Updated: Dec 28, 2021
I began my karate training aged twenty one, attending a local karate club with Chiltern Karate Association. I graded twice with them - big, confusing affairs held in Chesham, with a great many people of all ages coming together. This fell by the wayside when I did my PGCE to become a primary school teacher in 2007 - it was a long commute and there literally weren’t enough hours in the day!
I began training more seriously in September 2008, at Bletchley Leisure Centre. I was a brand new primary school teacher by this point, and looking for an antidote to my day job. I wanted something physical, something where I didn’t have to think too much, and karate was that for me. Of course, the higher up the grades I went, the more I had to think about it! But the same thing is true now as it was then - it is a physical antidote to a mentally tiring day.
Amazingly, it took me nearly three months to discover that there was a club at the school I worked at, and to this day I still can’t fathom quite how dim that was. Before long, I was training two or three times a week - twice at Newton Longville and once at Bletchley. Over the following two and a half years, I graded from orange belt (my first grading with CFTS, luckily an assessment from where I had been with Chiltern Karate) to 1st kyu. I was getting to the point where black belt was becoming a realistic possibility when we moved down to London, and far away from regular training.
I tried a few other karate clubs around the London area, finally settling with Tigra Karate International, with whom I graded to shodan in April 2016. Then, in February 2018 I moved back to the Milton Keynes area and, in October of the same year, assessed back up to shodan.
It had been a while since I had revised in the same way that I did for my CFTS shodan - flash cards and doing a lot of background reading, primarily. I found that my training as a primary school teacher was useful for some aspects of this revision, and I’m glad that I worked as hard as I did.
I’m incredibly grateful to those who supported me in all sorts of ways - my wife, my parents and my sister, Senseis McMahon and Waterhouse, Renshi Kidby, and all of the karateka at the clubs I attend. Many of those are people I regard as friends, something for which I’m exceptionally thankful. Above all, I look forward to the challenges that still await me, internal and external, and for what I will need to do to rise above them!
At time of writing, it's the last days of 2021 and, as a truly surreal year comes to a close, I am able to look back and reflect on a major achievement. In November, after some very intense training and an extremely trying grading, I was awarded my Nidan qualification. I am once again indebted to the people mentioned in the previous paragraph, particularly Sensei McMahon and Sensei Waterhouse for successfully helping us to keep the water boiling during lockdown and the COVID19 pandemic. They would be among the first to say that the effort was mine during the grading but a wise man once said, "While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing."
The final thing that has capped the year off is that I have become the new caretaker for the CFTS website, taking over from Sensei Nelson. The website is up and running now, as full of content as it has always been, and hopefully everyone is able to find what they need or want. If it works well, let me know - and if it doesn't work well, definitely let me know!
28th December 2021