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James Saunders

I began my karate training in 1992 under Sensei Eddie McClagish at Sharnbrook club, affiliated to the Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate (TASK), under Sensei John van Weenen. I had never had an interest in martial arts but, like many, went with two friends who wanted some moral support. They both left after the beginners course but I stayed and have trained ever since.

In 1994, when Sensei McClagish left due to work pressures, the club continued under Sensei Cooper My training continued and I achieved Shodan at the beginning of 1998.

Shortly after I achieved Shodan, Sensei Cooper retired from karate due to ill health and passed the club to Sensei Andrew Parker and myself. We ran the club successfully at Sharnbrook until poor student numbers and problems with the facilities meant that, for its survival, we had to move to the nearby village of Riseley at the end of 1999.

At the beginning of 2002 I went to a karate demonstration in my home village of Clapham out of curiosity and also because I recognised the name of the instructor, Sensei McClagish. It was there I reintroduced myself to him (it had been 8 years since he’d taught me and I had still been a teenager when he’d left) and after a few hints he remembered me and we became reacquainted.

As a guest I began training with Sensei McClagish again at his new club in Clapham. At the end of 2002 Sensei Parker and I approached Sensei Kidby and asked if we could join CFTS as we felt TASK was no longer offering us what we were looking for. We were welcomed and our club became a member of CFTS at the beginning of 2003.

In Clapham club and CFTS I have found my karate ‘family’. Since then I have become the sole instructor at Riseley, rescued failing/reopened clubs in Ampthill and Brickhill and continued to train at Clapham under Sensei McClagish, attended some very memorable courses with Kanazawa Sensei and other senior instructors and managed to achieve Nidan in September 2007, after much ‘encouragement’.

At the end of 2012 I decided to take a step back from teaching and training as I could no longer commit (and the body couldn’t cope with) 5 or 6 times a week, every week. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made but thankfully there were instructors to take over the clubs so they are still running, although Riseley has since merged with Clapham. It was time to just be a student again and being dojo captain and training at Clapham with occasional training elsewhere was enough for then.

I achieved Sandan in October 2013 and am also now the association Secretary. In September 2016 Sensei McClagish retired from work and decided, as part of that life change, to pass Clapham club to me run. I am extremely flattered and humbled that he has that degree of faith in me. I hope I can fill at least one of his shoes!

So, I guess it’s full circle, and I once again find myself worrying about the ability of students as much as my own! The only other thing to add is where has the time gone?!

Future Development in Relation to Karate

To continue training and teaching!


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