I first trained in Shotokan Karate when I was living in Brighton in the late 80s/early90s. I spend nearly two years training under Sensei David Hazard and reached the grade of 6th kyu. I then moved back to Edinburgh, where I continued training, albeit more intermittently owning to work and study commitments. However, I did succeed in taking a further grading during the year to reach 5th kyu. Unfortunately, a further move and career change brought that particular chapter of my involvement in martial arts to a close.
I moved to Bedford in the late 90s, I was keen to resume some form of martial arts training. My other half, Sarah, was also keen to try a martial art. At the time we chose Tae Kwon Do as we thought it would be good to try something that we could both start fresh from the beginning. So began two years of TKD training during which I reached 5th Kup. Once again, other interests and life pressures took me away from martial arts.
On reaching my early 50s, I came to the conclusion that I was aging far from gracefully and really had to do something about it! In the autumn of that year, I found myself watching a karate class and realised that this was the only sort of exercise that I had every really enjoyed and how much I missed it. There was a poster for a CFTS karate club with website details on the wall and as a result, I turned up at our Kempston club on a Monday evening and asked Renshi Kidby I could join his class. I survived that first session, returned for more on the Wednesday and started training at Brickhill on the following Saturday with Sensei Young and have trained regularly at both clubs ever since.
My expectations and ambitions were modest. When I started, I thought it would be good if I could somehow see my way to getting back to the level I had achieved before and that would probably be as far as I could get. I certainly didn’t entertain the possibility that I could achieve a brown belt let alone a black one. I trained as a white belt for five months before taking an assessment, as a result of which I was graded back to 5th Kyu. From then on, I managed to grade fairly regularly, and with each step I found myself setting my goals a little higher… and here I am now, typing something that I never expected would be required. If it hadn’t been for a such a great network of friendly and welcoming clubs, an excellent bunch of fellow students and constant access to high-quality instructors all of whom have provided me with a wealth of advice and encouragement I wouldn’t be where I am now.
I felt as nervous walking back into the dojo to train wearing a black belt as I did walking into the dojo to undertake my Shodan grading and I remain keenly aware of how much more there is for me to learn and improve upon. I look upon achieving Shodan as passing a milestone. It’s a pretty important milestone but it’s still only a marker along a journey. I’m looking forward to seeing where the rest of the journey takes me and doing my very best to live up to the belt I now wear.