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Zuzanna Starck

Ever since childhood, Karate had always been on my bucket list of things to achieve one day. Aside from a self-defence class based on JiuJitsu in high school, this remained largely unfulfilled till 2014. Now in my mid-forties, having just moved the whole family to Milton Keynes, we saw the demonstration of karate given by the CFTS Newton Longville Club at the Newton Longville school fete, which my son Robert attended. Robert was immediately keen to try it out. Among the participants in the demonstration were the Thomas Family (David, Louise, Alexandra & Elliott – all of whom are Shodan karateka) with whom we had been friends ever since moving to UK in 1999. I had already been aware of their karate careers and what was really inspiring was that they had started together as parent and child. I felt that if they could achieve Shodan as parents, the possibility existed that I could too. I also felt it would be a wonderful activity for me to participate in with my son as dedicated mother-son time – particularly given my work commitments, which often impinged on family life. I therefore approached the Senseis McMahon & Waterhouse and signed us up!

Robert and I gradually made our way through the belts. I had made a conscious decision to grade with him so it took me longer to get to the higher belts but I felt this benefited me greatly to help improve my training of the basics. My younger son, James, one of the first Tiny Tigers, joined the main group as well. Unfortunately, I picked up several injuries necessitating periods of time-out and which slowed my progress to the point where I felt I was holding Robert back. Work had also become busier over the last three years particularly with career progression and the pandemic. However, I continued to train as regularly as I could, injuries and work commitments notwithstanding. I will never forget Renshi Kidby’s comment to me whilst handing me my 1st Kyu Grading belt which went something like “Karate does not come naturally to you but you are a plodder and you will get there!”

Shortly after this, the Covid pandemic broke out and all our training went online. I thought that the Senseis were magnificent in organising this as it provided us (Robert, James and I) with an activity to do twice a week with a training programme in between to keep us going. Once back in the dojo, my training for my Shodan grading accelerated. Robert was in the first group post covid to achieve his Shodan grading in November 2021 – a very proud and inspiring moment for me. And then I was invited by the Senseis McMahon to grade for Shodan in June 2022. I stepped up my training as best I could, taking comfort in the principle of Sensei Funakoshi: Karate training requires a lifetime.

The big day, 18th June 2022, arrived and James (going for 1st Kyu) and I drove to Kempston for our gradings. This was, by far, the toughest grading I had ever undertaken, underlined by a broken toe and bruised hands. The sense of achievement in attaining my Shodan grading took a while to sink in but I continue to remember and live by Funakoshi’s principle of “Karate training requires a lifetime”. I will continue to train to the best of my ability for as long as I am able.

Finally, I would like to thank the Senseis McMahon, without whom I would never have achieved my Shodan grading, for their support and kindness throughout my karate career and also to the other Shodan, Nidan and Sandan Senseis in our club as well for getting me to where I am.


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