A long time ago, in a …

Well not that long ago really or that far away.

My first dabble into martial arts would have been at a very early age when my younger brother learned to walk. He also learned to hit, kick, bite and scratch soon after. I would have been around five and him two.

Perhaps we were inspired by Hong Kong Phooey, a cartoon dog doing kung-fu on TV at the time?

Our parents decided that we needed to channel our fighting energies and signed us up to judo when I was around 9. We gained a few coloured belts and stripes and learned a thing or two. Amongst the useful things I learned was that crashing into the ground hurts so you best learn how to fall and roll properly. Judo didn’t last though.

In 1989, just before I turned 18, I attended my first karate lesson in Gorleston (I did say it wasn’t far away but that is in the previous millennium and 27 years ago to save you doing the maths). I only went as my friends had just joined and I didn’t want to be left out. They didn’t stay for long.

My first instructors were Kantu Patel and Robert Southcott who had fairly recently started clubs in Gorleston and Lowestoft. They were both different characters but each very good in their own ways. On my first lesson Kantu managed to remove Robert’s glasses from his face between his toes whilst doing a mawashi geri. Very impressive and I was determined to try to be that good (though I have never managed to do that particular trick).

Kantu was a hard task master with a flash of brilliance and charisma to inspire all his students.

Robert was an even harder task master who would drill us up and down the hall practising basics for both the first and second lessons.

Not everyone’s cup of tea but it did lead to some very good karateka. I stuck at it.

I think it was when I was a purple belt that Kantu and Robert decided to take on one club each and Kantu took on Gorleston. He also took a job where he was working away a lot. As I was the highest grade it fell on me to keep training going. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Fortunately I didn’t drown, to keep on with the metaphor. I don’t think I did a bad job and we all managed to keep improving and moving up the grades.

It was at the Gorleston club that I first met Peter Carrier. He joined about a year after I did. We trained together for years pushing ourselves to improve our karate. We went on to be awarded our third dans together and he founded our club.

I obviously learned a huge amount from Kantu and Robert, and I certainly wouldn’t have achieved anything without their guidance and inspiration. I went to a few competitions and even won a few medals in my time at the club. I also got very good at press ups, sit ups and the like.

I trained hard (always double lessons twice a week, plus additional lessons at other affiliated clubs), even harder at grading times, and I passed my black belt grading way back in November 1994, five years after my first grading. It was quite a surreal experience starting off with two uraken uchis and carrying on in the same vein. It’s not like that now as I am sure the new black belts will tell you.

However, nothing lasts forever and I decided to join Peter’s club in January 2002.

I have been training here ever since, taking over with Sensei Ziggy, in May 2008 when Peter retired for personal reasons.

It has been good. I think we have taken the club forward in our time bringing in a bit of structure to the lesson plans and completely changing the grading syllabus (thanks to a very long night at Liverpool Street station, when I missed my train). We have also learned a great deal from other Senseis on open courses which have influenced our teaching greatly.

I gained my fourth dan on 11 September 2016. I enjoyed the experience of lining up with the other high grades and trying as hard as I could to impress the judges. I also enjoyed the training, turning back the years and pushing myself to the limits at the club and at home (my hamstrings didn’t like it quite so much).

Fingers crossed there are a few more years of karate in me, I hope so as I still enjoy it.