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Matt Taylor

At the tender age of nine, when I was literally driving my parents round the bend with my inexhaustible energy and inability to shut up (those who know me well will probably still attest to this day that the latter point is something I still haven't quite perfected), the notion of trying something that could harness my energy and enthusiasm quickly made its way up the to-do list.

I remember Mum taking me to the library in St. Neots, my hometown (of sorts), to look up evening activities that I could stick at and wouldn't cost the earth… It was during this period of research that we came across CFTS. The closest dojo was in St. Neots, at Ernulf Leisure Centre, and run by Sensei Coppen.

My first lesson under Sensei Coppen was a major turning point for me. I had ADHD and found it very difficult to concentrate on anything, but the patience and calmness that Sensei Coppen was known for soon brought me back down to ground level. My parents, both martial arts instructors themselves, watched their "son and heir" transform in a single night. I was where I belonged, I had a new hobby, a new area of focus.

I soon found that I couldn't get enough of karate, and, to the surprise of all concerned, I wasn't half bad at it. In December 1994, I attended my first grading under Sensei Coppen, Sensei Calver and Sensei Kidby. I double graded, achieving 9th Kyu; and I fondly remember being awarded my belt.

I continued to grade every three months, quickly working my way up the ranks. My ADHD began to fade away into utter insignificance as I'd finally found something I truly enjoyed and was getting good at; something I could use as my release, or escape. During the years that followed, Sensei Tom Shepherd (then 2nd Dan), Sensei Andy Moss (again, 2nd Dan) and Sensei Mark Bottoms (3rd Dan), ran the St. Neots and Buckden dojos. I was training four times a week by mid-1995, successfully achieving 4th Kyu that September. At around the same time, I was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome; I lost my way a little and my training began to falter as I tried to come to terms with having a neurological condition that I didn't understand or know how to beat.

After a six-month hiatus, I threw myself back into training at the end of 1995. I graded again in June 1996, achieving my first big milestone, 3rd Kyu. I realised that I'd only just begun my journey and found myself wanting much more. 2nd Kyu came in December 1996 and 1st Kyu followed in March 2000.

Having come to terms with Tourette's and ADHD, I started living for karate, finding a particular fondness for Kata, still my favourite element of our beloved martial art. Sensei Bottoms ran Kata classes on Monday nights and I was often invited to join the senior grades for their advanced Kata sessions. This taught me more than I thought possible about the true meaning of our art, it taught me the importance of discipline and self control; and moreover, the part that self-esteem and confidence play in defining who we are.

In January 2003, I left CFTS to join the Police, staying with them until April 2012. The force had their own in-house Shotokan association, and it was under them that I graded for Shodan, achieving the coveted black belt in November 2003. The feeling of fulfilling that long-held ambition was overwhelming. It was the longest and most physically and mentally challenging day of my life, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

I rejoined CFTS in August 2011, returning to Sensei Kidby at Bletchley; as I knew that if I truly wanted to progress with my karate, I'd need to go back to my roots. By far the best decision I have made in a long time.

As far as future development goes, I am aiming to successfully complete my Instructor's portfolio and achieve my Nidan within the next eighteen months and continue onward and upward from there. Karate has taught me so much, but I'm still in the formative stages of my journey…



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