making, the hurt and pain it caused.  Silly things really when you think about it, but at the time at that young age it seemed so much more.  In contrast though, its amusing now I think about it writing this that the person in question probably did the best thing he ever could for me.  Asking my parents to take me to karate and follow the “cool kid’s” lead would majorly shape my life to what it is today.